Different cultures, different selves? Suppression of emotions and reactions to transgressions across cultures

Sylvia Huwaë

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Summary of thesis “Different cultures, different selves? Suppression of emotions and reactions to transgressions across cultures”, Sylvia Huwaë

People can differ in how they respond to everyday situations. For example, when treated unfairly by someone, some people may express their anger and find it difficult to forgive the person who offended them. Others, however, may suppress this negative feeling and forgive the offender. People can also differ in their motives to forgive the offender. These variations in how people respond to the same situation can - at least in part - be explained by their cultural background. An often used framework to understand cross-cultural differences in how people feel, think and behave in social situations is that of individualism-collectivism (IC). Individualism involves cultures in which ties between individuals are relatively loose and the interests of the individual often prevail over the interests of the group. Collectivism, by contrast, refers to cultures in which people are integrated into strong cohesive groups and the interests of the groups generally prevail over the interests of the individual. Yet, many researchers have challenged some of this framework’s prime assumptions and its usefulness as a universal model. This dissertation examined the usefulness of the IC-framework by examining how people from individualistic and collectivistic cultures regulate their emotions during social interactions and respond to transgressions in various settings with various people. For this, we used a combination of methods (daily diary, experiment, recall, scenario). Our samples included participants with more individualistic backgrounds (Dutch) and more collectivistic backgrounds (Chinese, Indonesian). We also conducted two studies with descendants from Indonesian immigrants (Moluccans) in the Netherlands. This dissertation showed that, even though participants from individualistic and collectivistic cultures differed in how they suppressed emotions and responded to transgressions, their responses also depended upon how close they were with those who were present or involved. We also found that personal concerns can be important too in collectivistic cultures and that in individualistic cultures relational concerns can also matter when forgiving someone. In addition, our findings showed that group interest did not prevail over personal interest among participants with collectivistic backgrounds following transgressions. As such, our findings present a nuanced view on characterizing cultures as either individualistic or collectivistic. More research is recommended to understand the interplay between individualistic and collectivistic values behind people’s responses to all kinds of situations with more and diverse samples. Furthermore, our findings with regard to the Moluccans in the Netherlands suggest that the longer immigrants with collectivistic backgrounds live in an individualistic society, the more their responses may become similar to members of the host society.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Tilburg University
  • Krahmer, Emiel, Promotor
  • Schaafsma, Juliëtte, Promotor
  • Antheunis, Marjolijn, Member PhD commission
  • Karremans, Johan C., Member PhD commission, External person
  • Maes, Fons, Member PhD commission
  • Phalet, Karen, Member PhD commission, External person
  • van de Vijver, Fons, Member PhD commission
Award date11 Oct 2017
Place of PublicationS.l.
Print ISBNs9789462957053
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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