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Expressive suppression of negative emotion: A comparison of Asian American and European American norms for emotion regulation

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Elizabeth A Lee
Abstract:
Emerging research points to the need for cross-cultural clarification of the consequences of emotion regulation. Although much empirical work has documented the benefits of expressing emotions and the downsides of suppressing emotions, suggesting expression may be universally adaptive, such research sets up East Asian cultural contexts, where the use of suppression is more positively regarded, to be mistakenly perceived as promoting unhealthy practices when compared to the norms within Western cultural contexts. The current research employed psychophysiological, behavioral, and self-report measures in order to better understand the consequences of emotion regulation for a sample of Asian and European Americans. In a within subjects design, participants watched emotionally evocative films and were asked to engage in expressive suppression or amplification of their emotional responses. There were no group differences in level of emotion displayed when asked to suppress emotional reactions, however, when asked to amplify their reactions, the European Americans more readily displayed their emotion than Asian Americans. Physiological reactivity and recovery results generally supported predictions regarding the benefits of suppression for Asian Americans and the utility of expression for European Americans. These findings suggest further cross-cultural work is needed to better understand the variety of consequences of emotion regulation strategies.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

List of Tables ……………………………………… ……… … …….…………….. vi

List of Figures ……………………………………………… ……………………. vii

Acknowledgments ……………………………………………………………….. viii

Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION AND LITERATURE REVIEW……………………

1

Emotion Regulation and Health ……………………………………………

3

Expressing Emotions and Health ...………………………………...

3

Suppressing Emotions and Health ... ……………………………….

5

Emotion Regulation and Culture ...………………………………………...

9

Expression and

Culture ...…………………………………………..

10

Suppression and Culture …………………………………………...

11

Health Implications for Cultural Differen ces in Emotion Regulation …….

14

Methodological C onsiderations ……………………………………………

15

The Present Study ………………………………………………………….

17

Hypo theses …………………………………………………………

18

Chapter 2: METHOD AND

PROCEDURES ……………………………………...

20

Participa nts …………………………………………………………………

20

Apparatus …………………………… ... …………………............. . ...........

20

Self - Report Meas ures ……………………………………………………...

20

Health Scr eener ……………………… . ………..…………………..

20

Ethnic Identity …………… ……..…… . …………………………...

21

Ratings of Emotion Bef ore and After Films ………………………

21

Behavioral Measu res .

……………………………………………………...

22

Psychophysiologica l Measures …………………………………………….

22

Physiological R eactivity ……………………………………...……

23

Physiologic al Recovery ……………………………………………

23

Procedur es ……….…………………………………………………………

24

Chapter 3: RESULTS ………………… ………….………………………………..

27

Missing Data

… ... ………… ………………...……………………………...

27

Preliminary Analyses

………………………………………………...…….

28

Manipulation Check

... …………………………… ... ………………

28

Correlation between Reactivity and Recovery

…… ... .. ……………

28

Analysis Plan ………………………………………………………………

29

Primary

Analyses

……………………………………………………… …..

31

Emotional Reactivity during Suppression ………………………....

33

Emotional Reactivity during Amplification …………………....….

34

Ethnic Identity ………………………………………………..…….

35

v

Chapter 4: DISCUSSION

…………………………………………………….……

37

Emotional Reactivity during Suppressio n

…… . ….…………..………..…..

37

Emotional Reactivity during Amplification

…………………………..…… 41

Ethnic Identity

……………………………………………………...………

44

Limitations and Future Directions

… ... ……………………………….……

45

Conclusion

…………………………………………………… ……...…….

47

Footnotes ………………………………………………… ………………...

48

References ………………………………………………………………………….

49

Appendix A: Health Screener ……………………………………………………...

60

Appendix B: Ethnic Identity

……………………......……………………………..

61

Appendix C: Ratings of Emotion Before and After Films ……………… …... ……

62

vi

List of T ables

Table 1. Intraclass correlation coefficients for raters of disgust behavior for each emotion regulation conditi on ………………………………………………………….…….

