Cultural Variations in Expression of Emotion

A psychometric investigation of cultural variations in expression of emotions in northern places

Hammershoi - 1901This project aimed to deliver a comprehensive investigation of emotional expression relating to inhabitants of northern settings.

How people express their emotions was viewed to be integral to the cultural knowledge systems in which they are immersed. This was important to consider as emotions such as depression are commonly understood from a Euro-American perspective (as reflected in the international classification systems which are applied in the diagnosis of affective disorders).

Clinical decision making and outcomes of interventions now rely heavily on quality of life indicators which could be skewed by cultural factors. Caution should be applied when considering the emotional expression of people belonging to cultures in the north.

If northern inhabitants differ in their emotional expression from a standardised international norm, this has important implications for the recognition and treatment of affective disorders for northern inhabitants.

Psychometric investigations were conducted of cultural variations in expression of emotions in northern places and ways in which these variations might impact on clinical and quality of life measures. The following approaches were applied:

  • Literature review of psychometric methods applied to assess affect across differing cultural settings
  • Application of psychometric techniques to assess the nature of positive and negative affect across a range of northern populations and contrast this with samples from less northerly locations

This allowed the investigation of differential expression across cultures in terms of self-reported affect and additionally facilitated assessment of the presence or otherwise of separate entities of 'emotion' and 'cognition' in relation to affect, as has been observed from the Euro-American cultural framework.

Psychometric data was collected using web-based methods which allowed for a broad range of geographical sampling. Additionally, exploitation of existing datasets was encouraged.