Cultures of moderation and expression: emotional experience, behavior, and physiology in Chinese Americans and Mexican Americans

Emotion. 2005 Jun;5(2):154-65. doi: 10.1037/1528-3542.5.2.154.


Ethnographic accounts suggest that emotions are moderated in Chinese cultures and expressed openly in Mexican cultures. The authors tested this notion by comparing subjective, behavioral, and physiological aspects of emotional responses to 3 (warned, unwarned, instructed to inhibit responding) aversive acoustic startle stimuli in 95 Chinese Americans and 64 Mexican Americans. Subjective reports were consistent with ethnographic accounts; Chinese Americans reported experiencing significantly less emotion than Mexican Americans across all 3 startle conditions. Evidence from a nonemotional task suggested that these differences were not artifacts of cultural differences in the use of rating scales. Few cultural differences were found in emotional behavior or physiology, suggesting that these aspects of emotion are less susceptible to cultural influence.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asian / ethnology
  • Asian / psychology*
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Expressed Emotion*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans / ethnology
  • Mexican Americans / psychology*
  • Reflex, Startle