divendres, 2 de setembre de 2011

Perception of Facial Expressions Differs Across Cultures

Differences could cause cross-cultural misunderstandings, study finds

WASHINGTON—Facial expressions have been called the “universal language of emotion,” but people from different cultures perceive happy, sad or angry facial expressions in unique ways, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.
“By conducting this study, we hoped to show that people from different cultures think about facial expressions in different ways,” said lead researcher Rachael E. Jack, PhD, of the University of Glasgow. “East Asians and Western Caucasians differ in terms of the features they think constitute an angry face or a happy face.”
The study, which was part of Jack’s doctoral thesis, was published online in APA’s Journal of Experimental Psychology: General®. Jack is a post-doctoral research assistant, and the study was co-authored by Philippe Schyns, PhD, director of the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology at the University of Glasgow, and Roberto Caldara, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.

Some prior research has supported the notion that facial expressions are a hard-wired human behavior with evolutionary origins, so facial expressions wouldn’t differ across cultures. But this study challenges that theory and used statistical image processing techniques to examine how study participants perceived facial expressions through their own mental representations.
“A mental representation of a facial expression is the image we see in our ‘mind's eye’ when we think about what a fearful or happy face looks like,” Jack said. “Mental representations are shaped by our past experiences and help us know what to expect when we are interpreting facial expressions.”
Fifteen Chinese people and 15 Caucasians living in Glasgow took part in the study. They viewed emotion-neutral faces that were randomly altered on a computer screen and then categorized the facial expressions as happy, sad, surprised, fearful, disgusted or angry. The responses allowed researchers to identify the expressive facial features that participants associated with each emotion.

The study found that the Chinese participants relied on the eyes more to represent facial expressions, while Western Caucasians relied on the eyebrows and mouth. Those cultural distinctions could lead to missed cues or misinterpreted signals about emotions during cross-cultural communications, the study reported.
“Our findings highlight the importance of understanding cultural differences in communication, which is particularly relevant in our increasingly connected world,” Jack said. “We hope that our work will facilitate clearer channels of communication between diverse cultures and help promote the understanding of cultural differences within society.”

Above: An illustration from the study reveals the difference between how Western Caucasians (WC) and East Asians (EA) perceive the six basic facial expressions of emotion.

Article: “Internal Representations Reveal Cultural Diversity in Expectations of Facial Expressions of Emotion,” Rachael E. Jack, Roberto Caldara and Philippe G. Schyns, PhDs; University of Glasgow; Journal of Experimental Psychology: General; Vol. 141, No. 1.
Dr. Jack can be contacted by email or at 011 44 (0)7801 374 251.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world's largest association of psychologists. APA's membership includes more than 154,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.



La interpretación de las expresiones faciales es diferente en cada cultura

Se cree que las expresiones faciales constituyen un lenguaje universal de las emociones, pero un estudio reciente realizado por científicos de la Universidad de Glasgow revela que las personas de diversas culturas perciben de manera distinta dichas expresiones.

La investigación ha demostrado, por ejemplo, que los asiáticos del este y los caucásicos occidentales perciben de manera diferente una cara de enfado o una expresión de felicidad.

En el estudio se usaron técnicas de procesamiento estadístico de imágenes para analizar cómo construían los diversos participantes, 15 chinos y 15 individuos caucásicos residentes en Glasgow, sus propias representaciones mentales (imágenes que cada uno ve en su mente al mirar a alguien) sobre determinadas expresiones faciales.

Además, a los voluntarios se les mostraron rostros con diversas expresiones, y se les pidió que los relacionaran con emociones.

De esta manera, se constató que los participantes chinos se fijaban más en los ojos para interpretar las emociones reflejadas por las caras, mientras que los caucásicos se fijaban más en las bocas y en las cejas.

Según los científicos, todas estas diferencias pueden producir malas interpretaciones de las señales emocionales, en las comunicaciones interculturales. Conocerlas resulta importante por tanto para facilitar las relaciones entre individuos de culturas distintas.


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