On the universality and cultural specificity of emotion recognition: a meta-analysis

Psychol Bull. 2002 Mar;128(2):203-35. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.128.2.203.


A meta-analysis examined emotion recognition within and across cultures. Emotions were universally recognized at better-than-chance levels. Accuracy was higher when emotions were both expressed and recognized by members of the same national, ethnic, or regional group, suggesting an in-group advantage. This advantage was smaller for cultural groups with greater exposure to one another, measured in terms of living in the same nation, physical proximity, and telephone communication. Majority group members were poorer at judging minority group members than the reverse. Cross-cultural accuracy was lower in studies that used a balanced research design, and higher in studies that used imitation rather than posed or spontaneous emotional expressions. Attributes of study design appeared not to moderate the size of the in-group advantage.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Affect*
  • Cognition*
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Culture*
  • Humans