22

Table 2 . Correlations among physiological indices of reactivity and recovery for each emotion regulatio n condition…………………………………………………………….…..

29

Table 3. Correlations for measures of physiological reactivity during film and recovery after film for European Americans in each emotion regulation condition ……………

30

Table 4. Correlations for measures of phys iological reactivity during film and recovery after film for Asian Americans in each emotion regulation condition …….……………

31

Table 5 . Means (Standard deviations) by race and condition and F

test results for one - way ANOVAs testing effect of race within ea ch emotion regulation condition ………..

31

vii

List of Figures

Figure 1. Flowchart of experimental film procedures ……………………………..

26

viii

Acknowledgments

The realization of this dissertation is largely due to the support and assistance of many people surroun ding me throughout my graduate school career, and I would like to take this opportunity to express my respect and gratitude.

Janet Swim has been an invaluable advisor who has inspired the course of my work while also constantly pushing me to explore my o wn intellectual interests. The many meetings where she served as a tireless sounding board embody what I see as the core experience of being an academic in training, and for her contributions to what has been a stimulating and rich graduate school adventu re, I will always be grateful. José Soto, Co - Chair with Janet and Mentor Extraordinaire, never failed to share his limited time and his unlimited enthusiasm much to my benefit. As a stalwart advocate for my progress, he helped me keep the faith through m any projects and most recently, helped me rise to the occasion of forging ahead with this dissertation. His own resilience and determination has taught me much about not just surviving in the face of challenges, but thriving. Together, Janet and José hav e fueled my commitment to social justice and nurtured my fascination with the interface of social and clinical psychology.

My sincere gratitude also goes to Stephanie Shields and Michael Hecht. Stephanie has always lent

encouragement throughout my graduat e career. Just a few ways she has impacted me is by offering

practical and useful advice on writing and a forum for professional development in her seminar on the Art and Science of Social Psychology, as well as steering me towards insightful literatures on intersectionality and the foundations of emotion. Michael Hecht has not only offered

many suggestions that have made this dissertation a finer product, but when considering my big picture goals for my future, embodies what I see as the vast applicabili ty of

ix

social psychology towards real - world solutions. His work has only furthered my desire to use my expertise towards facilitating understanding among people of different backgrounds.

A number of faculty from my undergraduate institution also deserves

mention for their enduring support and advice. Robin Timmons, Jill Cermele, Patrick Dolan, and Steve Kilianski empowered me to pursue my ambitions and built the foundation for my current successes.

I would also like to thank some of my peers for the mut ual support we share, whether this means practical suggestions on rough drafts to a listening ear when times were tough. My thanks and best wishes go to Brittany Bloodhart, Nana Dawson - Andoh, Kate Hanley, and Chris Perez.

Much gratitude must go to the un dergraduate

students who are all too often the unsung heroes of research. This includes the skilled and loyal research assistants that are too many to name who painstakingly collected the data for this project as well as the numerous participants who volu nteered their time for the advancement of science.

Lastly, my family has been an unending source of such useful reminders to eat, sleep, and breathe. My mom, Myung - Sun Kim and my godmother, Gerrie Dudek, always maintained their confidence in my abilities and helped me to sustain mine. My other parents, Laurel and Nick

Johnson, have always sent their love and care, which is deeply felt even from across the country. My husband and best friend, Norm Johnson, has always been there for me whenever I needed hi m most, especially whenever I needed to be reminded of a favorite Robert Frost quote, “the best way out is always through”. I hope this dissertation makes him proud and properly honors the love and energy he has invested in the successful satisfaction of my intellectual curiosity.

