Lecture 3: Emotions, Motivation and Acculturation Stress


Started with Darwin: Emotions and emotional expressions are universal; everyone has the same. Later there was discovered by Ekman & Friesen that there were six basic emotions: happiness, surprise, sadness, disgust, fear and anger. 

How did they do the research: They asked different people, who have never met, how they would express certain sentences. These were checked with different societies. 

Assessing universality: in particular, pride has been proposed to be universally recognized expression. Pride is different in that it involves much of the body, not just the face: erect posture, head tilted back, slight smile, arms extending away.  Even people who are born blind, show this emotion. 

What is an emotion: face, posture, subjective feeling, caused by the environment, combination of physiological reaction and cognitive, 

Perspectives on emotions

  1. James-Lange Theory of Emotion: there is some kind of stimulus--> physical reaction from your body, cannot prevent it from happening --> emotion

    • Stimulus/situation --> response --> subjective feeling 
    • This theory states that if there is no physiological response, there is no emotion. 
  2. Two-Factor Theory of Emotions: Response can also be because of something else. Two different situations can lead to the same response. The interpretation makes it the emotion. Emotions are interpretations of our physiological responses. How do you attribute it? (Zie bb voor model)

Universality vs cultural variability 

The JL theory predicts that emotions should be universal due to physiological similarities of all humans. If JL was right, then emotions would be universal, the same in every human being. 

The Two-Factor theory predicts that emotions should vary across cultures because different cultural experiences may lead us to have different interpretations of physiological responses. If the Two-factor theory was right and it would depend on how you would interpret it, then not universal. 

Do differences in emotional expressions affect emotional experiences, too?

Do people experience emotions the same?  Is there a link with how emotions are expressed and how they are felt? If that is true, then you could either feel the emotion and express it and express the emotion and feel it. If the second thing is the case, then you could influence how you feel. 

Facial feedback hypothesis provides one reason to expect cultural variability. The hypothesis proposes that we use our facial expression to infer our emotional state. This suggests that by making a particular emotional expression, we can think that we are experiencing the corresponding emotion. Pencil test: it suggests that our facial expressions can affect our emotional experience. This means that people who express their emotions more intensely could feel different. So: if our culture had rules regarding the intensity of our expressions (display rules), they may also affect the intensity of our emotional experiences. 

Display rules dictate the intensity of expressions, when an expression is appropriate (norms learned early in life), what is accepted. Emotions are recognized correctly more often in someone from the same culture. People's brains show a greater response when seeing p.e. a fear expression on the face of someone from the same culture. 

What is accepted in a culture differs a lot between individualistic cultures and collectivistic cultures. 

Individualistic cultures --> the individual --> p.e. European-Canadians physiological response report feeling intense anger slow recovery of increased blood pressure.

Collectivistic cultures --> the harmony of the group --> p.e. Asian-Canadians physiological response report feeling less anger, quick recovery of increased blood pressure. 

Either they experience less anger, or they report less anger or they have effective strategies (have learned better in their culture) to minimize their anger.  

Expressing emotions: Physical is the same, reported intensity is the same, but how it looks is different. It appears that our bodies react the same way, culture doesn't play a role. 

Life satisfaction and happiness

Cultural differences in subjective well-being can be affected by several factors: 

  • Wealth 
  • Human rights and equality
  • Definition of life satisfaction 
    • Individualistic countries --> amount of positive emotions
    • Collectivistic countries --> relate that more to how much they are respected by others for living up to norms 
  • Theory regarding how happy cultures think they should feel

Money: having more money makes you happier up to a certain level, above that level it doesn't matter how much money you have. Latin American countries relatively feel well, but the income/wealth is lower. That might be related to specific traits or specific upbringing. 

Culture and happiness

Cultures also vary in terms of the importance that they ascribe to happiness. When presented with either a game that was fun but not useful or a game that was useful but dull: European-Canadians preferred the fun game, Asian-Americans preferred the useful game.

  • Euro-Americans go for HAP emotions: enthusiastic, elated, excites, euphoric (the preferred state).  
  • East-Asians go for LAP emotions: relaxed, calm, peaceful, serene (the preferred state). 

Benefits of happiness differ cross-culturally. Cultural difference due to preferred states, not actual states. The preferred state of emotions: the more positive emotions, the less depression (Euro-Americans). Asian-Americans don't show this effect. 

Conclusion Emotions

Emotion can be examined by focusing on different aspects of emotion (expression, interpretation, experience, display, reporting). Each focus leads to different conclusions about universality and cultural variability. 

Universal ---> Different:

  • Physiological process (arousal)
  • Experience (interpretation)
  • Display or hide expression (display rules)


Any condition that initiates, activates or maintains the individual's goal-directed behaviour. 

