Cross‐cultural differences in emotion suppression in everyday interactions

Sylvia Huwaë, Juliette Schaafsma
Published Online:
11 May 2016
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 53 Issue 3

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Previous research suggests that in collectivistic cultures, people tend to suppress their emotions more than in individualistic cultures. Little research, however, has explored cross‐cultural differences in emotion regulation in everyday interactions. Using a daily social interaction method, we examined whether people from collectivistic backgrounds (Chinese exchange students and immigrants from the Moluccas, Indonesia) living in the Netherlands differed from those from individualistic backgrounds (Dutch natives) in emotion suppression during everyday interactions. We also examined whether this depended on their relationship with the interaction partner(s). We found that Chinese participants suppressed positive and negative emotions more than Dutch and Moluccan participants and that this was related to differences in interdependent and independent self‐construal across the samples. We also found that Chinese participants suppressed positive emotions less in interactions with close others, whereas Dutch participants suppressed negative emotions more with non‐close others. No such differences were found for Moluccans. Our findings support the idea that people from collectivistic cultures suppress emotions more than those from individualistic cultures, but they also suggest that this depends on who the interaction partner is. Furthermore, they suggest that emotion suppression may change when people with collectivistic backgrounds have been raised in individualistic cultures.

© 2016 International Union of Psychological Science