Heterogeneity of long-history migration predicts emotion recognition accuracy

Adrienne Wood, Magdalena Rychlowska, Paula M. Niedenthal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
168 Downloads (Pure)


Recent work (Rychlowska et al., 2015) demonstrated the power of a relatively new cultural dimension, historical heterogeneity, in predicting cultural differences in the endorsement of emotion expression norms. Historical heterogeneity describes the number of source countries that have contributed to a country's present-day population over the last 500 years. People in cultures originating from a large number of source countries may have historically benefited from greater and clearer emotional expressivity, because they lacked a common language and well-established social norms. We therefore hypothesized that in addition to endorsing more expressive display rules, individuals from heterogeneous cultures will also produce facial expressions that are easier to recognize by people from other cultures. By reanalyzing cross-cultural emotion recognition data from 92 papers and 82 cultures, we show that emotion expressions of people from heterogeneous cultures are more easily recognized by observers from other cultures than are the expressions produced in homogeneous cultures. Heterogeneity influences expression recognition rates alongside the individualism-collectivism of the perceivers' culture, as more individualistic cultures were more accurate in emotion judgments than collectivistic cultures. This work reveals the present-day behavioral consequences of long-term historical migration patterns and demonstrates the predictive power of historical heterogeneity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-420
Issue number4
Early online date25 Jan 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016

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