Introduction: The Researcher's Life 1

Chapter 5 Cross-Cultural Psychology in the 21st Century

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Chapter 5
Cross-Cultural Psychology in the 21st Century

David Matsumoto
San Francisco State University

If things continue as they have until now, cross-cultural psychology as we know it today will cease to exist in the 21st century. Instead, it will be integrated into mainstream psychology. Yet that integration should not be a total assimilation of cross-cultural psychology into mainstream psychology. There will be major accommodations as well, fundamentally changing the essence of the way we model and study human behavior. We are already witness to these changes, as we are in the middle of an evolution in psychology.

In this chapter, I would like to describe why I believe we are in the midst of this evolution. I will first describe compelling issues that have driven cross-cultural psychology until now. Then I will illustrate advances in knowledge about human behavior by describing current knowledge in my field of expertise, emotional expression and perception. I speculate about the future of research in this area, and describe challenges facing cross-cultural psychology as a whole for the next two decades. I end this chapter by offering some friendly advice to those who want to get into this exciting and wonderful area of psychology.

Compelling Research Issues in Cross-cultural Psychology

In the past, cross-cultural psychology was perceived as an "exotic" branch of psychology for those with esoteric interests in culture. Cross-cultural studies were generally viewed as an interesting aberrant of more serious research in mainstream psychology and were generally not assimilated into mainstream knowledge. Today, however, cross-cultural psychology is viewed as a serious endeavor. Studies reporting cultural differences are widespread and common and make fundamental challenges to mainstream knowledge. Throughout this history, a common thread ties much of this literature together, and that is its overwhelming concern with uncovering universal and culturally specific aspects of behavior.

Indeed, cross-cultural research has uncovered many psychological processes that appear to be universal. These include, for example, the perception and language of color; processes of language acquisition; principles of cognition, thinking, and learning; gender differences in mate selection and gender stereotypes; and recognition and expression of facial expressions of emotions. Not only do these findings provide important bases by which we can find commonality with fellow humans, they also allow us to speculate about their biological substrates, innateness, and evolutionary and adaptive significance.

But cross-cultural research has also produced important cultural differences. These occur in temperament, attachment, and child-rearing; cognitive, moral, and socioemotional development; the structure and function of language; rules for displaying and perceiving emotions; psychopathology and physical health; and much more. Collectively, they tell us that culture plays an important role in shaping human experience and worldview as well.

Uncovering cultural similarities and differences in psychological traits and behaviors is extremely important to the field for several reasons. First, it helps us refine and revise our theoretical understanding of human behavior. This activity is important if we want to have theories in psychology that are applicable to the widest audience possible. For example, cross-cultural research has helped to refine our understanding of child-rearing practices and attachment, modifying what the field considered to be optimal attachment and child-rearing based on research conducted solely in the U.S. to accommodate important differences in these practices around the world. Second, uncovering cross-cultural differences helps us deliver more effective psychologically-based services to the public. These activities occur through psychotherapy, counseling, business consulting, and the like, most of which are dependent on accurate information and knowledge about people derived from research. Cross-cultural research, for instance, has been instrumental in helping to develop culturally sensitive methods of psychological assessment and treatment, which is an important factor in psychotherapeutic effectiveness. Third, cross-cultural research is important because it provides important links and connections among people and psychologists all around the world, helping to forge new ways of international and intercultural cooperation among scholars and practitioners alike. New organizations that cross many borders involve psychologists and health-professionals, creating unions that would not be possible otherwise.

Most current works in cross-cultural psychology document cultural difference through cross-cultural comparison. While these studies are found primarily in journals devoted to culture, such as the Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology, today they are found in many mainstream journals as well. Moreover, if culture is defined as a sociopsychological construct, as most writers do, then not only are people of different races, ethnicities, and nationalities members of different cultures; so are people of different genders, sexual orientations, and abilities. If you take this entire literature encompassing all these groups of people together as a whole, you will notice that cross-cultural research is widespread and commonplace in all areas of psycholog, and makes important contributions to knowledge. Cross-cultural comparison has become a staple in the academic diets of contemporary psychologists, and the existence of cultural differences and the importance of culture to mold our lives is now well accepted. This awareness is due, in part, to the overwhelming amount of cross-cultural research that has been conducted to date and the documentation of similarities and differences, which has been the compelling issue in cross-cultural psychology for years.

Cultural Influences on Emotional Expression and Perception

Cross-cultural research in my own field of study - emotional expression and perception - exemplifies many of the developments and advances in cross-cultural psychology over the past twenty or thirty years, and I would like to review these developments here. I was first interested in this field as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan. For example, I wondered how infants, who did not speak or understand totally language that was spoken around them, could understand the emotional states of their mothers, fathers, and other caretakers around them. Under the supervision of Robert Zajonc, I designed a little study that tested the ability of young children to judge accurately emotions portrayed in nonverbal vocal cues. An opportunity followed that allowed me to conduct this study cross-culturally. Once into graduate school, I continued to delve into this area, immersing myself in the study of facial expressions under the tutelage of Paul Ekman at the University of California, San Francisco. Before I knew it, this area consumed my research endeavors during graduate school and helped to launch my career in this area. 

