Yves here. The notion that different cultures have different notions of emotion, even ones we consider to be universal like love, challenges some core notions about personality and behavior.
By Emily Cataneo, a writer and journalist from New England whose work has appeared in Slate, NPR, the Baffler, and Atlas Obscura, among other publications. Originally published at Undark
When the Australian anthropologist Christine Dureau traveled to the Solomon Islands for research, she brought her toddler along, at first imagining that the universal experience of maternal love would help her relate to the Simbo women living in this foreign culture. But it soon became clear that maternal love for an Australian was different than maternal love for a Simbo woman: She learned that maternal taru, the Simbo word for love, could often be tinged with sadness. Dureau confronted this difference head-on when her daughter fell sick and a Simbo woman named Liza tried to provide comfort by relating a story about her own young son dying of measles.
For many years, psychologists and other scientists believed that deep down, all of humankind experienced the same set of evolutionarily hard-wired emotions. Under this schema, anger, for example, was a concrete, immutable experience that happens deep inside all human beings, the same for a White American sipping coffee in Manhattan as for native Siberian herding reindeer. When Batja Mesquita, a key figure in the development of the field of cultural psychology, started researching emotion more than 30 years ago, she was confident that this model was correct. But Mesquita, who is today a distinguished professor at the University of Leuven in Belgium, has come to view emotions through a completely different lens. In her new book, “Between Us: How Cultures Create Emotions,” Mesquita makes a provocative argument that when it comes to emotions, we are not all the same. “Are other people angry, happy, and scared, just like you?” she queries. “And are your feelings just like theirs? I do not think so.”
BOOK REVIEW — “Between Us: How Cultures Create Emotions,” by Batja Mesquita (W.W. Norton; 304 pages). Visual: W.W. Norton
Mesquita’s book hinges on a key distinction between what she calls “MINE” emotions and “OURS” emotions. For too long, she posits, cultural psychology has relied on an intrinsically Western and individualist model of emotions: the MINE, or “Mental, INside the person, and Essentialist,” model. This framework relies on the idea that the most important part of an emotional experience takes place inside the individual. But, says Mesquita, most non-Western cultures conceive of emotions as OURS: “OUtside the person, Relational and Situated.”
For Mesquita, the OURS model, which invites us to look “outward, rather than inward” when it comes to emotion, is a more appropriate schema than the long-vaunted MINE model. She maintains that we must let go of our belief that emotions happen mainly inside a person, and instead look to emotions as culturally constructed experiences that happen between people, vary between cultures, and look different depending on cultural and social context.
Mesquita comes to this view from personal experience. She is the child of Dutch Holocaust survivors, and her parents’ experiences hovered over her relationship with them, making it difficult for her to understand their emotional reactions, shaped as they were by the shadows of horrors that had occurred before Mesquita was even born. Later in life, Mesquita moved from the Netherlands to Michigan, and repeatedly found herself in social situations where her Dutch brusqueness clashed with American affability, or where American politeness offended her sense of what makes for a close friendship.
To show that these cultural clashes are not simply the window-dressing on static emotions that are the same deep-down worldwide, Mesquita turns to a series of anecdotes and studies that demonstrate how from birth, children who belong to a particular culture are socialized by their parents to view certain emotions and emotional responses as important and valuable; in other words, she says, “emotions help us become part of our culture.”
When she was raising their child, Oliver, in America, they cultivated a sense of pride in him, praising him for his accomplishments and thus priming him to thrive in an individualist society that values personal achievement. She contrasts Oliver with an anthropologist’s tale of Didi, a Taiwanese toddler whose mother inculcated a sense of shame in him after he tried to touch the researcher’s camcorder. Shame, Mesquita says, is valued in Taiwan, because it prepares a child to thrive as an adult in a propriety-oriented culture. She notes that pride is not intrinsically a right emotion, whereas shame is not intrinsically a wrong one; in these examples, each parent did the right thing by priming their child to thrive as an adult in their own cultural context.
Similarly, she unpacks how anger, shame, love, and happiness hold different values based on the culture in which they are being expressed: Research shows that contemporary White Americans, for example, tend to prize excited, energetic happiness and the kind of love that anoints an individual as worthy, whereas some other, more collective cultures prize calm, peaceful happiness and view passionate love as tinged with sadness.
Not only do different emotions hold different weight based on culture and context, but linguistic variations between cultures also shape emotion experiences. A bias towards English, and the emotion concepts that are named in English, has led researchers to view Western emotions as universal. Mesquita cites an example of a 2019 study published in the journal Science that tried to group different emotions across cultures into 24 English concepts. But, as Mesquita points out, different languages have words for completely different emotional concepts that don’t map one-to-one onto English. The Dutch have “gezellig,” a feeling that refers to coziness inside a warm place with friends in the winter; the Egyptian Bedouins have “hasham,” an emotion mainly defined the possibility of social humiliation; the Japanese have “amae,” which describes the dependence inherent in a child’s bond with their mother.
