Cross-Cultural Patterns in Dynamic Ratings of Positive and Negative Natural Emotional Behaviour

Ian Sneddon, Gary McKeown, Margaret McRorie, Tijana Vukicevic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
229 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Studies of cross-cultural variations in the perception of emotion have typically compared rates of recognition of static posed stimulus photographs. That research has provided evidence for universality in the recognition of a range of emotions but also for some systematic cross-cultural variation in the interpretation of emotional expression. However, questions remain about how widely such findings can be generalised to real life emotional situations. The present study provides the first evidence that the previously reported interplay between universal and cultural influences extends to ratings of natural, dynamic emotional stimuli.

Methodology/Principal Findings: Participants from Northern Ireland, Serbia, Guatemala and Peru used a computer based tool to continuously rate the strength of positive and negative emotion being displayed in twelve short video sequences by people from the United Kingdom engaged in emotional conversations. Generalized additive mixed models were developed to assess the differences in perception of emotion between countries and sexes. Our results indicate that the temporal pattern of ratings is similar across cultures for a range of emotions and social contexts. However, there are systematic differences in intensity ratings between the countries, with participants from Northern Ireland making the most extreme ratings in the majority of the clips.

Conclusions/Significance: The results indicate that there is strong agreement across cultures in the valence and patterns of ratings of natural emotional situations but that participants from different cultures show systematic variation in the intensity with which they rate emotion. Results are discussed in terms of both ‘in-group advantage’ and ‘display rules’ approaches. This study indicates that examples of natural spontaneous emotional behaviour can be used to study cross-cultural variations in the perception of emotion.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere14679
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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