Prevention orientation: one tries to avoid negative outcomes. Eg studying because you want to avoid having to do a non-interesting job in the future. Acculturation example: trying not to lose the values of your home-country. --> focus on weakness to avoid future failure

Promotion orientation: one strives to secure positive outcomes/ trying to obtain something that you value. Eg studying because you want to find a well-paying job in the future. Acculturation example: trying to learn the language soon after migration to obtain a sense of belonging. --> focus on successes to strive for advancement 

Persistence after success or failure

Individualistic cultures: more likely to persist after success 

Collectivistic cultures: more likely to persist after failure

Face: social value given by others if one fulfils obligations and expectations. Very well known in collectivistic cultures: fitting in in the societal norms to gain face. Others feeling good about you when you have things that are valued by society. So, brand-items (Gucci bags) become important to gain face. It is important to note that face is more easily lost than gained.  

Different motivations: Cultures concerned more with face: people have more of a prevention orientation than a promotion orientation. Rather than focusing on feeling good about oneself, people in collectivistic societies focus on others feeling good about them. But not for all motivations! 

Maslow's hierarchy of needs: basic needs are universal, no cultural differences. The more to the top will cultural diversity play a bigger role.  


Implicit theories of the world 

  1. Entity theory: the world around you is kind of fixed, beyond your ability to change it
  2. Incremental theory: the world is flexible and responsive to your own effort

Primary control strategies: If you think your actions will be able to change the world (internal locus of control) = more common in the West

Secondary control strategies: External locus of control (the world is fixed, you should adjust) is more common in the non-western countries.  

Conclusion Motivation

Concerns about face in some cultures lead them to have a prevention orientation, which is contrasted with having a promotion orientation. Motivations for behaviour (eg coping) is culturally diverse and related to p.e. control orientation. 

Acculturation stress

Acculturation: adapting or not adapting to a new culture 

Acculturation stress: the consequences of acculturation can be big: anxious feeling; sadness; moodiness and irritability/restlessness; insomnia; obsessive about work/school; feeling isolation or loneliness; homesickness; lower self-esteem; poor work performance; concentration problems; preoccupation about going home; continuous fear about people, food, water; increased criticism and even hatred of the local culture. 

Why is migration stressful?

  • The cause can be the stressor, sometimes there is war in the home country
  • Migration itself
  • Consequences of migration: adapting to the new customs 
  • Acculturation problems: experiences of loss and of conflict. 

What happens when we migrate: At first: the honeymoon face experiencing a new environment, meet new people. Second: culture shock, the differences start to kick in, I like it but... And last: adjustment

Lazarus stress model:primary: threat in terms of wellbeing (aversiveness), secondary: controllability and predictability of threat and also duration, consequences: social, psychological and physical. 

there is a stressor --> person evaluates --> depended on the first appraisal, second appraisal --> stress pops up or not --> when it does: coping strategies (zie model bb). 

Push and pull factors

  • Push: conditions that drive people to leave their country  
  • Pull: driven/attracted to certain things in the new country 

Cultural distance: how much two cultures differ in their overall ways of life. One line of evidence comes from language - the closer one's mother tongue is to English, the easier it is for them to learn English. Similarly, the more similar one's heritage culture is to the host culture, the less acculturative stress they experience. 

Cultural fit: the degree to which one's personality is more similar to the dominant cultural values in the host culture. Evidence suggests that people who are high in extraversion fare well in largely extraverted cultures but have problems fitting in the less extraverted cultures. People with more independent self-concepts suffer less distress in acculturating to the US than those with more interdependent self-concepts.

Acculturation strategies: Two issues with implications for outcome of acculturation: attitude toward host culture and attitude toward heritage culture. These two lead to distinct strategies that affect the acculturation experience. 


Strong identification with host culture

Weak identification with host culture

Strong identification with heritage culture

Integration / alternation

Only good option


Distance from majority

Weak identification with heritage culture


Criticize own minority


Living in isolation

  • Integration: positive attitudes toward host and heritage culture. Participate in host culture while maintaining traditions of heritage culture. Most successful strategy - least prejudice and greatest social support. 
  • Separation: negative toward host but positive attitudes toward heritage culture. Minimal participation in host culture while maintaining traditions of heritage culture. 
  • Assimilation: positive attitudes toward host but a negative attitude toward heritage culture. Participation in host culture while leaving behind traditions of heritage culture. 
  • Marginalization: Negative attitudes towards host and heritage culture. No effort to engage with host and heritage cultures. Rare and least successful strategy. May characterize third culture kids. 

Migration might do something to your self-concept. For biculturals, the multicultural experiences impact the self-concept in two ways: 

  1. Blending:  people's self-concepts reflect a hybrid of their two cultural worlds. Evidence suggests that, for the most part, multicultural people appear intermediate on many assessments compared to monocultural people from different cultures. 
  2. Frame-switching: people maintain multiple self-concepts and switch between them depending on the context. Rather than blending two self-concepts, people switch between them. Such self-concepts are represented by a network of ideas in the mind. 

Conclusion Acculturation 

Acculturation is an extremely difficult topic to study (big variation in acculturation experiences), but due to the consequences still important. Attitudes towards host culture: U shaped, predictable phases over time, 4 acculturation strategies. Small cultural distance and a good cultural fit facilitates the integration process (less stressful). Confrontation with two (or more) cultures --> mainly two strategies occur: blending or frame-switching.

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