In most of Europe and in the USA, the previous sign symbolises the word ‘ok’. However, in other cultures it means something different. For example, in Japan it can mean ‘money’. In countries such as Germany, it is used offensively (in the same way 2 fingers are in the UK). In Brazil the sign has a sexual meaning.
Cross-Cultural Differences in Non Verbal Communication In the same way that different cultures may interpret hand gestures differently, they may also interpret facial expressions differently. Not all psychologists agree with this. Some argue that facial expressions are universal. By this, they mean facial expressions are perceived in the same way by everybody around the world.
Testing Universialities Look at the following faces. Can you decide what kind of emotion each one is expressing?
Universialities in NVC You should find that you interpreted the emotions similarly to other people. Indeed, research suggests that you would interpret them similarly to people from other cultures too. However, there may be more differences when you have to decide on the degree of emotion.
Testing Universialities Look at the following faces. Can you decide who is the angriest?
Differences in NVC You may have just found some differences between how you interpreted the previous faces and how others did. Differences in interpretation can be even more marked between cultures. In other words, different cultures may be socialised to interpret faces differently.
Differences in Emotional Expression : - ) Many people use the above symbols when signing of texts or e-mails because they represent a ‘happy’ face. Interestingly, this symbol is not used worldwide….
For example, in Japan, the following symbols are used to denote a ‘happy’ face… (ˆ-ˆ) The point being, that in Japanese culture eyes are more important when expressing (and interpreting) emotions.
Core Study In Non Verbal Communication Yuki, Maddux & Masuda (2007) “Are the windows to the soul the same in the East and West? Cultural differences in using eyes and mouth as cues to recognize emotions in Japan and the United States.”
Aim Yuki et al wanted to show that how we interpret facial expressions is a product of our culture and socialisation.
Hypothesis They predicted that Japanese people would read the emotions of faces by using the eyes whereas American people would read the emotions of faces by using the mouth.
Method A cross cultural study was conducted using students from Japan and comparing them with students from the USA.
Method The participants were shown a set of six emoticons. Emoticons are simple computer generated faces. The emoticons used a different combination of happy/neutral/sad eyes and mouths.
Method Participants were given a questionnaire. They had to rate each of the six faces (between 1 and 9) for how happy it was. The researchers then worked out the average rating for each face within each culture. 9 1
Results As the graph showed, Japanese participants gave higher ratings to faces with happy eyes than American participants did. This was especially true when the mouth was sad. American participants gave their highest ratings when the mouths were happy (even when the eyes were sad). This was not true of Japanese participants. Japanese participants gave their lowest ratings when eyes were sad (and the mouth neutral) whereas American participants gave their lowest ratings when mouths were sad (even though eyes were neutral or even happy).
Conclusion Japanese and American people do interpret facial expressions differently. Japanese people pay more attention to the eyes and American people pay more attention to the mouth. Yuki et al suggested that this was a result of socialisation. They argued that Japanese people are brought up to hide their emotions more so have to use the eyes as an indicator of feelings.
Evaluation Yuki et al used computer generated faces to test participants… these are not realistic so findings may lack ecological validity. Participants knew they were being tested on… so may have responded to demand characteristics and not given true responses. Emotional expression and interpretation are complex ideas… and the researchers may have over-simplified them by just scoring them on a simple rating scale. In both countries, the sample was made up of students… who may not have represented younger and older generations. The researchers only tested one dimension of emotion (happy/sad)… so their findings may not generalise to other emotions e.g. anger, surprise, disgust.
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