How People Experience Emotions in Collectivistic Cultures

People in collectivistic societies commonly have a personal identity strongly integrated into their group. Accordingly, the cultural norms of collectivistic societies assume interdependent relations with each other and with a group, such as extended family and kin. Their relational values determine how they experience and express their emotions. Interpersonal relationship harmony is a more important determinant of emotional experience than individual assertion (Karandashev, 2021). Researchers revealed that some Asian countries, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Pakistan, as well as some South American countries, such as Peru, Chile, Venezuela, and Colombia, are among the most typical collectivistic cultures in the world. The societies of African, Arab, and Eastern European countries are also collectivistic, however, to a lesser degree (Basabe & Ros, 2005).

How People Feel About Themselves in Collectivistic Cultures

Men and women in collectivistic cultures are tightly embedded in so-called in-groups, such as kin and extended families. An individual’s loyalty to a group is its greatest value. People in collectivistic cultures regard their “in-group” values as more important than individual values. Individuals tend to subordinate personal motivation and emotions to group goals.

The sense of personal identity that a person has is determined by their place in a group. Personal privacy has little value and is vulnerable to the intrusion of other members of a group. Individual assertion is less important in collectivistic cultures, while interpersonal relationship harmony is more important (Noon & Lewis, 1992). The group encourages members to adhere to particular norms of emotional experience, expression, and behavior in order to facilitate mutual support and shared experiences. People rely on a group for emotional support.

Relational Emotions in Collectivistic Cultures

Cultural beliefs in collectivistic societies regard emotions as interactive rather than individual experiences. Their emotional experiences reflect people’s social context rather than their internal selves. Emotions are regarded as situational cues about interpersonal relationships.

The Collectivistic Cultural Value of Engaging Emotions

Several cultural studies show that people in collectivistic societies experience more typically socially engaging emotions such as friendliness, sympathy, and respect more frequently. On the other hand, they experience less socially disengaging emotions such as pride, frustration, and self-esteem. (Kitayama et al., 2000; Kitayama et al., 2006; Uchida & Kitayama, 2009).

The Dialectical Mixture of Emotional Experiences in Collectivistic Cultures

Cultural norms of collectivistic cultures acknowledge that positive and negative emotions naturally coexist and can occur simultaneously in our daily emotional experiences. People are used to feeling a dialectical mixture of both positive and negative emotions in their lives (Aaker, Drolet, & Griffin, 2008; Hong & Lee, 2010; Kim et al., 2014; Williams & Aaker, 2002).

Collectivistic Societies Are the Cultures of Emotional Moderation

Collectivist cultural ideals advise people to restrain or moderate their emotional experiences and expressions. The cultural norms suggest appreciating both positive and negative feelings while remaining calm, composed, and at peace. People should prefer emotions of low frequency, duration, and intensity (Bond, 1993; Tamir et al., 2016; Tsai, Knutson, & Fung, 2006; Tsai, Miao, Seppala, Fung, &Yeung, 2007). This is why, in real life, people in collectivistic cultures typically feel their emotions with relatively low intensity (Basabe et al., 2000; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Scherer et al., 1988; Matsumoto, 1991).

The Collectivistic Value of Emotional Control

For people living in collectivistic cultures, the external interactional aspects of emotions are essential for their emotional experience and expression. They commonly consider how one’s behavior and emotions affect others. Therefore, the cultural norms in collectivistic cultures place a high value on emotional control and cultural support for the suppression of emotions. People usually show their emotions in a limited range of situations and social contexts (Potter, 1988; van Hemert et al., 2007).