I came across a radio program yesterday that referenced a new study – cross-cultural recognition of basic emotions through nonverbal emotional vocalizations.
You can read the abstract here but in essence, the researchers studied how very different cultures (Western cultures compared with individuals from remote, culturally isolated Namibian villages) used non-verbal responses to express emotions.
They found that vocalizations communicating several negative emotions – anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise were recognized across both cultures. By contrast, most positive emotions are communicated with culture-specific signals.
If this is more widely true it has consequences for cross-cultural communication: do we read negative emotions easily but have more difficulty picking up the positives from someone from a very different culture? Maybe we need to be more explicit when expressing positives in a cross cultural context.
Article cited: Cross-cultural recognition of basic emotions through nonverbal emotional vocalizations. by Disa A. Sautera, Frank Eisnerc, Paul Ekmand and Sophie K. Scott in Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, January 25, 2010.