Send to

Choose Destination
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015 May 12;112(19):E2429-36. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1413661112. Epub 2015 Apr 20.

Heterogeneity of long-history migration explains cultural differences in reports of emotional expressivity and the functions of smiles.

Author information

Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706-1969; School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3AT, United Kingdom;
Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706-1969;
San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA 94132;
Department of Psychology, Humboldt University, Berlin, 12489 Berlin, Germany;
Psychology Department and the Gonda Brain Science Center, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan 52900, Israel;
Karnatak University, Pavate Nagar, Dharwad, Karnataka 580003, India;
Universitas Indonesia, Fakultas Psikologi, Jalan Salemba Raya 10430, Indonesia; and.
Department of Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada T6G 2E9.
Department of Psychology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706-1969;


A small number of facial expressions may be universal in that they are produced by the same basic affective states and recognized as such throughout the world. However, other aspects of emotionally expressive behavior vary widely across culture. Just why do they vary? We propose that some cultural differences in expressive behavior are determined by historical heterogeneity, or the extent to which a country's present-day population descended from migration from numerous vs. few source countries over a period of 500 y. Our reanalysis of data on cultural rules for displaying emotion from 32 countries [n = 5,340; Matsumoto D, Yoo S, Fontaine J (2008) J Cross Cult Psychol 39(1):55-74] reveals that historical heterogeneity explains substantial, unique variance in the degree to which individuals believe that emotions should be openly expressed. We also report an original study of the underlying states that people believe are signified by a smile. Cluster analysis applied to data from nine countries (n = 726), including Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States, reveals that countries group into "cultures of smiling" determined by historical heterogeneity. Factor analysis shows that smiles sort into three social-functional subtypes: pleasure, affiliative, and dominance. The relative importance of these smile subtypes varies as a function of historical heterogeneity. These findings thus highlight the power of social-historical factors to explain cross-cultural variation in emotional expression and smile behavior.


collectivism-individualism; culture; emotion; historical demographics; smile

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center