Cross-cultural differences in facial expressions : a study of an Asian American and an Asian national

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Ishii, Kimiko
Stamp, Glen H.
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Thesis (M.A.)
Department of Speech Communication
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Many researchers have suggested that facial expressions are universal. However, others hold a more nuanced view: That despite universal similarities, facial expressions are culture-specific. In the current study, facial expressions of an Asian American and an Asian national were studied using scenes from two television dramas from the United States and Japan. Similarities and differences were found between the facial expressions of the two characters. The existence of similarities supports the basic universality of facial expressions, while differences were found which support the perspective that facial expressions are culture-specific. These differences were primarily in the relationships between the intensity levels of the external expressions and the internal experiences of the two people. The findings indicate that even when people share basic facial features, the ways they express their emotions differ according to the cultures in which they grew up.