In Mesquita’s view, it is not the case that every person on the planet is born with the capacity to feel a static set of emotions at birth, all of which are recognized by and named in English. Instead, she argues, when we grow up in a culture we are each delivered context-specific emotion words, which “come with the emotional episodes from your culture’s collective memory as well as collective insights about those emotions.”
As an American reader who has only lived in Western cultures, I sometimes found myself chafing against Mesquita’s ideas while reading her book. How can we be sure, I wondered, that beneath all these cultural trappings, we are not experiencing the same feelings deep inside us?
But at the end of the day, maybe it doesn’t matter whether all emotions are rooted in similar “rudimentary scenarios,” as Mesquita calls them — because her book makes it undeniably clear that no matter what’s going on inside, there are enormous variances in emotional landscapes across cultures, and understanding those variances is essential not just for scientific reasons but also for political ones.
Mesquita devotes her last chapters to the difficulties faced by immigrants acclimatizing to the emotional landscape of their new culture: learning to waltz instead of tango, as she puts it. Studies show that not until the third generation are an immigrant family’s emotional landscapes indistinguishable from the majority culture’s. And even within a culture, individuals have different attitudes toward emotions — and their emotions are coded differently — based on their gender, race, or social class. Earlier in the book, she points out that female anger, and Black anger, are coded quite differently in the United States than the anger of a White man.
Ultimately, Mesquita’s book presents a powerful and stirring argument for viewing emotions and emotional episodes holistically. It’s a call to action that will make our schools, businesses, and justice systems more equitable. Empathy, that much-lauded concept, is not enough. Mesquita argues that we must move past empathy, which entails imagining that we can project our own experiences onto someone else, and instead learn to compassionately ask questions and understand what a person’s emotional response means to them based on their cultural background.
Understanding across cultural, social, and political lines can happen, she says, when “you realize that their dance is a different one than you are used to doing in your social environment.’’
Ahem: “A bias towards English, and the emotion concepts that are named in English, has led researchers to view Western emotions as universal.”
I’d argue that the MINE category above may also be an artifact of English-language perceptions, particularly that Essentialist E.
The reviewer might have spent a few minutes investigating Portuguese-speaking Brazil, or Portugal itself, where the emotion “saudade” is widely felt and has generated endless numbers of lovely songs, although not to be confused with morna, the kind of singing that the inimitable Cesaria Evora brought to the world.
Here in the [[Undisclosed Region]], one can use the word cognission, which doesn’t just mean knowing how to do things. And standard Italian has the rather formal word senno, which goes beyond wisdom. Both of these words are very much social / relational and not essentialist.
I have a feeling that MINE means English-speakers speaking to themselves.
Let me guess, ‘morna’, might be the equivalent to ‘morriña’ a word from Galicia (do not confuse with Ukrainian Galitzia) expressing sadness and loss felt by emigrants. Isn’t it?
–Galicia and Wales are words with the same root once you translate them and have the same meaning– Land of Gaelics
Ignacio: Yep, I suspect so, and morna is part of the distinct style of music of Cabo Verde.
I speak a minimal amount of Portuguese and have never been to Brazil, but am a devoted fan of Brazilian music (anyone wanting to immediately improve the quality of their life should listen to guitarist/composer Yamandu Costa!), which leads me to ask, how is Saudade not an individual response to life experience?
While there is a great amount of social and political engagement in MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira), it’s not present in the saudade-soaked music of Jobim or Guinga.
… or many other masters of Brazilian music (sorry, wanted to add to my initial comment, but ran out of time).
If anything, saudade seems to be a particularly subjective/ individualized emotion,
Michael Fiorillo: I also am an enormous fan of Brazilian music. I would also add Heitor Villa-Lobos, who is considered “classical.”
Saudade = yes, it is an individual response, but it is expressed communally, being an emotion that Portuguese-speakers recognize among themselves. It isn’t Essentialist (that E). Note the comments in the main post about love being expressed with sadness.
I also am wild about fado, which is fate, which also has plenty of saudades. Fate is not MINE is defined in the piece above.
Also, because of that comment about emotions being defined in English, I mentioned saudades, and now fado, as strong and beautiful emotions that the writers didn’t deal with because they are too culture-bound.
