Emotions & Motivation

Q.  Examine the impact of sociocultural factors on  emotions.Cite some psycho-anthropological studies in this regard.10 marks

11 thoughts on “Emotions & Motivation”

  1. Human beings are social in nature and culture is man-made part of the environment. It is imperative that social and cultural factors plays a key role in determining our behaviors, emotions and motivations etc..

    Although our emotions are genetically programmed, social and cultural factors plays a key role in experience as well as in expression of these emotions. We learn from others certain bodily movements that facilitate us in expressing certain kind of emotions e.g. Bharatanatyam dancer learning to express ‘nava-rasa’ through her bodily movements.

    Social and cultural norms acts as prescriptions of our behavior and acts as a regulators from expressing inappropriate emotions e.g. A mother signalling at kid not to laugh and focus attention when prayer is carried out by a priest.

    Culture conditions our emotions. In some cultures, people are made(conditioned) to perceive and express emotion in a certain way against a particular stimuli. e.g. Among brahmins, it is a grave ‘cultural’ violation to eat beef. When these brahmins are presented with beef they get angry and reject food. Similarly, Culture plays a key role in dictating our emotional disposition which in turn determines the activities that we ‘prefer’ to take part and also kind of emotions and values we develop with our society.

    Studies indicates that

    1) Americans prefer high arousal emotions i.e. high level excitement and upbeat emotions compared to asian people. It is observed that majority of american people ‘prefer’ to take part in sports and adventure activities which triggers similar kind of emotions and asians showed relatively less preference to these activities.

    2) American people whose culture is centered around ‘individual well being’ tend to show balanced emotions when it comes to family matters. whereas in ‘community’ asian culture we develop and express stronger emotions relating to our family matters.

  2. Socio cultural factors influence both subjective experience and expression of emotion though emotions are highly innate in nature.
    The societal setup, values and cultural norms trigger and regulate emotions.
    Eg: In a patriarchal setup, a wife pursuing her goals against husbands wish might trigger anger. In a gender neutral setup, husband might rather feel happy
    Emotions are also triggered by what is valued in the society. If a culture gives more importance to money, money will trigger happiness. If it values principles, sticking to virtues like morality will trigger happiness.
    Culture shock also triggers emotions. This happens when a person from one culture moves to a different cultural setup.
    Humans belonging to a culture as a group express emotions differently to the same event. Eg: Asians expressing grief by crying out loud in funerals whereas westerners display grief through silence.
    Socio cultural conditioning of display rules : Families and society condition children through reinforcements to express culture specified emotions. Eg: a child in an indian society might be punished when the child raises voice against elders. This is because Indians give importance to collectivistic and social connections and thus display of sympathy, respect, shame are more common than negative emotions. In western cultures, individuality is given importance and thus display emotions that are intense and prolonged.
    Social modelling : Expression of emotion is also learnt by observing others. Eg: an indian visiting u.s might smile and greet strangers because others in that culture do that. He might not do the same in India.

  3. Emotions are experienced and expressed by all human beings across the world i.e. it is a universal phenomenon. But do we all feel and express our feelings the same way?

    Many research studies conducted by various psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists suggest that how people experience, express, perceive and regulate emotions vary across different cultures. That is, our socio-cultural beliefs, norms and values influence our emotions.
    For e.g. in collectivistic culture where social interdependence and harmony are valued, the emotion shame has positive connotation (respectful restraint) and is experienced more by its people, than in individualistic culture where people do not believe much in restraining and openly express themselves (Shweder et al.).

    Also Jean Brigg’s field study on Utku Eskimo population where she found that people rarely express anger and if on rare occasion found to be aggressive are socially ostracised, strongly demonstrates the influence of social guidelines on emotional expression and regulation.

    Our social values and beliefs also impact our cognitive appraisal process, thereby for a given emotion-provoking situation people across different cultures may have different subjective emotional experiences.
    So from above, it can be said that in addition to genetic, cognitive and motivational factors, socio-cultural factors do have a significant influence on our emotions.

    1. Almost appropriate… You may think of adding more specific studies. Please read such studies that I am going to post below

  4. You may make use of following studies to validate your points:

    Sociocultural norms regulate the expression of emotions.
    Research studies reveal that positive emotions that are closely related to high self esteem such as proudness and happiness are more expressed by Americans than Japanese. The difference could be due to cultural norms of social independence or interdependence. ( Kitayama, 1997 & Walker 2003)
    Moreover, whether a person will display his her emotions openly or not( display rules), depends upon the nature of relationship between the interlocutors.Emotions are expressed more openly with in group members than out group members. (Matsumoto et al 2008).
    Such tendency is more in cultures having collective social orientation.
    However,negative emotions such as hate, disgust, anger , which are dysfunctional for social relationships,are expected to be suppressed in every culture. ( Kitayama 1997).
    Emotions regulation strategies such as reappraisal, suppression and social sharing are influenced by social factors too. ( Gross and John 2003.)

