Convergence in feeling, divergence in physiology: How culture influences the consequences of disgust suppression and amplification among European Americans and Asian Americans

Psychophysiology. 2016 Jan;53(1):41-51. doi: 10.1111/psyp.12579.


Much empirical work documents the downsides of suppressing emotions. Emerging research points to the need for a more sophisticated and culturally informed approach to understanding the consequences of emotion regulation. To that end, we employed behavioral, self-report, and psychophysiological measures to examine the consequences of two types of emotion regulation (suppression and amplification) in a sample of 28 Asian Americans and 31 European Americans. Participants were shown a neutral film and then a series of disgust-eliciting films during which they were asked to regulate their response by suppressing or amplifying their emotional behavior (counterbalanced). Despite self-reporting equal levels of disgust, European Americans showed greater skin conductance reactivity than Asian Americans in both regulation conditions, but not in response to a neutral film. These findings extend work on divergence in the consequences of emotion regulation across different cultural groups, which could help identify optimal emotion regulation strategies for health and well-being.

Keywords: Amplification; Asian Americans; Cultural differences; Emotion regulation; Psychophysiology; Suppression.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asian Americans
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group / ethnology*
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / ethnology*
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Self-Control / psychology*
  • United States / ethnology
  • Young Adult