EXPRESSIVE SUPPRESSION OF NEGATIVE EMOTION: A COMPARISON OF ASIAN AMERICAN AND EUROPEAN AMERICAN NORMS FOR EMOTION REGULATION

Open Access
Author:
Lee, Elizabeth A.
Graduate Program:
Psychology
Degree:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Dissertation
Date of Defense:
June 24, 2011
Committee Members:
  • Janet K. Swim, Committee Chair
  • José A. Soto, Committee Chair
  • Stephanie A. Shields, Committee Member
  • Michael L. Hecht, Committee Member
Keywords:
  • Asian Americans
  • cultural norms
  • emotion regulation
  • psychophysiology
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.