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Who I am depends on how I feel: the role of affect in the expression of culture

Author: Ashton-James, Claire E. ; Maddux, William W. ; Galinsky, Adam D. ; Chartrand, Tanya L.INSEAD Area: Organisational BehaviourIn: Psychological Science, vol. 20, no. 3, March 2009 Language: EnglishDescription: p. 340-346.Type of document: INSEAD ArticleNote: Please ask us for this itemAbstract: We present a novel role of affect in the expression of culture. Four experiments tested whether individuals’ affective states moderate the expression of culturally normative cognitions and behaviors. We consistently found that individuals’ value expressions, self-construals, and behaviors were less consistent with cultural norms when experiencing positive affect than when experiencing negative affect. Positive affect allowed individuals to explore novel thoughts and behaviors that departed from cultural constraints, whereas negative affect bound people to cultural norms. As a result, when experiencing positive compared to negative affect, Westerners valued self expression less, preferred objects that reflected conformity rather than uniqueness, viewed the self in interdependent terms, and sat closer to others. In contrast, East Asians showed the reverse pattern across each of these measures under positive affect. The results suggest that affect serves an important functional purpose of attuning individuals more or less closely to their cultural heritage.
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We present a novel role of affect in the expression of culture. Four experiments tested whether individuals’ affective states moderate the expression of culturally normative cognitions and behaviors. We consistently found that individuals’ value expressions, self-construals, and behaviors were less consistent with cultural norms when experiencing positive affect than when experiencing negative affect. Positive affect allowed individuals to explore novel thoughts and behaviors that departed from cultural constraints, whereas negative affect bound people to cultural norms. As a result, when experiencing positive compared to negative affect, Westerners valued self expression less, preferred objects that reflected conformity rather than uniqueness, viewed the self in interdependent terms, and sat closer to others. In contrast, East Asians showed the reverse pattern across each of these measures under positive affect. The results suggest that affect serves an important functional purpose of attuning individuals more or less closely to their cultural heritage.

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