Neuroscience & Psychology Postgraduate Society Seminars

Mapping the conceptual landscape of emotions across cultures

Recent research has challenged the universality of facial expressions of emotion, highlighting culture as a significant influencing factor, thereby exposing a knowledge gap (Jack, Blais, Scheepers, Schyns & Caldara, 2009; Matsumoto & Ekman, 1989; Jack, Garrod, Yu, Caldara & Schyns, 2012). Consequently, a number of questions have been raised surrounding emotional expression including those underpinning the current research project - six basic emotions are not universal. Which emotions are basic in different cultures? Here, we aimed to identify the basic emotion categories in Western and Eastern cultures by mapping culture-specific conceptual landscapes of emotion terms in two languages (English and Chinese). Using emotion words rated highly on both familiarity and prototypicality, fifty native English and fifty native Chinese speakers rated all possible word pairs in their own language according to similarity of meaning. Using these similarity measures in conjunction with network analysis tools (e.g., Multidimensional scaling and k-means clustering), we then reconstructed culture-specific semantic networks of emotion terms in each group.