As in other areas, comparisons demonstrating both cultural similarity and difference have been extremely important in the area of emotional expression and perception. Knowing about similarities and differences in emotion across cultures helps us understand the possible innate, biological substrates of emotion that are universal across all peoples regardless of culture. It helps us to understand the role of emotion in our lives and the importance of emotion to thinking and behaving. Such comparisons help us to understand the role of emotion and nonverbal behaviors in social interactions with the goal of improving interactions among people from different cultural backgrounds. And, this research helps us to consider the common bases upon which humans develop, providing a backdrop for mutual understanding and cooperation across cultures.
The last thirty years were witness to the "universality studies," which documented convincingly the universality of a set of six facial expressions of emotion, including anger, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise. The emotions appear to be biologically innate, appearing in non-human primates and congenitally blind individuals (Charlesworth & Kreutzer, 1973; Ekman, 1973) and correspond to similarities in emotion taxonomies in different languages in the world (Romney, Boyd, Moore, Batchelder, & Brazill, 1996; Romney, Moore, & Rusch, 1997). We also know, however, that people modify their expressions on the basis of cultural display rules (Ekman, 1972; Ekman & Friesen, 1969; Friesen, 1972). These are culturally prescribed rules, learned early in life, that dictate the management and modification of the universal expressions depending on social circumstance. After the original universality studies in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many studies have replicated the universal recognition of these expressions (see reviews in Ekman, 1982). Today their universality, as well as the existence of display rules, are well accepted in mainstream psychology (see also Fridlund's (1997) view of display rules, which is different than that originally postulated by Ekman and Friesen).

Recent research has extended the universality findings in important ways. Some studies have shown more ways in which cultures are similar, implicating consequences of expression universality. Other studies have produced differences, extending our knowledge about how cultures influence expression and perception. Collectively, they give us further insights to the biological and environmental processes that underlie facial expressions and emotion. 

More Cultural Similarities in Emotional Expression

In contempt. In the last decade, a number of studies have reported the existence of a seventh universal facial expression of emotion: contempt. Initial evidence was collected from ten cultures including West Sumatra (Ekman & Friesen, 1986; Ekman & Heider, 1988). This finding was later replicated by Matsumoto (1992b) in four cultures, three of which were different from Ekman and Friesen's original ten. This finding received considerable attention and criticism (Russell, 1991a, b; Izard & Haynes, 1988). Russell (1991a, b), for example, suggested that the context in which the expression was shown influenced results in favor of universality. In his study, the contempt expression was more often labeled as either disgust or sadness when shown either alone or after showing a disgust or sad picture (Russell, 1991). Ekman, O'Sullivan, and Matsumoto (1991a, b), however, reanalyzed their data to address this criticism and found no effect of context. Biehl et al. (1997) also found no effects for other possible methodological confounds. 

In relative intensity. When comparing expressions, do people of different cultures agree on which is more strongly expressed? Cross-cultural research indicates that the answer to this question is yes. Ekman et al. (1987) compared these differences in paired expressions of the same emotion. Ninety-two percent of the time, the ten cultures in their study agreed on which of two expressions was more intense. Matsumoto and Ekman (1989) extended this finding by including comparisons across different poser types, including Caucasian and Japanese posers. Looking separately for each emotion, within culture and across gender and then within gender across culture, Americans and Japanese agreed on which photo was more intense in 24 out of 30 comparisons. These findings suggest that cultures judge emotions on a similar basis, despite differences in facial physiognomy, morphology, race, and sex of the posers, and culturally prescribed rules governing the expression and perception of faces. These findings are important because they suggest that people of different cultures use the same visual cues in judging others. 

In the association between perceived expression intensity and interpretation. Do people of different cultures agree on their assumptions about the relationship between expression and experience when judging others? Matsumoto, Kasri, and Kooken (1999) showed Japanese and American observers 56 expressions posed by Japanese and Caucasians. The observers judged what emotion the poser was expressing, and then the strength of both the external display and internal experience. Correlations between the two intensity ratings were conducted twice, first across observers separately for each expression, and second across expressions for each observer. Regardless of the computation, the correlations were high and positive for both cultures and for all expressions. Observers associated the strength of the external display with the presumed strength of the experience of that display, suggesting commonality in that linkage across culture. The link between the presence or absence of an expression with the underlying experience, and the intensity of both, is a topic of considerable importance in contemporary theories of emotion. Some authors have claimed that the linkage between expression and experience is unfounded (e.g., Russell, 1997; Fernandez-Dols, 1997). Others, however, have argued that expressions and experience are intimately linked with each other (but need not always be coupled) (Rosenberg & Ekman, 1994; see also the literature on the facial feedback hypothesis, reviewed by Matsumoto, 1987; Winton, 1986). The data from Matsumoto et al. (1997) clearly support notions of linkage.

