Saturday, December 27, 2014

End-year Special: The social context in responding and interpreting emotions(5)

Response and interpretation of emotions also depends on the peculiarities and characteristics of the social environment of the observer. A case in point is competitive and cooperative behavior. Inferential processes are more dominant in situations of competition and conflict than cooperation, while affective or emotional response processes are more dominant in cooperative settings.

Some cultures have specific rules on how, when and where one can express emotions. This is referred to as display rules in psychology. Some examples from the Psychlopedia are:
  • In Islamic culture, females are not to disagree because it is seen as a sign of disrespect.
  • Children in Asian cultures are often taught to mask their emotions (especially negative ones), whereas American children are generally advised to express them.
  • In other countries, the middle finger is meaningless, where as here, it's very impolite and generally a sign of anger or hate.
  • Sticking out your tongue in America usually signifies disgust, where as in China it can express surprise.
  • Slurping your soup in America is viewed as socially unacceptable, while in Japan and Hong Kong it is seen as a sign of approval of the cook and appreciation of the food.
  • In American culture, it is disrespectful to not make eye contact when talking to people, where as in many African cultures it is considered a sign of respect to look down when speaking to someone, particularly elders.
  • In America, holding up your middle finger and index finger conveys the message of peace; however, in England and Australia, this is known as an obscene way of telling someone off.
  • In Italy, biting your thumb is a way of showing disrespect or insulting someone, while in other cultures it doesn't mean anything.
  • In Japanese culture it is known that burping after a meal shows politeness and enjoyment of the food, but in American culture, after burping, you must say "excuse me" as to be ashamed for burping.
  • In America it is considered socially unacceptable for men to display their emotions.
The last blog article in the series, Series 6: Implications of using emotions as social information tokens, will discuss the way forward when using the EASI model to make sense of our social milieu.

The rest of the series:

  1. How to use emotions to Human Advantage (Introduction).
  2. Series 1: How emotions can function as message bearers.
  3. Series 2: Why emotions can drive a second emotional response.
  4. Series 3: How emotions play a part in decision making.
  5. Series 4: Information processing of emotional signals.
  6. Series 5: The social context in responding and interpreting emotions.
  7. Series 6: Implications of using emotions as social information tokens.

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