It is my belief and experience that we all have the same emotions but we maybe value some emotions more than others depending on our culture (for example, many countries where families live together in close quarters have different ideas as to what it feels like to be lonely) and also describe them differently. Each individual within a culture can be very different than another individual as well.
A bit skeptical about this article. While I don’t doubt people describe emotions and the circumstances of emotions differently, depending on culture, emotions themselves go back to primates.
We DO feel the same emotions as other people because we DO feel the same emotions as primates – you can see it in eye, mouth, head and other very obvious and completely consistent metrics across species.
We are hard-wired to feel emotions – it’s limbic not thinking brain! However, we may discuss and even act on those feelings very differently based on culture.
I suppose the question would be whether “emotions” are those raw things that we all feel or those same things as they are then contextualised (and named) within our culture. The former would be universal, the latter would differ.
Emotions exist prior to (learning a) language. Therefore they surely pre-exist (learning a) culture, too.
Interesting article nonetheless, as cultures certainly modify and prioritize certain emotions over others – as in shame vs. pride.
The operative concept here is “categorical perception”: the physical world is a confusing hodgepodge of continuous and overlapping spectra that our perceptual systems interpret by sorting them into artificially clear and discrete conceptual categories, with the differences between different categorization schemata shaping how different people perceive and interact with what in purely “objective” terms could be the exact same underlying physical reality.
A nice clean textbook-worthy example is an experiment called “Russian Blues” that focuses on differences in performance on a color-discrimination task between speakers and non-speakers of Russian (in which the English color category “blue” is known by the two different terms “siniy” and “goluboy,” corresponding to dark versus light blue much like the English “red” versus “pink”) but the concept is also useful for understanding phonemes in different spoken languages (e.g. how many fractions of a second lengthening in voice-onset time does it take to transform the phoneme /p/ into the phoneme /b/?) or pitches in different musical sound systems — or to go in a more culturally/ideologically charged direction, you might think of differences in culture or appearance between people of different “races” and “nations,” or differences in vocabulary and pronunciation between different “languages” and “dialects,” both of which are continuous spectra that we typically interpret in terms of sharp category boundaries, socially constructed and in some sense arbitrary, but nonetheless resulting in profoundly different if not outright incompatible worldviews.
A compromise offered here is that our emotions are everywhere the same, but culture (and other circumstances) may lead us to “discuss and even act on those feelings very differently based on culture.”
I think this compromise is good. But I also think that because of different cultures and life circumstances, it is not just how we discuss and act that can be changed, but a whole emotional complex of emotional reactions, and I find it difficult not to call this complex itself “emotion.” Consider the emotion of self-assertive pride, pride at standing out at something. In hunter gatherer cultures, the men place great emphasis on egalitarian status. Now in reality, some men are bettter at hunting than others, and hunting is very important. It is indeed common for a young man who is good at hunting, to feel emotionally puffed up, and to act superior after a good day. But what the other men will do is gang up on him verbally, teasing him and bringing him down. He learns that he has to say, after a good day’s hunt, that he was lucky that day. Now I think we can easily imagine that for such a young man, after being conditioned in this way, his basic emotion of individual pride will be quickly accompanied by and tied up with emotions of fear of social rejection and very possibly frustration. In other words, he will not just act differently (talk about luck) but also, pride will be pride+fear of rejection+frustration. It will not just be his actions and how he talks that will be affected, but also the very emotions that come up. If pride-in-hunting is consistently associated with these other emotions, it very possibly will not be “the same emotion”, after a while. So I think it is indeed plausible that culture (and other circumstances) can affect not just what we say and do about emotions, but the emotional complex which experience puts together with these basic emotions. I think this is very plausibly called feeling emotions differently, and perhaps even ‘a different emotion.’
“In other words, he will not just act differently (talk about luck) but also, pride will be pride+fear of rejection+frustration.”
Tao te Ching #13 (Le Guin version)
And a suggestion for societies seeking harmony:
Tao te Ching #3 (Le Guin version)
“Consider the emotion of self-assertive pride, pride at standing out at something. In hunter gatherer cultures, the men place great emphasis on egalitarian status…his basic emotion of individual pride will be quickly accompanied by and tied up with emotions of fear of social rejection and very possibly frustration.”
In Australian culture this concept is embodied in the expression “Tall Poppies Get Cut Down”. On the other hand, a big complement is to be called “The Quiet Achiever”. Some years ago, the Australian telephone company Telstra, which once had a position analogous to Pre-1980 ATT, hired an American to run it.
He came in loudly announcing his “Big Plans” for making the company more competitive. He was mercilessly mocked by every one, even as far as having his choice of clothing questioned. Astonished by the complete lack of adoration, he quit after less than a year. Something similar happened to Frank Sinatra when he went on tour there in 1974. This incident was made into the 2003 film “The Night We Called it a Day”.
