Reading emotions – East vs. West

I found this while looking up information about facial characteristics and it was just too fascinating to ignore. Basically this study had Caucasian and Asian subjects look at faces and tracked their eye movements as they performed facial recognition tasks and identified emotions.

It found that when reading emotions, Caucasians tended to look at the face as a whole where Asians focused on the eyes. Thus, Asians in the study would miscategorize negative emotions such as mistaking fear for surprise, for instance. Asians would ignore changes in the mouth that would cue them in.

I doubly found this fascinating because the princess in my current manuscript, a very observant person who’s learned how to survive in court by reading peoples’ intentions, distinctly notes that the hero, a westerner, poses a different set of challenges for her because the way he reacts and displays emotions is so different from what she’s accustomed to. Nice touch, eh? Well, I thought so. 😉

I found several other articles on the same study with some additional insight. First, that this behavior seemed to be cultural rather than genetic as Asians raised in Western cultures didn’t show the same tendencies. Another thought was that this may be adaptive behavior due to the fact that Asian culture tends to look down upon showing negative emotion in public so Asians trained themselves to look carefully at the eyes because facial expressions were not so open.

Science Daily article – Caucasians and Asians Don’t Examine Faces in the Same Way

I’m interested to see what people think of this. Isn’t it a great way to describe cultural differences into a multicultural relationship? There are subtle, ingrained differences in addition to the larger obvious ones.