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Title:The communication of emotion across languages and cultures: an exploration of display rules in foreign language learning
Author(s):Reynolds, Eric
Director of Research:Lo, Adrienne S.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McClure, Erica F.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Lo, Adrienne S.; Schwandt, Thomas A.; Rizvi, Fazal
Department / Program:Educational Psychology
Discipline:Educational Psychology
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):emotional communication
display rules
cross cultural research
focus group research
interpretation of non-verbal cues
Abstract:Communicating emotion can be a problem. Goleman (1995) invokes Aristotle to contend that “the problem is not with emotionality but with the appropriateness of emotion and its expression” (p. xiv). Disentangling the various factors involved in cross-cultural emotional communication and particularly misinterpretation can seem a herculean task, given that the literature remains divided as to whether emotions are universal or relative (see for example, Ekman, 1997, and Wierzbicka, 1999). This study explores through a phenomenological and mixed methods framework the differences in recognition and interpretation of emotional cues across cultures in dynamic communicative acts. It uses focus group methodology to examine how South Korean English teachers and North American English teachers living in Korea interpreted video excerpts from a South Korean comedy released in 2003. Research questions include: How well did out-group individuals interpret emotional meaning across cultures? Which channels for cues did each group use for interpretation? What happened when interpretations failed? The ultimate goal is to gain insights for foreign language educators and their teaching practice. The study revealed that while basic emotions like anger were understood in similar ways by both groups, participants revealed stark differences in their understanding of more complex emotions like guilt and frustration. Consequently, such complex or subtle emotions were found to be one potentially important site for cross-cultural misinterpretation. While groups displayed differences in their identification of which emotions were being displayed, they displayed similarities in the cues that marked them. All groups reported that they focused most on non-verbal cues and frequently on situational appraisal, but only rarely on lexis or semantics. Moreover, the participants almost always relied on a combination of cues from multiple channels in identifying which emotions the actors were displaying. Last, display rules did play a major role in cross-cultural misinterpretation. Ultimately, foreign language educators can use these findings to train students to better interpret emotions, as well as to manage their own cross-cultural experiences.
Issue Date:2012-05-22
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/30948
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Eric Duncan Reynolds
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-05-22
Date Deposited:2012-05


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