In secondary emotional recognition. Do people of different cultures agree on the secondary emotions portrayed in an expression? Research findings suggest the answer to this question is yes. Observers in Ekman et al.'s (1987) study judged not only which emotion was portrayed in the faces, but also the intensity of each of seven emotion categories. This task, therefore, allowed observers to report multiple emotions, or no emotion, instead of being forced to select an emotion to describe the face. While previous studies showed universality in the first mode of response, cultures may have differed in which emotion is next most prevalent. Analyses, however, supported cultural agreement. For every culture in Ekman et al.'s (1987) study, the secondary emotion for the disgust expressions was contempt, and for fear expressions surprise. For anger, the second mode varied depending on the photo, with disgust, surprise and contempt as the second responses. These findings were replicated by Matsumoto and Ekman (1989) and Biehl et al. (1997), suggesting pancultural agreement in the multiple meanings derived from universal faces. This agreement may exist because of overlap in the semantics of the emotion categories, antecedents and elicitors of emotion, or in the facial configurations themselves. 

In perceived expressivity. Do people of different cultures have similar stereotypes about the expressivity of other cultures? In one study (Pittam et al., 1995), Australian and Japanese subjects completed a questionnaire regarding overall level of expressivity of Australians and Japanese. Both Australian and Japanese subjects rated the Japanese as less expressive than the Australians. These findings indicated that people of different cultures believe that there are differences in intensity of emotion expression, and that they agree about who is more or less expressive. 

More Cultural Differences

In emotion recognition. Are there ways in which cultures differ in their judgments of emotion? Actually, although the original universality research showed that subjects recognized emotions at well over chance rates, no study ever reported perfect cross-cultural agreement. Matsumoto (1992a), for example, compared Japanese and American judgments, and found that recognition rates ranged from 64% to 99%, which were consistent with earlier universality studies. Americans were better at recognizing anger, disgust, fear, and sadness than the Japanese, but accuracy rates did not differ for happiness or surprise. 

Cultural differences in recognition rates do not necessarily suggest non-universality, as has been suggested (Russell, 1994; see also critiques of Russell's thesis by Ekman, 1994, and Izard, 1994), and several studies have attempted to uncover possible explanations for these differences. Matsumoto (1992a) suggested that the differences in recognition rates are due to cultural differences in socially learned rules about how emotions could be recognized. Specifically, cultural differences between Japan and the US in the allowance for individuality or conformity may have contributed to their findings. In Japan, because of the emphasis on group harmony and conformity, emotions that threaten these would be discouraged. Therefore, a Japanese person would be careful to not show negative emotions, and have a tendency to not recognize these expressions in others. In contrast, the United States, a country that encourages individuality, would encourage both the expression and perception of negative emotions.

Elsewhere (Matsumoto, 1996), I have suggested a mechanism similar to Ekman and Friesen's neurocultural theory of expression to describe how cultural similarities and differences in emotion perception or judgment can be obtained. This mechanism implies that judgments of emotion are affected by (1) a Facial Affect Recognition Program which is innate and universal (similar to Ekman and Friesen's Facial Affect Program), and (2) culture specific decoding rules that intensify, deintensify, mask, or qualify the perception (cf, Buck, 1984). I believe that this mechanism is as basic to emotion communication across cultures as Ekman and Friesen's original neurocultural theory, and we will revisit this issue several times below.

Cultural differences in emotion recognition rates are related to stable and meaningful dimensions of cultural variability. Are cultural differences in emotion judgments related to interpretable dimensions of culture? To broaden the base of cultural dimensions that could explain cultural differences in agreement levels, Matsumoto (1989) selected recognition data from fifteen cultures reported in four studies, and ranked each culture on Hofstede's dimensions (1980). These included Power Distance (PD), the degree to which differences in power are maintained by culture; Uncertainty Avoidance (UA), the degree to which a culture develops institutions and rituals to deal with the anxiety created by uncertainty; Individualism (IN), the degree to which a culture encourages the sacrificing of individual goals for the goals of the group; and Masculinity (MA), the degree to which a culture emphasizes sex differences (Hofstede, 1980, 1983). The dimensions were then correlated with recognition accuracy levels. Individualism was positively correlated with the recognition of happiness and negatively with sadness, supporting the claim that Americans (individualistic culture) are better at recognizing negative emotions than Japanese (collectivistic culture).

Differences in emotion perception as a function of culture were also found in a meta-analysis (Schimmack, 1996). Individualism was a better predictor of recognition of happiness than ethnicity (operationalized as Caucasian/non-Caucasian), supporting the notion that sociocultural dimensions account for differences in the perception of emotion. They also support the notion that people of different cultures learn ways of perception management via cultural decoding rules. 

Biehl et al. (1997) also reported cross-national differences in agreement (and in intensity ratings). These differences could not be adequately explained according to a Western/non-Western dichotomy, a division consistent with regional/country and racial/ethnic approaches to operationalizing culture. Rather, Biehl et al. discussed these differences in terms of possible underlying sociopsychological variables (i.e. those postulated by Hofstede 1980, 1983) and the dimensional approach to culture advanced by Matsumoto (1989, 1990). Theoretical explanations and further testing of the relationship between culture and recognition should define culture according to meaningful sociopsychological dimensions above and beyond country, region, race or ethnicity.

