We can feel and act independently of cultural stereotypes

April 15th, 2009 - 3:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Toronto, April 15 (IANS) European cultures value independence and individuality while Asian cultures prize community and harmony. This East-West divide is well established but it has nevertheless intrigued and challenged researchers to test its validity.
The results of a study indicated that feeling good did indeed encourage the volunteers - both European and Asian - to explore values that were inconsistent with their cultural norms.

The research suggested that an elevated mood shaped behaviour, allowing volunteers to act “out of character.” These findings suggest that people in an upbeat mood are more exploratory and daring in attitude - and are therefore more likely to break away from cultural stereotypes.

That is, Asians act more independently than usual, and Europeans are more cooperative. Feeling bad did the opposite: It reinforced traditional cultural stereotypes and constrained both Western and Eastern thinking about the world.

These results indicate that emotions may serve as an important social purpose. Researchers surmise that positive feelings may send a signal that it’s safe to broaden one’s view of the world - and to explore novel notions of one’s self.

The volunteers comprised students from different countries. The researchers unconsciously raised or lowered their moods via two different methods.

In one study, volunteers listened either to some upbeat Mozart on the stereo to lift their moods, or to some Rachmaninov to bring them down.

In another study, the volunteers held pens in their mouths: Some held the pen with their teeth, which basically forces the face into a smile, which improves mood. Others held the pen with their lips, forcing them to frown.

Then the volunteers completed a variety of tests, each designed to measure the strength of their values.

Psychologists Claire Ashton-James of the University of British Columbia (UBC), William W. Maddux from INSEAD, Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University, and Tanya Chartrand from Duke University explored this intriguing question in the lab, said an UBC release.

These findings were published in Psychological Science.

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