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Expression of Emotion by Americans and Koreans* Ki-hong Kim 1. Introduction The relationship between culture and emotion has become an important and popular topic of study for cross-cultural researchers. Recent studies on emotion and facial expression as a part of nonverbal behavior have led to a reformulation of some long-standing theories concerning emotion and culture. For many years a large body ofliterature tended to support the view that emotive expressions are learned, and therefore there should be no expectation that similar expressions will occur in different cultures. Birdwhistell (1970) and Ishii (1973) strongly challenged the universality ofaffective facial behavior, and advocated that emotional expressions are culture specific. Birdwhistell, without documenting his data, simply concluded that there are no facial expressions which provoke identical responses the world over. He observed that a smile in one society portrays friendliness, in another embarrassment, and in still another may contain a warning that unless tension is reduced, hostile attacks will follow. In the same vein, Ishii claimed that Japanese faces are confusing to Westerners and therefore facial expressions are not universal but learned behavior as part of a culture. However there is a growing body of literature which supports the view that emotive expressions are not learned, and that similar expressions do occur in different cultures. For instance, Darwin's (1965) theory of universality was verified by Ekman's (1973) work with young children of preliterate cultures in Borneo and New Guinea. Those children had no opportunities to learn another culture's facial expressions. Forty photographs were taken of twenty-four different stimulus persons. Observers from different cultures were able to identify their emotions reliably from these photographs. EXPRESSION OF EMOTION39 Freedman (1964) studied four congenitally blind infants, who had no visual opportunity to imitate expressive behavior in others. He tested whether certain expressions are innate or acquired through imitation, and concluded that crying and laughing patterns ofcongenitally blind children have close similarities with those of sighted children. Thus he strengthened a universal theory of emotion. These studies tend to support the view that there are pancultural similarities in facial expressions of emotion. While we might assume facial expressions to be the same across cultures , every culture develops rules about how, when, and where a person may or may not display emotion. Those scholars who claimed a culturespecific theory offacial expressions failed to distinguish uncontrolled facial expressions from those modified by display rules, as elucidated by Boucher (1974). The display theory proposes that while uncontrolled facial expressions for various emotions will be the same in all cultures, each culture devises rules which instruct its members how to control their facial expressions in certain situations. An interesting piece of data supporting such culture-specific display rules is given by Zborowski (1969), who shows that behavior in expressing pain is determined to a certain extent by culturally learned behavior. In particular, he found that Irish, Old American, Jewish, and Italian patients, in that order, tended to vary from minimal to maximal reaction to pain. This means that there are cultural differences in how people express pain. For example, the Irish tended to believe that nothing was to be done about pain except trust in the doctor to cure its cause, and little was to be gained from announcing the pain to the world, and so they tried not to show the pain to others. The Italians, on the other hand, never hesitated to express pain outwardly whenever there was a reason to do so. But among the Irish, the display ofpain generally was not acceptable. The only permitted situation for such a display was in the presence of a doctor, so that it could be instrumental in alleviating pain, and even then the display had to be controlled . The Italian rule was to display pain whenever there was a possibility that it might alleviate the sensation. However, the Italian was careful not to display pain in front of his wife, which, incidentally, was directly the opposite of the Jewish custom, according to Zborowski. Given these findings and Boucher's (1 974) conclusion that there is a universally distinguishable facial display for pain, we can predict the facial expressions of Italian and Irish patients...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1529
Print ISSN
0145-840X
Pages
pp. 38-56
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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