Chapter 1

INTRODUCTION

AND LITERATURE REVIEW

Expressive Suppression of Negative Emotion: A Comparison of Asian American and European American Norms for Emotion Regulation

Emotion regulation has been linked to a number of importa nt outcomes, including well - being, social functioning, and various indicators of physical and mental health (Engebretson , Matthews, & Scheier , 1989; Gross & Mu ñ oz, 1995; John & Gross, 2004). Specifically, p ast research has shown that suppressing one‟s emo tional expression s

( commonly referred to as suppression, expressive suppression

or emotional inhibition) is associated with numerous negative outcomes such as increased physiological arousal, increased risk for depression, impaired memory, disrupted interp ersonal functioning, diminished expression and experience of positive emotion, decreased immune system functioning, and decreased satisfaction with life (Butler et al., 200 3 ;

Gross & John, 2003 ; Gross & Levenson, 1993; Petrie, Booth, & Pennebaker, 1998; Ri chards & Gross, 2000; Wenzlaff , Rude, Taylor, Stultz, & Sweatt , 2001).

To a large extent, the findings above reflect the historical focus on individual differences in the study of emotional reactivity and regulation (Gross & John, 2003). Emerging evidenc e suggests that culture may also be an important contextual variable to consider with regard to emotion regulation

(Perez & Soto , 2011 ; Soto, Perez, Kim , Lee, & Minnick, in press) .

For example, cultures prescribe different norms that sha pe what emotio ns we should feel, under which circumstances, and how and when we express thos e emotions (Matsumoto, Yoo, & Nakagawa , 2008; Tsai, 2007). A logical extension of this work is that culture can affect health by virtue of its influence on how emotions are regu lated in everyday life.

2

Recently, empirical studies on the consequences of emotion regulation across different cultural groups have revealed that the outcomes associated with certain emotion regulation strategies are not universal (Mauss & Butler, 2009; Pe rez & Soto, 201 1 ).

In particular, the extent to which suppression is associated with maladaptive outcomes may vary across cultural contexts.

In an Asian cultural context, where suppression is more normative (relative to Western cultural contexts), the re lationship between suppression and negative outcomes may be attenuated (Butler, Lee & Gross, 2007;

Soto et al., in press ) .

This variation makes sense given that cultural norms have been passed down over generations presumably because they are adaptive wit hin that particular cultural context. Nevertheless, Western society and its representative institutions (e.g. the mental health care system, the educational system) have typically prescribed a one - size - fits - all approach toward suppression suggesting that it is

healthier to express than to suppress.

Adhering to this prescription might lead one to expect that cultural groups with norms that encourage the use of suppression could be particularly at risk for negative outcomes. However, the notion that people

of Asian cultural backgrounds may have a greater likelihood of negative health outcomes because of their tendency toward suppression

has received little empirical

attention. Unpacking this assumption is warranted in light of recent findings

that

challeng e it ( Consedine, Magai, & Bonanno, 2002), and because of the dearth of empirical tests of this notion. In order to better understand the contextual influences on the consequences of suppression, the present study examines how two culturally distinct groups

(European Americans and Asian Americans) differ in their psychophysiological responses

(a possible marker for long - term health)

when asked to suppress their emotions in a laboratory setting.

3

Emotion Regulation and Health

Stress occur s when we perceive som e stimulus as taxing our resources ,

and therefore, coping strategies are marshaled in an

attempt to effec tively and efficiently manage the stressful situation ( Lazarus, 1993 ).

One of the coping mechanisms often used in response to stressful situations is a conscious effort to control the emotional reactions resulting from those situations.

For example,

during an argument, one may suppress the display of intense anger in order to avoid escalating the fight or another example is that after just being embarr assed, one may suppress the display of sadness and the urge to cry in order to avoid garnering even more negative attention. While t hese strategies may seem most pertinent for our

short - term

health, the cumulative effects of heightened physiological react ions to short - term stress can also threaten

long - term health outcomes

(Krantz & Manuck, 1984; Mauss & Gross, 2004) .

In other words, chronically experiencing increased reactivity levels and slow recovery times can be harmful in the long - term. In fact, res earch examining the ways we regulate our emotions has studied the use of suppression as well as expression (uninhibited emotional responding) and have linked various health outcomes with use of each of these strategies.

