Tuesday, April 10, 2007

ScienceDaily: Culture Is Key To Interpreting Facial Emotions

Psych Study: Culture Is Key To Interpreting Facial Emotions, ScienceDaily, April 10, 2007.

Research has uncovered that culture is a determining factor when interpreting facial emotions. The study reveals that in cultures where emotional control is the standard, such as Japan, focus is placed on the eyes to interpret emotions. Whereas in cultures where emotion is openly expressed, such as the United States, the focus is on the mouth to interpret emotion.
The researchers used photos and computer emoticons that varied in both eyes and mouth (e.g., neutral mouth, sad eyes; happy mouth, neutral eyes). People from the different cultures assess the emotions of the faces (or diagrams of faces) differently.

The emoticon part is fun. U.S. and Japanese computer users have developed different ways to use punctuation to show emotion:
U.S. happy faces and sad faces:





Japanese happy face and sad face



But apart from the cuteness, the research might have something to teach us -- for instance, when we consider how a juror will assess a witness's testimony.

The published study is:
Masaki Yuki, William W. Maddux & Takahiko Masuda, Are the windows to the soul the same in the East and West? Cultural differences in using the eyes and mouth as cues to recognize emotions in Japan and the United States, 43 J. Experimental Soc. Psych. 303–311 (2007) .

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