“Anger, grief, moodiness, and hysteria of any kind is bad manners in Thailand—especially when displayed in public. Doing so amounts to a loss of face, and therefore a loss of respect in Thai culture. So don’t shout and scream in the street, or you’re likely to embarrass the locals—as well as yourself.”
After 20 years in Washington, DC and thirty in Austin, TX, I’m now back in my “native” nothern RI, a land of a few remaining Puritan/WASPS, a mass immigrants mashed together in the late 19th century and the new arrivals since I left, Caribs, Azorians and the like.
The third generation southern Italians I grew up with are still here, largely insular with an accent I can still recognize on the phone. Think Jersey Shore and old Mafia movies, not because the people I knew are criminal but because they are still part of a culture resistant to change.
I barely noticed the difference between the French Canadians and the Irish Catholics when I was growing up, but now I see it. Few of the French have left the Blackstone Valley while the Irish have spread out and only a few of the old have remained or, surprisingly, returned after careers elsewhere. The French first names of my youth- Laurent, Rolland- have faded; the Irish first names- Kevin, Kelly and Michael- have taken over the whole culture. Half the Black basketball players now have Irish first names.
Last night I stopped by a bar. It was all Rhode Island Irish, the faced reminded me of my past. The retired mayor of a small city; a non-college guy married 55 years ago in a church 300 yards away, now worried about the delays in getting Medicare certification for his sick wife (both daughters within 15 miles); guys with last names I never hear in Texas. When I mentioned I was getting a place in DC, the conversation turned to the Irish bars there. The most famous 1960s Capital Hill bar is still there and two of the guys knew the 90+ owner on a first name basis. The 60s? Nobody really knew John… but Teddie used to show up at my Pawtucket bar for a beer-or-two when he was in RI… first names from 60 years ago; a mention of the gothic church that burned in the 50s; “Mulligan? Are you one of the Sacred Heart Mulligans?”
For me it was two hours, two beers and a set of calibrated emotions and comments I didn’t have to think about. Nobody in the bar would have been surprised that different cultures mean different emotions, different ways of thinking. To be Irish is different than to be French, Italian, Polish… (no “-American” necessary). Tom Wolfe had it wrong when he said “You can never go home again”. You can never leave. The reason his protagonist couldn’t go home again was he used his friends too directly in his book; violating “our” privacy. That’s why I used “Mulligan” above; the real last name would have invaded the bar’s- and the person’s- privacy.
I was never at home in my part of RI. I left as soon as I could. Now when I return I feel at home here like I feel at home nowhere else.
“a place in DC, the conversation turned to the Irish bars there”
Back in the brief time we were there during Carter, there was a place called “The Four Provinces ” (i.e. “the four Ps”). A young woman we knew tended bar there. Her brothers, all of them from Boston, had some IRA gun running route that involved Saudi Arabia somehow. The bartender kept all her wealth in gems in a bag.
Dave, I enjoyed your story.
“when I return I feel at home here like I feel at home nowhere else.”
As Dorthy said, “there’s no place like home.”
I’ve lived many places for a while and have been where I am now for 40 years. It’s good. I never felt I didn’t get along. The majority of people here didn’t grow up here.
The few times I have gone back to the city of my youth over the last few decades, I agree, there is some automatic comfort level, both feeling it myself and sensing an acceptance from others.
But another observational note. I live in N California — Silicon Valley. Recently I went down to the LA area for a week or so. That big megopolis. Surely people would be gruff and defensive. No. In every casual interaction where I went I found people much more friendly and pleasant than where I live.
Not sure what to make of that except maybe I should move.
Pretty sure that’s a misunderstanding of empathy – it’s not about projecting one’s own experiences on to the other, but entering into the emotion that person is feeling. A gloss on the Golden Rule is useful: the adaptation is of one’s behaviour to that of others, rather than vice versa
Thanks. That’s a really interesting point. Given that even individuals operating in the same “emotion-framework” can never really, fully know the subjective emotional experience of another it would seem that empathy would have to be a balancing act between knowing you can never fully understand while simultaneously trying to understand what someone is experiencing. This would be magnified enormously, perhaps to the point of being impossible, between people of utterly different emotional frameworks. Empathy isn’t a state of mind, it’s a state of tension between states of mind. Which then leads to the idea that a blanket conception of shared humanity must be applied if one wants to interact empathically. We cannot know another’s specific joy or hurt or whatever but we do know that they are human.