Expressing Emotions and Health.

The

prevailing view in the emotion regulation - health literature asserts that expression is an adaptive strategy for managing our health.

This perspective has a long history within psychology that traces back to Freud‟s psychodynamic theory about healing via catharsis (Breuer & Freud, 1957; Hokanson, Willers, & Koropsak, 2006; Pennebaker & Beall, 1986). Expression can be thought of as an emotion regulation strategy characterized by allowing one to display one‟s emotions freely 1 .

Expression can serve multiple

functions such as facilitating communicat ion with

others and motivating individuals to engage in adaptive behaviors (Consedine et al., 2002; Polivy, 1998).

Perhaps the most well

4

known work on the expression - health link has been conducted by Pennebaker an d colleagues who suggest that the benefits of expression are mediated by enhancement of our immune system (Esterling , Antoni, Fletcher, Margulies, & Schneiderman , 1994; Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999).

In studies where participants were encouraged to express t hemselves in writing, particularly about the negative emotions associated with traumatic events, these acts of

expression led to enhanced immune system functioning and decreased pain, stress, and depression (Pennebaker & Francis, 1996; Petrie, Booth, & Pen nebaker, 1998).

Additionally, e xpressing oneself b y creating narratives of our past assists with the memory processing of aversive events and the management of the distress associated with those events (Pennebaker

& Francis , 199 6 ).

From this perspective,

expression facilitates interpersonal communication, adaptive coping behaviors, immune system functioning, and cognitive processing.

Although much work has documented the link between expression and positive health outcomes, there are reasons to expect exp ression to be maladaptive under certain circumstances.

By displaying our internal states, especially for a prolonged period of time, we may actually undermine interpersonal relationships.

Expression may result in increased feelings of negative affect, su ch as despair, and increased risk of losing social support (Consedine et al., 2002).

Work that has specifically examined how physical health relates to the expression of anger has linked such expression with increased risk of coronary heart disease (Willi ams et al., 1980) and hypertension (Harburg, Blakelock, & Roeper, 1979).

Furthermore, other work demonstrates that external expression of one‟s internal thoughts can actually disrupt cognitive functioning, at least for certain populations such as Asian Am ericans (Kim, 2008).

Such problems

associated with expression undermine the idea that the expression of emotions is “natural” (Polivy, 1998) and that expression is useful across all emotions and for all populations.

For example, past work on

5

race and emo tion expression showed that European Americans who were asked to express anger showed faster physiological recovery , which presumably is better for physical health,

than African Americans who expressed anger (Dorr,

Brosschot, Sollers, & Thayer,

2007).

In this case, the benefits of expression did not apply universally for

a diverse sample.

Thus, given that there is reason to suspect expression does not always lead to positive health outcomes, examining which emotion regulation strategies

are helpful for wh at populations would advance the literature on emotion regulation and health.

Suppressin g Emotions

and Health. A discussion of the suppression - health link must start with clarification o n

the construct of suppression itself.

Similar to expression, suppre ssion can apply to both dampening the feeling and the display of an emotion.

Conceptually, suppression overlap s

with denial and repressive coping, as well as behavioral inhibition and display rules (Consedine et al., 2002).

The same construct (hereafter,

suppression) has been called both expressive suppression (Gross, 1998) and

inhibition (Consedine et al., 2002) and is considered a response - focused type of emotion regulation strategy in that it is employed after we have both appraised and reacted to an e motional event (Gross, 1998 ). One of the critiques of past work examining the relationship between expression and health is that researchers have not always explained how expression and suppression are linked (Gross & Levenson, 1993). A logical assumptio n to make is that expression and suppression are opposite ends of the same continuum, meaning that not expressing something implies inhibition must be operating . This understanding infers that not expressing something is an intentional act, however, a lac k of expression does not necessary implicate a conscious intent to suppress emotions. Furthermore, many studies that purport to demonstrate the benefits of expression and thus suggest the disadvantages of inhibition do not actually measure or manipulate i nhibition (Consedine et al., 2002). Therefore,

6

the idea that the two strategies operate as

opposites on the same continuum that result in opposite consequences is tenuous. Like Consedine and colleagues (2002), I consider suppression to be related, yet di stinct from expression, meaning that the absence of one does not necessarily imply the intentional activation of the other. Additionally, that the consequences of suppression are usually considered to be negative based on work demonstrating expression‟s b enefits requires more

examination to test this gross generalization.

