Michelle focuses primarily on human emotion in her research. She looks particularly at cultural similarities and differences in the description of affect, a defense of the bipolarity thesis that pleasure is the opposite of displeasure, the development of a 12-point circumplex model in English and Chinese, a method relating two circumplex models in social-personality research, and the relativity of emotion judgments. Her secondary interest is in the usefulness of personality in profiling different cultures, studying national stereotypes, and predicting social behaviors including academic achievement.
The subjective experience of affect is a central aspect of the mind playing a fundamental role in diverse psychological phenomena. Consequently, understanding how affect is structured is one of the longstanding challenges to the science of psychology. What are the fundamental dimensions underlying affect, how are the dimensions related to each other, and does the relation vary with culture and personality? Much theory and research have examined the first question, little the second, almost none the third. Indeed, the structure of affect is typically assumed to be part of human nature, invariant with culture and personality.
Theory and research point to valence and arousal as fundamental properties of affect, but it remains unclear how valence and arousal relate to each other. Are they independent dimensions, or do they covary? And if they covary, do they do so linearly and in a way that holds for all humans or in a way that varies with culture or personality? Six clearly articulated theoretical relations between valence and arousal have been proposed (or presupposed) in the literature. Our study aims to examine these relations.
Kuppens et al. (2017) examined these six hypotheses on the valence-arousal relation (plus more exploratory analyses for other possible relations) in eight samples. A weak symmetric V-shaped pattern was supported, implying that arousal increases with intensity of valence. We found personality differences such that the V-shape is greater in extraverts, but weakens in introverts, for example. We also found that the steepness of the V-shaped relationship varied with culture, with a steeper slope among the Western cultures (Canada, Spain) than among the Eastern cultures (Korea, Japan). In the Hong Kong sample, the best fitting model was simply a straight line implying the independence of valence and arousal. Although these initial results are encouraging, the samples pertained to too few cultures, and were restricted mostly to English-speaking participants. The investigation needs to be extended to include larger samples within diverse cultures. Such is the purpose of this current study.
With a larger sample of cultures, each with a large sample of individuals, we can test main and interactive effects with multi-level models and explore previously undetected patterns. For example, is the relation of extraversion to the structure of affect robust across cultures? The small number of cultures in our previous work did not allow such questions to be properly addressed. With a larger sample of cultures, we can also correlate culture-level variables (such as Schwartz’s value categories) with parameters of the statistical models.
In this study, we build on an existing cross-cultural research network involving more than 36 countries, each of which has already been characterized in important ways in prior research. These cultures cover the global regions identified by Schwartz (2006) and provide several samples within each region to ensure replicability. We hope to develop firmly grounded theoretical explanations for empirical generalizations on the nature of affect and its relation to personality and culture, once they are established as robust.
The subjective experience of affect plays a fundamental role in diverse psychological phenomena. Consequently, understanding how affect is structured is one of the longstanding challenges to the science of psychology. What are the fundamental dimensions that make up affect? Does the nature of these dimensions vary with culture and psychological well-being? Much theory and research have examined the first question, and interest is growing in the second.
Theory and research point to valence and arousal as fundamental dimensions of affect, although the nature of each is yet to be examined. In this proposal, we will focus on valence. In the circumplex model of affect, valence is defined as pleasant versus unpleasant affect (and arousal as activated versus deactivated affect), which implies that happiness and sadness are mutually exclusive. When one is happy, one cannot be sad. Others have argued that happiness and sadness are two separable entities, suggesting that one can feel happy and sad simultaneously. Our project will involve a cross-cultural investigation into the extent to which pleasant and unpleasant affect can coexist in everyday life, using an experience-sampling design.
Recent studies have suggested that pleasant and unpleasant affect can and do co-occur in Eastern but not in Western culture. The positive impact of their co-occurrence on well-being received conflicting evidence. However, those studies used samples that were too small and the subjects were not diverse enough to reach conclusive findings. The investigation should be extended to include larger samples from diverse cultures. More importantly, it needs to be cross-validated with other methods such as the experience-sampling method, which provides a platform on which both state (within-person) and trait (between-person) affect can be examined in everyday life. Such is the purpose of this proposed project.
We will build on an existing research network involving 50 cultures, each of which has already been characterized in important ways in prior research. Data will be gathered from those 50 cultures using surveys administered in Indo-European, Hamito-Semitic, Sino-Tibetan, Daic, Uralic, Malayo-Polynesian, Dravidian, and Altaic languages. These cultures represent six continents and cover the global regions identified by Schwartz (2006), with several samples from within each region to ensure replicability. Specifically, we will estimate the overall relation of psychological well-being to the relationship between pleasant and unpleasant affect, and how much this overall relation varies across cultures. The small number of cultures in previous work did not allow such questions to be properly addressed. We will also use the empirical findings to test specific theories about the nature of valence and its relationship with culture and other correlates.