Exploring cultural differences in the recognition of the self-conscious emotions

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Recent research suggests that the self-conscious emotions of embarrassment, shame, and pride have distinct, nonverbal expressions that can be recognized in the United States at above-chance levels. However, few studies have examined the recognition of these emotions in other cultures, and little research has been conducted in Asia. Consequently the cross-cultural generalizability of self-conscious emotions has not been firmly established. Additionally, there is no research that examines cultural variability in the recognition of the self-conscious emotions. Cultural values and exposure to Western culture have been identified as contributors to variability in recognition rates for the basic emotions; we sought to examine this for the self-conscious emotions using the University of California, Davis Set of Emotion Expressions (UCDSEE). The present research examined recognition of the self-conscious emotion expressions in South Korean college students and found that recognition rates were very high for pride, low but above chance for shame, and near zero for embarrassment. To examine what might be underlying the recognition rates we found in South Korea, recognition of self-conscious emotions and several cultural values were examined in a U.S. college student sample of European Americans, Asian Americans, and Asian-born individuals. Emotion recognition rates were generally similar between the European Americans and Asian Americans, and higher than emotion recognition rates for Asian-born individuals. These differences were not explained by cultural values in an interpretable manner, suggesting that exposure to Western culture is a more important mediator than values.




Chung, J. M., & Robins, R. W. (2015). Exploring cultural differences in the recognition of the self-conscious emotions. PLoS ONE, 10(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0136411

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