We tend to think of emotional reactions as universal. The way I react to an event is the same way everyone does, we tell ourselves. But study after study shows that this is not true. The way we respond to an event is affected by our culture. Why we get angry, how intensely we feel anger, and how we express anger are all linked to the culture from which we come. The way society judges our emotions as “appropriate” or “inappropriate” affects us, too.
Scientists have known for a while that the way Americans and other Westerners express anger is associated with elevated health risks. But, as one 2015 study shows, not every culture’s anger expression correlates to adverse health outcomes. In Japan, expressing one’s anger is associated with positive health outcomes.
Emotions and culture interact in many ways. Our culture affects the way we interpret negative events. The way we interpret events leads to the way we show our emotions. And our culture judges our emotional reactions, which can then change how we view ourselves.