Much evidence points to suppression being at best, disruptive, and at worst, bad for one‟s health.

Suppression is believed by some researchers to cause an unsettling discrepancy between

one‟s emotional experience versus

expression, and this discrepancy prevents down - regulation of the emotional experience (Gross, 1998 ).

Pennebaker and colleagues explain that suppression causes an increase in stress and ruminative thoughts (Pennebaker & F rancis, 1996 ; Spera , Buhrfeind, & Pennebaker , 1994).

Thought suppression could ironically backfire by making something more cognitively salient, a process that can

adversely prolong physiological arousal (Brosschot , Van Dijk, & Thayer,

2007).

Thus, repea ted use of suppression may cause so much cognitive interference and disruption in regulating emotions that the compounding of stress mediated by various physiological mechanisms, such as weaken ing of the

immune system ,

leaves

people vulnerable to health pr oblems such as depression and decreased well - being (Gross & John, 2003; Hamer & Malan, 2010 ; Wenzlaff et al., 2001).

Interestingly, suppression‟s effects may differ depending on emotion valence with some research showing th at suppression can decrease self - reported experience of positive emotions (Gross & John, 2003; Strack, Martin, & Stepper, 1988), yet maintain or even increase negati ve emotions (Gross & John, 2003 ).

The case

that suppression is largely a maladaptive emotion regulation strategy has been b uilt by numerous studies that show suppression of various emotions causes increased

7

physiological activation (Demaree et al., 2006; Gross & Levenson, 1993 ; Krantz & Manuck 1984; Richards & Gross, 2000) and delayed physiological recovery (Dorr et al., 2007) .

Much work has examined the immediate physiological consequences of suppressing negative emotions such as anger.

When people who habitually express anger (anger - out people) are asked to suppress anger, the negative effects of increased physiological rea ctivity are exacerbated (Burns, Quartana, & Bruehl, 2007).

Additionally, our ability to tolerate pain is diminished after having suppressed anger (Cioffi & Holloway, 1993).

These short - term response patterns are often used as indicators

of potential long - term health outcomes, which have also been well documented . For example, research has shown that habitual suppression is correlated with the progression of cancer (Garssen & Goodkin, 1999) and a continuous weakening of the immune system ( Petrie, Booth, &

Pennebaker, 19 9 8 ).

An extension of the work on suppression concerns the link between short - term psychophysiological reactivity and long - term disease (Mauss & Gross, 200 4 ).

Mainly, it is believed that while one instance of suppression may not result in lo ng - term harm, multiple instances of suppression can set in motion certain mechanisms that contribute to poorer health. The idea that repeated suppression can tax the cardiovascular system

by repeatedly increasing reactivity levels

(Blascovich & Katkin, 19 93 , Hamer & Malan, 2010; Krantz & Manuck, 1984) is supported by numerous studies that show suppression of anger is associated with health problems such as cardiovascular disease (MacDougall , Dembroski, Dimsdale, & Thomas , 1985) and chronic hypertension (En gebretson et al., 1989; Jorgensen , Johnson, Kolodziej, & Schreer , 1996; Krieger, 1990;

Suls, Wan, & Costa , 1995).

Similarly, whereas one incident of suppression during an interpersonal exchange may not result in long - term harm, the consistent

use of suppr ession is related to costs for interpersonal relationships .

For example, suppression can

8

threaten interpersonal interactions by increasing stress levels and blood pressure and by disrupting communication and rapport building (Butler et al., 2003).

