Thursday, March 26, 2009

Who you are depends on how you feel.

Here is a curious bit by Ashton-James et al., from the journal Psychological Science, noting yet another distinction between Western and Asian cultures. The studies recruited students from the University of British Columbia (74 Asian and Asian Canadian students, 72 European and European Canadian students) who engaged memory tasks designed to induce positive, neutral, or negative affect. Their abstract:
We present a novel role of affect in the expression of culture. Four experiments tested whether individuals' affective states moderate the expression of culturally normative cognitions and behaviors. We consistently found that value expressions, self-construals, and behaviors were less consistent with cultural norms when individuals were experiencing positive rather than negative affect. Positive affect allowed individuals to explore novel thoughts and behaviors that departed from cultural constraints, whereas negative affect bound people to cultural norms. As a result, when Westerners experienced positive rather than negative affect, they valued self-expression less, showed a greater preference for objects that reflected conformity, viewed the self in more interdependent terms, and sat closer to other people. East Asians showed the reverse pattern for each of these measures, valuing and expressing individuality and independence more when experiencing positive than when experiencing negative affect. The results suggest that affect serves an important functional purpose of attuning individuals more or less closely to their cultural heritage.

1 comment:

  1. I would also interpolate this (unscientifically) to say that neither Asian nor European/Canadian cultures have yet found the most pleasing balance of community involvement and individual strength.

    Or, we're never happy with what we have, and the grass is always greener.