In attributions of intensity. Are cultures similar or different in their judgments of the strength of an expression? Cross-cultural research has documented cultural differences in the intensity attributed to the facial expressions; Ekman et al.'s (1987) study of ten cultures was the first to do so. Although overall recognition data supported universality, Asians gave significantly lower intensity ratings on happiness, surprise, and fear. These data suggested that the judges were acting according to culturally learned rules about how to perceive expressions, especially given the fact that all posers were Caucasian. That is, it was possible that the Asians rated the Caucasian posers less intensely out of politeness or ignorance.

To examine this notion, Matsumoto and Ekman developed a stimulus set comprised of Asian and Caucasian posers (Matsumoto & Ekman, 1988) and presented them to judges in the US and Japan (Matsumoto & Ekman, 1989). For all but one emotion, Americans rated the expressions more intensely than the Japanese, regardless of the race of the person being judged. Because the differences were not specific to the poser, Matsumoto and Ekman (1989) interpreted the differences as a function of cultural decoding rules. 

Matsumoto's (1989) study described earlier also investigated the relationship between Hofstede's (1980) dimensions of culture and emotion intensity ratings. Two important findings emerged. First, there was a negative correlation between PD and intensity ratings of anger, fear, and sadness, suggesting that cultures that emphasize status differences rate these emotions less intensely. Secondly, IN was positively correlated with intensity ratings of anger and fear; individualistic cultures gave higher ratings. These results suggest that understanding dimensions of culture could be the key to explaining cultural differences in the perception of negative emotions.

In inferences about emotional experiences underlying facial expressions of emotion. Are people of different cultures similar or different in how strongly they believe a person is actually feeling an emotion when judging it in others? Although cultures differed in their judgments of external display, it was unclear as to whether cultures also differed in their inferences about underlying experience, and if so, whether these differences were similar to judgments of external display. Matsumoto, Kasri, and Kooken (1999) tested this notion by comparing American and Japanese judgments in which separate ratings were obtained for expression intensity and subjective experience. Americans rated external display more intensely than the Japanese, replicating previous findings. The Japanese, however, rated internal experience more intensely than the Americans. Within-culture analyses indicated no significant differences between the two ratings for the Japanese. Significant differences were found, however, for the Americans, who consistently rated external display more intensely than subjective experience. These findings were totally unexpected. Previously, we suggested that American-Japanese differences occurred because the Japanese suppressed their intensity ratings, as they do their expressions. However, it was the Americans who exaggerated their external display ratings relative to subjective experience, not the Japanese who suppressed. Not only are such findings wake-up calls to experienced cross-cultural researchers; they also force us to consider how culture produces these tendencies, and why.

In recognition and intensity ratings

Are the cultural differences obtained in previous cross-cultural research observable among different ethnic groups within the US? Matsumoto (1993) conducted a study that addressed this question, examining ethnic differences in affect intensity, emotion judgments, display rule attitudes, and self-reported emotional expression within the American culture. African-Americans perceived anger more intensely than Asian-Americans, and disgust more intensely than Caucasian- and Asian-Americans; Hispanic-Americans perceived Caucasian faces more intensely than did Caucasian-and Asian-Americans; and African-Americans perceived female expressions more intensely than did Asian-Americans. These findings compel us to reevaluate the way we conceptualize culture, and stress the importance of psychologically meaningful dimensions of culture that are independent of ethnicity or country. Most cross-cultural research assumes that a person living in a country is a member of its primary culture. Finding differences within an American sample (which is nearly always the comparison group in cross-cultural studies) clearly demonstrates otherwise and urges us to consider meaningful psychological dimensions (e.g., individualism-collectivism, status differentiation) to explain cultural and individual differences in emotion expression and perception. 

In attributions of personality based on smiles

Do people of different cultures make different judgments of personality based on facial expressions? For example, the smile is a common signal for greeting, acknowledgment, or for showing acceptance. It is also employed to mask emotions, and cultures may differ in the use of smiles for this purpose. This appeared to be the case in Friesen's (1972) study in which Japanese and American men watched disgusting video clips with an experimenter in the room with them. The Japanese men used smiles to cover up their negative expressions much more often than the American men (Ekman, 1972, Friesen, 1972).

To investigate further the meaning of those differences, Matsumoto and Kudoh (1993) obtained ratings from Japanese and Americans on smiling versus non-smiling (i.e., neutral) faces with regard to intelligence, attractiveness, and sociability. Americans rated smiling faces as more intelligent than neutral faces; the Japanese, however, did not. Americans and Japanese both found smiling faces more sociable than neutral faces, but for the Americans the difference was to a greater degree. These differences suggest that cultural display rules cause Japanese and Americans to attribute different meanings to the smile, and serve as a good explanation for perceived major differences in communication styles across cultures.