Over t ime, both the experience of suppression and of the disrupted interactions are stressful, negating any potential benefits of a productive interpersonal relationship, and these conditions can adversely affect physiological functioning. Thus, suppression is problematic to the extent that its chronic use eventually undermines long - term health outcomes via the physiological system

and diminished interpersonal functioning .

Overall, suppression has largely been implicated in undermining many different aspects of health, but less work has confirmed

this finding across diverse populations.

Namely,

adverse physical consequences might be minimized by either

expressing or suppressing, as long as the regulation matches one‟s preferred style, (Burns et al., 2007; Lai & Linden, 1992).

Engebretson and colleagues (1989) posit a Matching Hypothesis such that the physiological consequences of suppression depend on whether a person habitually uses suppression.

Here the variation in one‟s chronic use of suppression was concei ved of as an individual difference, but also can be a norm that is supported or disapproved of within diverse cultures.

For example, after suppressing, women showed lower reactivity compared to men, presumably due to the internalization of gender norms

(B jorklund & Kipp, 1996) . Because suppression is the norm for women, the use of this culturally proscribed strategy d id

not result in the adverse consequences

it d id

for men. Other work has examined differences between women who self - reported a tendency to

either suppress or express their anger. The women who habitually suppress, which is in line with social expectations, showed the adaptive, faster physiological recovery after provocation compared to women who habitually express anger (Lai & Linden, 1992) . Furthermore , Suchday and Larkin (2004) tested the physiological effects of expressing or inhibiting anger

in a sample of East

9

Indian men . After suppression, which is considered in I ndian cultur e to be

a

socially accept able

emotion regulation response, men recov ered more quickly than after being

instructed to express their anger. Lastly, although Mensah and Dunbar (2006) concluded that the use of suppression puts minorities at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease compared to European Americans, they were onl y referring to non - Asian minorities. Due to Asian culture‟s approval of suppression, Asian Americans were not considered at increased cardiovascular risk due to the use of suppression. Such work suggests that how suppression affects health across culture s is not completely understood.

Emotion Regulation and Culture

Cultural norms provide guidelines for interacting with our environment, which include how we react emotionally to various situations (Matsumoto, 1990; Mesquita & Frijda, 1992; Shweder, Haidt, H orton, & Joseph, 2008 ; Soto, Levenson & Ebling, 2005).

Norms that govern emotion regulation are differentially valued and practiced by members of different cultures . For example, much research has examined the expression - suppression dimension as one arou nd which there is much cultural variation.

Cultures that are influenced by Western philosophy tend to promote the use of expression as an emotion regulation strategy, whereas cultures that are predominantly influenced by Eastern philosophy tend to endorse

the suppression of emotions (Matsumoto

et al. , 2008 ; Tsai, Chentsova - Dutton, Freire - Bebeau, & Przymus , 2002 ).

Such studies that ground the investigation of individual differences within a cultur al context are relevant to the discussion of how cultural no rms can ultimately affect health. Markus and colleagues (1997) have argued that a fundamental aspect of a healthy self is being able to enact culturally congruent ways of living, which makes the consideration of culture‟s role in the link between emotion regulation and health necessary. Below I present data from cross - cultural and

10

cross - ethnic investigations of preferred emotion regulation strategies, focusing specifically on Asian Americans, a population that is exposed to cultural norms that contrast dr amatically from those norms of the surrounding mainstream American society.

Expression and Culture . The emphasis on free expression of emotions can be readily seen in individualistic cultures of the U.S. and many other Western nations (Hofstede, 1983; Tri andis, 1993).

The typical importance of individual autonomy over the collective may contribute to a preference for emotional expression over suppression.

Although people are certainly members of and identify with different groups, identities are construc ted primarily from an individual‟s choices, goals, and actions (Markus & Kitayama, 1991).

Hence, Western contexts are environments where freely expressing oneself is both desirable and expected.

