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Do Chinese People Lead More Nuanced Emotional Lives?


Do Chinese People Lead More Nuanced Emotional Lives?

Stashed in: China!, The Feels, Sociology

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Chinese culture seems to value mixed emotions more than American culture does. But why? The researchers attempt to answer that question: They have evidence that it has to do with cultural attitudes towards independence and interdependence.

Prior to the palm pilot experiments, participants were also surveyed on how much they valued traits relating to independence, (including: “influential (having an impact on people and events),” “independent (selfreliant, self-sufficient),” “choosing own goals (selecting own purpose),”) and interdependence, (including: “politeness (courtesy, good manners),” “reciprocation of favors (avoidance of indebtedness),” “respect for tradition (preservation of time-honored customs).”

“Above and beyond the effect of culture,” the researchers write, “the more people valued independence over interdependence, the more they wanted to feel positive over negative affect. [...] Cultural differences in how much people want to maximize the positive and minimize the negative are due at least in part to how much they value independence versus interdependence.”

Cultural studies have long categorized America as having an “individualistic culture” -- promoting individual autonomy and interdependence. China, on the other hand, is understood to have a “collectivist culture” -- promoting instead the interdependence of individuals and the notion of social harmony.

The researchers hypothesize that, when an individual’s value system puts more emphasis on the individual, as opposed to the greater good, their own happiness -- and freedom from suffering -- becomes much more important. “Because being a good independent self means differentiating oneself from others in positive ways,” they theorize, “individuals from these contexts want to stand out in a positive light, which also means wanting to feel good and not feel bad.”

In a collectivist society, on the other hand, feeling too good could be undesirable, if it poses a threat to harmony. And negative emotions might be seen as more advantageous in more collectivist cultures, for a variety of reasons.

What does valuing mixed emotions mean? That they value sadness along with happiness?

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