  5. Research on the relationship between culture and emotions dates back to 1872 when Darwin
    claimed emotions and the expression of emotions are universal. Since that time, psychologists, anthropologists, and sociologists have started to investigate the universality of the six basic emotions (i.e., Happiness, sadness, anger,fear, disgust, and surprise). The researcher showed the pictures to people in other countries and asked them to identify the emotion that best describes the face.People universally
    recognize facial expressions of happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust, and perhaps, surprise, and in the other hand anthropologists claimed that people in different societies behave extremely different in how they experienced,expressed, and understood emotion.
    Cultures provide a necessary framework to interpret behavior in their people. For example, happiness is generally considered a desirable emotion across cultures.
    In individualistic countries such as America, regarding to happiness is infinite, attainable, and internally experienced but in collectivistic cultures such as Japan, happiness is very relational, related to social and external factors, and reside in shared experiences with others.
    In another example when American’s are asked about emotions, they are more likely to have self-focused responses “I feel joy” but in the same situation a typical reaction in Japanese is between the self and others “I would like to share my happiness with others.’’
    In one research study on Japenese and Dutch people it was found that Japanese people express emotions in the tone of voice more than in the face while Dutch people pay more attention to the facial expression.Japanese people tend to hide their negative emotions by smiling, but it’s
    more difficult to hide negative emotions in the voice. The researcher mentioned this could lead to confusion when a Dutch person, who is used to the voice and the face to show her/his emotion, talks with a Japanese person; they maysee a smiling face and think everything is fine, while failing to notice the upset tone in the voice.
    Culture affects emotional functioning through identifying which emotions are negative or positive, when
    emotions expressed and even how emotions should be displayed. Culture provides structure, guidelines,
    expectations, and rules to help people understand and interpret behaviors.
    Another research discussed about social norms that dictate how people should feel at certain times say in wedding day or at a funeral. Usually Asians express grief by crying out loud in funerals whereas in western culture silence is appreciated.
    Social and cultural norms determine how and when emotions are expressed.We don’t really know discrete emotions when we are born; we only distinguish between pleasant and unpleasant. In interacting with others, we learn to categorize and experience emotions in certain ways. For example, people in many Western contexts may think of shame as a bad emotion. But shame is considered a good emotion in other cultures. Having an emotion like shame when you don’t behave in ways that fit the cultural norm is considered a good way of doing something about it. In our (Western) cultures, shame is often associated with behaviors that are destructive for the relationship: We withdraw in shame, we don’t want to show ourselves. But in other cultures, it’s an emotion that comes with reaching out to others—it repairs relationships. So it’s not just that the same emotion is differently valued: The emotion itself is different. It develops in a different way and has different consequences for relationships and behavior.

  6. Darwin’s view about Universality of basic emotions is widely accepted. But sociocultural factors do influence the perception, expression,and regulation of emotions.
    Anthropologists studied the cultural specificity in expression of emotions. Research shows how verbal and nonverbal emotional expression is linked to culture.for ex. Handclap expresses worry in China and anger is expressed by laughter.whereas in India handclap usually expresses postive Emotions. Similarly peripheral gaze during an interaction is preferred among Asians whereas direct gaze to the eyes of interactant is observed in Latin Americans and southern Europeans. Also orietnal Indians prefer close space whereas americans don’t during an interaction.

    Research shows that we Experience emotions depending on social norms and values . For ex. In individualistic societies like US ,more importace is given to individual aspirations wheareas in Collectivistic societies like Asian nations Group aspirations are fostered. Here we see that emotions related to self esteem pride etc are high in former culture whereas in latter , people regulate and experience moderate self centred emotions giving more value to emotions related to social support like affiliation belongingness love care etc. excerising contol on bold self centred feelings.

    The well established research data do prove psychosocial influence on emotions but with lack of diversity in samples ,changing social Dynamics with merging social norms in globalization era , individual differences etc we can say that link between social factors and emotions is subjective and evolving.

  7. The culture we live in provides us guidelines, structure, expectation and rules to help us understand understand, interpret, and express emotions. The most basic emotions are same universally and have strong biological ties. Eg. visually blind children from birth shows same emotions and expression as normal vision children.

    Prescriptive norm of culture plays role in expression of mixed and complex behaviour. Certain culture allows free expression of particular emotions while inhibit expression of others. eg. Asian culture allows free expression at loss of near ones by crying etc. while western culture shows stoic expressions.

    Cultures play role in understanding the emotions. eg shame denotes wrong doing across the culture but in Asian culture shame has less negative connotation. It is perceived as acceptance of wrong doing. While in western culture it has more negative connotation, they perceive it as more guilt like feeling.

    Intensity of emotions felt also vary in cultures. eg Asian cultures are more collective and interdependent. Hence the emotion that are more negative or disruptive of harmony are displayed less in comparison to western culture where individuality is promoted and intense emotions are expressed.

    Communication of emotions through non-verbal way is also detected by cultures. eg sticking out tongue in between the teeth in Indian culture is sign of mistake committed. while this might not be same in other Asian cultures even.

    However, expression, generated feeling in a culture may vary from individual to individual within a culture but they are more or less subject to sociocultural learning.

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