By

explicitly

expressing their emotions, members of Western

cultures are able to communicate their individual reactions to events and such expressions could also function as

a way to differentiate themselves from others ( Kitayama, Markus, & Kurokawa, 2000; Matsumoto et al., 2008 ; Mesquita, 2001 ).

This sense of on e‟s freedom to express emotions was demonstrated in classic work on the display of negative emotions.

Ekman and Friesen, (1969) showed that European American participants watching a disgusting film expressed disgust both when the experimenter was and was not present , however, changes in the social context did affect Japanese participants‟ expressions .

That the presence of another person did not inhibit the display of a negative emotional reaction is a reflection of the value European American culture plac es

on expression.

Furthermore, the expression of emotions fits in with other Western norms that essentially protect the right to free expression.

Work examining preferred coping styles has

shown that European Americans advocate problem - focused coping, whi ch is characterized by the person making constructive changes in one‟s behavior and/ or one‟s environment (Lam & Zane, 2004)

11

and explicit social support, which involves self - di scl osure of distress (Kim, Sherman, & Taylor, 2008).

E xpression fits with such c oping styles that involve publicly engaging with a stressful situation and verbally communicating one‟s point of view to others.

Similarly, cross - cultural work on conflict management shows members of Western cultures prefer assertive ness

rather than

com pr omise or avoidance (Gudykunst ,

Matsumoto, Ting - Toomey, & Nishida,

1996).

In other words, the preferred way to solve interpersonal differences in an individualistic society is to openly express one‟s stance on the issue.

The belief that emotional expressi on should be unfettered is also reflected in Tsai‟s (2007) work showing that European Americans consider high arousal emotional states (e.g. excited) ideal compared to low arousal states (e.g. content) .

Overall, within a Western context, social norms rein force the value placed on expression.

Suppression and Culture . In contrast to the norms of a Western cultural context, the norms for collectivistic or Eastern cultural contexts encourage

the suppression of one‟s emotion.

Cross - cultural research examining

nations typically characterized as collectivistic cultures (Hofstede, 1983; Triandis, 1993) tend to refer to much of Asia.

Broad generalizations of what constitutes “Asian culture” are tenuous given that Asia is a vast continent composed of many unique e thnic groups. Nevertheless, most regions are influenced to some extent by the norms advocated by Confucianism and Buddhism, which lend itself to common ground among diverse

ethnic groups. Within these cultural contexts, the expectation that individuals s hould integrate into

a hierarchy highlights the value placed on cooperation, interdependence, and social harmony (Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Matsumoto et al . , 2008).

Thus, people must always exercise concern and awareness of how their behavior can affect ot hers, and as a result, may lead to

the restraint

of emotional behaviors

in order to keep the peace ( Tsai , Miao, Seppala, Fung, & Yeung , 2007 ) .

Indeed, past work has shown that members of collectivist cultures endorse the

12

moderation of experienced and expr ess ed emotions (Gross & John, 2003 ; Tsai, 2007 ) as well as

Full document contains 73 pages
Abstract: Emerging research points to the need for cross-cultural clarification of the consequences of emotion regulation. Although much empirical work has documented the benefits of expressing emotions and the downsides of suppressing emotions, suggesting expression may be universally adaptive, such research sets up East Asian cultural contexts, where the use of suppression is more positively regarded, to be mistakenly perceived as promoting unhealthy practices when compared to the norms within Western cultural contexts. The current research employed psychophysiological, behavioral, and self-report measures in order to better understand the consequences of emotion regulation for a sample of Asian and European Americans. In a within subjects design, participants watched emotionally evocative films and were asked to engage in expressive suppression or amplification of their emotional responses. There were no group differences in level of emotion displayed when asked to suppress emotional reactions, however, when asked to amplify their reactions, the European Americans more readily displayed their emotion than Asian Americans. Physiological reactivity and recovery results generally supported predictions regarding the benefits of suppression for Asian Americans and the utility of expression for European Americans. These findings suggest further cross-cultural work is needed to better understand the variety of consequences of emotion regulation strategies.