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Emotion. 2011 Aug;11(4):994-9. doi: 10.1037/a0021332.

Are positive emotions just as "positive" across cultures?

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Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98105, USA.


Whereas positive emotions and feeling unequivocally good may be at the heart of well-being among Westerners, positive emotions often carry negative associations within many Asian cultures. Based on a review of East-West cultural differences in dialectical emotions, or co-occurring positive and negative feelings, we predicted culture to influence the association between positive emotions and depression, but not the association between negative emotions and depression. As predicted, in a survey of over 600 European-, immigrant Asian-, and Asian American college students, positive emotions were associated with depression symptoms among European Americans and Asian Americans, but not immigrant Asians. Negative emotions were associated with depression symptoms among all three groups. We also found initial evidence that acculturation (i.e., nativity) may influence the role of positive emotions in depression: Asian Americans fell "in between" the two other groups. These findings suggest the importance of studying the role of culture in positive emotions and in positive psychology. The use of interventions based on promoting positive emotions in clinical psychology among Asian clients is briefly discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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