Does Expressing Your Emotions Raise or Lower Your Blood Pressure? The Answer Depends on Cultural Context

J Cross Cult Psychol. 2009 May;40(3):510-517. doi: 10.1177/0022022109332845.


Emotion-expressive behavior is often - but not always -- inversely related to physiological responding. To test the hypothesis that cultural context moderates the relationship between expressivity and physiological responding, we had Asian American and European American women engage in face-to-face conversations about a distressing film in same-ethnicity dyads. Blood pressure was measured continuously and emotional expressivity was rated from videotapes. Results indicated that emotion-expressive behavior was inversely related to blood pressure in European American dyads, but the reverse was true in Asian American dyads who showed a trend towards a positive association. These results suggest that the links between emotion-expressive behavior and physiological responding may depend upon cultural context. One possible explanation for this effect may be that cultural contexts shape the meaning individuals give to emotional expressions that occur during social interactions.