Speculations About Research on Culture and Emotion in the Next 15 Years

The next fifteen years will be exciting for research on culture and emotion. Interesting programs have sprung up not only in this country but around the world, and in all disciplines of psychology. New technologies for mapping culture as a psychological construct on the individual level are being developed, as well as ways to measure precisely moment-to-moment changes in our brains and bodies when we feel or judge emotion. All of these promise the most exciting decade or two of research in the history of studies on culture and emotion. Below, I review four areas that I believe research on this topic will challenge. These are not only my guesses; they are my hopes for where that research could and should go.

The Integration of Culture, Psychology, and Biology

New and interesting research on emotion is currently being conducted on the physiological, cerebral, and neuroendocrinological correlates of emotion processes. Although not directly related to culture per se, they are exciting because of the possibility of branching across the various sub-disciplines within emotion research to integrate methods and concepts, producing studies that link culture as a macro-social construct with underlying biological processes. I outline three such examples below.

Culture and the physiology of emotion. In history, there has been some controversy about the relationship between physiology and emotion. Early writers (e.g., James, 1892) suggested that recognition and awareness of our bodily reactions is what we then label an emotion. Others suggested that some sort of physiological arousal is necessary for emotion, but the exact labeling of the emotion is dependent on the cues available to us in the environment (e.g., Schachter & Singer, 1962). Yet others have suggested that no physiology at all is necessary for emotion (e.g., Mandler, 1984). 

Despite these early controversies, new studies have shown that our physiological reactions are indeed specific to each of the emotions that are universal (Ekman, Levenson, & Friesen, 1983). These findings include responses of both the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and the central nervous system (CNS). We do not know, however, if these responses are universal. Research may uncover how and why culture influences physiology, hopefully linking physiology with culture as an individual-level as well as social-level construct, specifying the exact dimension of culture that influences physiology rather than relying on national or ethnic/racial methods of classifying participants. Also, these studies will hopefully incorporate neuroendocrine function, examining the universality of hormonal changes in relation to emotion. Some studies have already paved the way for this research, such as Scherer's work on self-reported physiological sensations (Scherer, Wallbott, & Summerfield, 1983), and Levenson's (Tsai & Levenson, 1997) work on Chinese v. European American participants. 

The representation of cultural display rules in the brain. Although the existence of cultural display rules is well accepted in contemporary psychology, surprisingly little is known about its exact nature, either psychologically or physiologically. As technology that allows moment-to-moment measurement of brain activity develops, we can examine how these rules are represented in the brain. While certain brain areas are sure to store the verbal rules of display semantically (e.g., big boys don't cry), it is unclear as to how these propositions are accessed during an actual emotion episode. My hunch is that there may be cross-cultural commonality in the brain sites that store display rule propositions, as well as sites in the limbic system that drive the biologically innate functions of arousal and expression. But, I suspect that there are cultural differences in how these areas are accessed and the degree of intercommunication across areas. The ability to test this hypothesis, however, requires that we are able to map brain functioning and intra-brain communication among multiple brain sites in less-than-a-second intervals, a technology currently unavailable. 

The representation of emotion perception in the brain. We also have little knowledge about how universal and culture specific aspects of emotion judgment are represented in the brain. Some brain areas are specific to face recognition and processing, but there is no research examining what areas of the brain are activated when emotions are judged. That facial expressions of emotion are universally recognized suggests that the brain areas involved in recognition processes are pancultural. Specific brain areas and intra-brain functioning, however, may be different for different emotions and judgment processes (e.g., judgments of display or experience intensity). Again, limitations in our ability to measure brain activity make this line of research impossible today, but a realization soon.

Culture, Context, and Emotion

One frontier facing emotion research concerns the effect of context on experiencing, expressing, and perceiving emotions, and the influence of culture on the relationship between context and emotion. To be sure, much of the emphasis in the field in the last 30 years was on the establishment of universality; research documenting differences has only appeared in the last 10 or 15 years. As these increase, they beg questions concerning the role of context in shaping emotion, and the influence of culture in this process. How does whom you are with, where you are, what is happening, when and why it is occurring, affect your emotional experiences, expressions, and judgments? If you are angry at your boss, does that affect how you display your emotions when you are at work, as opposed to when you are angry with your spouse? Do these parameters of context have the same meaning for each of the different emotions? And, do these context parameters have different effects, meanings, and influence on the process of emotion in different cultures? These are obviously important questions not only for theories of emotion and culture in psychology, but also for practical and applied purposes. Cross-cultural research, however, is yet to systematically explore these important questions. Below I outline two potential areas of study, of many, that challenge the field in the next two decades.

Context effects on judgments of emotion. A number of studies has examined the effect of context on emotion judgment, some manipulating the context of the observer (e.g., Fernandez-Dols, Wallbott, & Sanchez, 1991; Munn, 1940), others manipulating the context of the poser (e.g., Carroll & Russell, 1996; Knudsen & Muzekari, 1983). While both areas are valid, studies of the latter are more worthwhile to the field. To my knowledge, however, there has been no study that has examined all the possible parameters of context - the who, what, when, where, and why of emotion - and their effects on elicitation, expression, or perception. Research needs to manipulate experimentally all of these simultaneously in a factorial design to investigate their effects on judgments. This research needs to include expressions of varying type and intensity, and multiple judgment options. What little research that exists in this area to date falls sorely short of these ideals. These studies also need to examine how the effects of context differ across cultures. Such research will have important implications to our understanding of intercultural communication and conflict.

