Paula Niedenthal, University of Wisconsin

Friday, April 5, 2019 - 12:00pm
PNI Lecture Hall A32

“Historical Migration Patterns Shape Contemporary Emotion Culture”

Human emotional behavior varies across culture. Smiling at a passing stranger on the street may seem perfectly normal in one culture and profoundly strange or even suspicious in another. What are the origins of cultural differences in emotional expression, communication, and regulation?  I suggest one answer to this question. A socio-ecological factor, historical heterogeneity—defined as the ancestral diversity of the world’s regions based on human migration patterns over centuries—accounts for important cultural variation in emotional experience and emotional expression. I summarize findings from our studies of large global samples that link the migratory history of a country’s population with present-day cultural differences in how overtly and clearly emotions are expressed to others, in the frequency and meaning of smiles, and in associated character traits. Our research also extends the analysis to the historical heterogeneity of the states of the United States, and country-level findings are replicated at the level of the states. This work suggests that enduring emotional behaviors and traits evolve from the opportunities and challenges posed by the commingling of people of diverse ancestries.

Faculty Host: Alex Todorov

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