Folk psychology and display rules. As mentioned above, surprisingly little is known about the nature of display rules. Display rules can be theoretically understood via folk psychology - as a set of propositions and beliefs that are integrated to produce behavioral outcomes. Culture supposedly supplies the propositions and beliefs, and the nature of the integration. Future research can focus on uncovering the nature of these propositions and beliefs, and how the integration works. These propositions will need to account for the variety of contexts within which emotion can occur. Constructs distilled from these propositions in specific contexts that are generalizable across contexts may be considered cultural display rule values that guide our actions and behaviors. Much work already exists in terms of the appraisal processes involved in emotion arousal, and these need to be incorporated into folk psychological research on display rules; they comprise much of the semantic information necessary for action on the propositions to occur. Folk psychological theories that account for cultural display rules in one culture subsequently need to be studied across cultures. My hunch is that there is pancultural similarity in the structure of the semantic engine that drives display rules, and in much of the processes in which this engine engages to act upon propositions and beliefs to produce behaviors. Cultures will probably differ, however, in the nature of the propositions and beliefs.

Culture and the Social Significance of Emotion

Emotions have social as well as personal meaning, and we need to know what role emotion plays in creating, maintaining, or destroying interpersonal relationships, and how these processes are similar or different across cultures. Kemper (1978) suggested that emotions could be classified into two types - socially integrating emotions and socially differentiating emotions, the former helping people stay together, the latter breaking bonds among people. Kitayama, Markus, and Matsumoto (1995) proposed a similar distinction, differentiating between socially engaged and disengaged types, the former enhancing interdependence with others, the latter enhancing independence from others. Kitayama et al. (1995) demonstrated that such distinctions can be useful in describing cultural differences in the emotional lives of people of different cultural backgrounds. In their study, people in the individualistic American culture experienced socially disengaged emotions more frequently, while people of a more collectivistic Japanese culture experienced socially engaged emotions more frequently. 

Future research needs to explore these, and other, possible social roles of emotion. While previous approaches, however, have classified emotions into mutually exclusive dichotomies, I believe that emotions are complex enough that they can serve both integrating and differentiating, socially engaging as well as disengaging, roles depending on social context. For example, sadness felt at the death of a loved one may bond grieving parties together. Sadness that occurs because of a moral transgression of a friend, however, may serve to drive people apart. The same could be said of anger, happiness, and all other emotions in our affective spectrum. If this is true, future research must investigate not which emotions are integrating and which are differentiating, but instead the parameters and contexts that allow an emotion to be both integrating and differentiating, and why. I speculate that there would be cross-cultural similarities in the cultural rules regarding the social roles of emotion, but that there would be cultural differences in exactly which emotions played those roles. Cross-cultural research focusing entirely on emotions as the unit of analysis may not be as fruitful as focusing on the social functions they play.

Culture and Emotion in Interaction

As we learn more about the social and personal meanings of emotion, we gain valuable information about the role of emotion in intercultural and interpersonal communication episodes, and the influence of culture on this process. Many writers (e.g., Bennett, 1993; Gudykunst, Matsumoto, Ting-Toomey, Nishida, Kim, & Heyman, 1996) have suggested that emotion plays a key role in intercultural communication, focusing especially on anxiety attendant to the uncertainty in intercultural communication, and the fear, anger, and distress that often occurs in intercultural misunderstandings. Nonverbal aspects of communication far outweigh the verbal in communication, and much of the nonverbal information is emotional. Indeed, successful communication of emotions may be considered a necessary (and sometimes sufficient?) ingredient to successful intercultural communication. If true, future research on intercultural communication must focus more on nonverbal emotions. In particular, the regulation of emotional reactions to unintended gaffes may be a gateway to being able to think critically about events and harboring the openness and flexibility to accept rival hypotheses about the causes of these offenses. The relationship between emotions, values, and reinforcement of self also needs further exploration. I speculate that people of different cultures are similar in the processes underlying intercultural communication, but differ in the role of specific emotions within the process.

Speculations About Research in Cross-cultural Psychology in the Next 15 Years

Cultural differences challenge mainstream theoretical notions about the nature of people and force us to rethink our basic theories of personality, perception, cognition, emotion, development, social psychology, and the like, in fundamental and profound ways. We are on the verge of witnessing encyclopedic-type compendia of cultural differences in almost all subfields of psychology with ample evidence from many cultures of how truths of mainstream Americans are not necessarily applicable to the rest of the world. This overwhelming evidence brings with them an obligation for us to make some sense of it all. The biggest challenge facing cross-cultural psychology today and in the future is not in the continued compilation of cultural differences in various facets of psychology. Instead, it is in the development of theoretical models and conceptual frameworks that can explain how cultures are both similar and different, and why, and in the integration of these frameworks into mainstream academic psychology. In short, we need to stop and think about what it all means.

The Development of Theoretical Models To Explain Cultural Similarities and Differences

Fortunately, a small but growing number of cross-cultural psychologists has been interested in discovering how cultures come to create similarities and differences and why. Many have turned their efforts to studying the developmental processes underlying enculturation - the process of learning the rules, values, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and opinions of your first, original culture - and have made important inroads to understanding how we acquire culture and how it influences our lives (see reviews by Gardiner, Mutter, & Kosmitzki, 1998; Matsumoto, 1999a). Another important inroad concerns work on the relationship between culture and self-concept as a mediator of psychological differences across cultures (see Matsumoto, 1999b, for a review). A third avenue has been the use of meaningful dimensions of cultural variability such as Individualism-collectivism (IC) to predict and explain cultural similarities and differences observed in research and observation.

In fact, much emphasis has been given recently to IC. Individualistic cultures foster a unique sense of self and autonomy, clearly delineating boundaries between oneself and others, encouraging the needs, wishes, desires of individuals over group or collective concerns. Collectivistic cultures, however, foster needs, wishes, and desires of ingroups over those of individuals, valuing harmony, cooperation, cohesion, and conformity. 

IC has been used by many to predict and explain cultural differences in a wide variety of psychological constructs (see review by Triandis, 1995). This construct is a major gain for cross-cultural research and thinking because it allows authors to go beyond nationality, race, or ethnicity in predicting and explaining differences, and instead focuses on functional psychological predictions and interpretations of data. Constructs like IC give researchers and theoreticians alike a basis by which they can understand the psychological impact of culture on both the macro-social as well as individual levels. The study reviewed earlier linking cultural differences in judgments of emotion with Hofstede's (1980) dimensions of cultural variability is an example of such research (Matsumoto, 1989).

Recent advances in cross-cultural methods include the development of ways to measure IC tendencies on the individual level. Triandis (Triandis, Leung, Villareal, & Clack, 1985) refers to these tendencies as idiocentrism and allocentrism, and their measurement is a major plus for research. They allow researchers to empirically ascertain that their samples differ on this construct, providing an important methodological check and eliminating reliance on anecdotes, impressions, or stereotype when interpreting findings. They also allow researchers to assess numerically the degree of within-culture variability on this important construct. Using this index, researchers can determine how much of the difference between the groups are attributable to individual level differences in IC. 

Say, for example, that a researcher intends to compare two cultures where all participants completed an individual level measurement of IC. Group differences on the dependent variable could be tested through normal procedures (e.g., t-test, ANOVA, chi-square, etc.). In addition, the relationship between IC and the dependent variable could be assessed through correlational procedures. If correlations existed, their influence on the group differences obtained earlier could be tested using multiple regression or analysis of covariance (ANACOVA). The degree of contribution of IC to the group differences could be computed by comparing effect sizes of the group between the original and ANACOVA analyses.

There are many choices today as to the method of IC measurement. The leading methods were developed by Triandis and his colleagues (see appendix in Triandis, 1995, for review). Recent approaches involve a multi-method approach assessing IC tendencies across attitudes, values, opinions, and beliefs. Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk, and Gelfand (1995) have also developed measurement procedures to assess horizontal and vertical IC. Hui (1988) developed a context-specific method of measurement, while Yamaguchi (1994) has developed more specific measures of collectivism. We have also developed a measure of IC tendencies in specific contexts based on social interaction (Matsumoto et al., 1997). 

The field is embracing these measures in cross-cultural comparisons. These developments are a major plus, as they relegate culture to functional psychology, giving us a basis to understand how and why similarities and differences occur. They allow for valuable methodological checks in our research, and for statistical assessments of the contribution of measured culture to observed differences. The approach, therefore, is unique, promising, and innovative. However, I do want to mention the importance of another cultural dimension - power distance or status differentiation. The field has been almost too preoccupied with IC to the exclusion of other important dimensions. To be sure, no one dimension can capture "culture" as we know it. Yet, how a culture deals with power and status differences is just as important, if not more so, than IC. Future endeavors should include the development of individual level measures of this important cultural construct as well, and integrate it into cross-cultural research. 

The Integration of Cross-cultural Theories into Mainstream Academic Psychology

Research on bilingualism has demonstrated that bilinguals seem to access two cultural frames of references, depending on which language they speak (see Matsumoto, 1999a for a review of this literature). Bilinguals have reported different personalities, judge emotions differently, appraise events and the environment around them differently, and attribute the causes of events differently depending on the language used when performing these tasks. Not only do multiple cultural frameworks exist in their minds, but bilinguals also have the added ability to monitor which cultural framework they should engage in depending on the social context. Thus, they have a meta-cognitive process that allows them to engage with their "multiple personalities" in a healthy and constructive way. This ability is related to the development of intercultural sensitivity (e.g., see Bennett, 1993). 

Most Americans are monolingual; yet, most of the rest of the world is multilingual. This suggests that the information obtained from research with Americans, and theories derived from Americans by Americans, may be based on a theory of mind that is fundamentally different than the rest of the world. We may not think twice about whether those theories make sense to us or not, because they are bounded within the same cultural framework as ourselves. It is only when we look outside of ourselves when we can experience, understand, and appreciate, those boundaries.

Mainstream psychology, therefore, has a lot of catching up to do. The assimilation of cross-cultural findings and theories into mainstream psychology suggests a fundamental revision in ways of thinking of self and personality that have important consequences for all areas of psychology. No information or ideas that we have currently need to be thrown out. They just need to be placed within the proper context to be understood and applicable for the most appropriate people. Cross-cultural work needs to be assimilated into mainstream psychology, and mainstream psychology needs to accommodate to these ideas. The end product will be qualitatively different than the psychology we are currently accustomed. 

Where do we take up the challenge? The fight, if you will, is not in the laboratory or field. It is, instead, in ourselves. The greatest challenge facing cross-cultural psychology now is to think less about producing finding after finding of cultural differences, and to think more about ways of integrating them collectively into a cohesive, comprehensive theory incorporating mainstream as well as cross-cultural psychology. This is a challenge also for all the subfields of psychology, which are splintered fragments of a larger collective. While the need for specificity and fragmentation is understandable, so is the need for integration and synthesis. This requires that we look outside of psychology to "put the pieces back together;" otherwise, we never envision the whole, only parts of the whole. This integration may require us to consult with anthropology, sociology, business, medicine, and other disciplines. In developing theoretical models to integrate cultural similarities and differences, we need to go outside of psychology to know more about psychology. This new approach need not be forced, nor need the revisions be horrendously traumatic. Little steps will turn to big steps, and big steps will be a journey. In the end, it is the walking, not the destination, that is the desired end. Are cross-cultural psychologists up to the task? Are psychologists up to the task?

Advice for Those Breaking Into this Field

I have four suggestions for people wanting to break into psychology in general, and cross-cultural psychology in particular. Other writers will have many other excellent advices for those crazy enough to want to do so, but these are the kinds of things that have helped me along in my career.

1. Get Grounded in Academic Psychology
Get a solid grounding in the methods of contemporary academic psychology. Take as many classes on research methods and statistics as you can. Challenge instructors of your content courses about methods and statistics. Work in a research laboratory as an apprentice with someone who is will to take you under his or her wing and show you the ropes. Volunteer. Do a lot of research, make a lot of mistakes, and take time to think a lot on the way. Polish your skills at not only doing research, but learning how to think logically, rationally, and critically. Learn how to use a computer and analyze your own data. Be able to do everything in a study from start to finish, and do it well.

2. Get Exposed to the Variety of Human Behavior

Get a lot of life experience. Have friends. Take time for love and relationships. Work in a clinical setting. Experience people with psychopathology. Experience the range of human emotions - from the penultimate joys of accomplishment to the depths of anguish and despair of loss. As a psychologist, understand people from an emotional standpoint, not only from a cognitive/research standpoint. You can't learn about the taste of strawberries by reading about it in a book.

3. Get Experience in an Unfamiliar Culture

Travel, but not just as a tourist. Learn about the customs, ways, and lifestyles of different people. Learn how they think, experience emotions, and experience life. Learn another language, and get to the point where you are fluent in it. Learn to accept, appreciate, and respect cultural diversity. Become multicultural yourself. It is an entirely different plane of being.

4. Put it all Together

Finally, put it all together. Take your life experiences seeing the range of human behavior, your knowledge and appreciation of culture, and the academic skills you have learned, and integrate them into a meaningful career that teaches the rest of us something that we don't already know. Make the world a better place. The next frontier for psychology is the culture, and the next generation of psychologists armed with these skills will be those who are ready for that journey. 

Good luck in that journey.


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David Matsumoto is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Culture and Emotion Research Laboratory at San Francisco State University. He earned his B.A. from the University of Michigan, and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He has studied emotion, human interaction, and culture for over 15 years, and is a recognized expert in this field. He is the author of approximately 250 works on culture and emotion, including original research articles, paper presentations, books, book chapters, videos, and assessment instruments. He has made invited addresses to professional and scientific groups in the U.S. and internationally. He also serves as an intercultural consultant to various domestic and international businesses.

Dr. Matsumoto is also very active in the world of Olympic sport Judo, and brings his expertise in intercultural relations to this arena as well. In addition to being the Head Instructor of the East Bay Judo Institute in El Cerrito, CA, he also currently serves as the Development Chairman for the United States Judo Federation, and as an Official Researcher of the International Judo Federation. He has coached and managed senior and junior Judo teams representing the United States in international competition and training. Among these, he has been the Team Leader for the Judo team representing the United States at the 1995 World Championships in Chiba, Japan, the 1997 World Championships in Paris, France, the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, and the 1999 World Championships in Birmingham, England. He was also a Technical Official at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

The author may be reached at

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