“Given that even individuals operating in the same “emotion-framework” can never really, fully know the subjective emotional experience”…
Well, it is true that my experience is my experience and yours, yours. That is tautological. But the knowledge claim doesn’t follow. For instance, my spouse has what I once took be an uncanny knack of knowing how I am feeling, why, and also (often) why I am hiding those truths from myself…
(Perhaps, having some idea of your views here, her consciousness-as-filter is not working here! And mine is working on itself!)
the classic way to get the idea of empathy across is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. recently there has been a movement to challenge this as it is not yourself in their shoes, it is them.
empathy seems to call one to actually feel what the other is feeling. According to Internal Family Systems which was developed by Dick Schwartz in the 90s and is increasingly influential in the field of psychotherapy, a more therapeutic presence involves compassion, which Buddha-like is not pained by the suffering of others nor lifted up by their joy. It is rather a calm, curious, courageous way of being that offers profound acceptance to another so that they can tolerate their own emotions rather than being overwhelmed or driven by them.
As Globaladvances says below, that moment of really experiencing aversive emotions is how one is able to let them go. It is the suppression of emotion that keeps it hanging around, pushing for expression in lieu of release.
From earlier this year, a much more complete view of how Mesquita’s ideas fit into a broader pushback on Basic Emotion Theory
Why would anyone want all culture’s emotive qualities to be the same? I would never conceive of that. I propose that it may be a justification for when they go off on a tantrum? They can claim that everyone does it.
I have done loads of experiments with myself and others. When you can re-story your explanation behind an unexpected occurrence, and I mean really “see the light” that there are many other ways to look at it; that emotional charge shifts and softens in an instant. Even if it is a 40 year old charge or a so-called “childhood trauma”. This has led me to believe that so many emotions are the result of what you are telling yourself (your beliefs). Of course other cultures are going to tell the story of life differently.
This works so often and with such benefit, that there is no need to try to prove it is always true. Someone above said human’s share the same emotions with primates. I am not supposing an angry monkey is telling a story. He does know some other monkey stole his food without the words going with it.
Once you really know the mechanism of emotion, you can let them play out or not. They can’t hurt you either way. Of course the good one’s I celebrate. I hope they are not coming from comparison. I have no desire to lead someone else’s life. I would never be touched by envy, greed or troubles. I don’t story in that way, (don’t make those definitions). Sometimes things don’t work the first time, but I would never label it as frustration. Anger is so counterproductive. It is only a drama constructed to scare somebody. What if there is no one there to be afraid? (Then take it out on yourself I suppose.) I don’t confuse prudence with fear. Many words used to describe emotion are a closed loop. Choose a word open to change. It is actually very easy, and all negative conditioning from my view.
This is somewhat silly. Emotions are either targeted or not. I am angry at X or I woke up today on the wrong side of the bed. Basically fear is anxiety + a target. To the extent you are talking about a target, it is going to be contextual–if something is rude in one culture but appropriate in another, an act will cause different emotional reactions. There is also a partisan aspect: Trump said X or Y will have different affective results. The idea that white people have one kind of emotion and brown indigenous people have another kind strikes me as colonialist, and if intended as some kind of bold anti-racism, its just an inversion of old colonialist attitudes. (Like the “anti-white supremacy” training that only white people are capable of reason and mathematics.)
Granted, the idea that emotion was some kind of brain secretion was always insanely stupid, but the idea that if you hold someone’s hand in a burning vat of oil is going to create culturally constructed reactions is silly. Further, schaudenfreude wasn’t a thing in English 30 years ago, now people mention it all the time, its been absorbed, have English speakers become capable of a new emotion? Saudade isn’t a thing in English, but it well could be (which sounds a little bit like the Solomon Island’s concept).
Anything infected with language–and emotions are–is going to depend on context for meaning, and will vary across cultures. That doesn’t change basic affective states of positive/negative/neutral with regard to some kind of target (or no target, the world or alternatively, one’s self). Drugs cause affective states in humans, and demand for drugs is universal. This thesis would only make sense if cocaine or whisky were only something appreciated in western countries or similar.
“But, says Mesquita, most non-Western cultures conceive of emotions as OURS: “OUtside the person, Relational and Situated.”
I wonder if this definition itself isn’t a bit of MINE thinking in that I understand from past readings etc. that many people don’t distinguish between an inside and outside of their persons, seeing themselves as a part of a continuous flow of experience that is filled with other parts. In other words, to claim that everyone who isn’t MINE is OURS skips over those who don’t have a framing of an inside/outside. Is it a pebble, a part of the mountain, or are the two something that isn’t capture by either term?
Here’s a bit of poetry that illustrates my point:
Kali’s sword and Krishna’s flute are one
O partially perceiving mind, your basic error of double vision
has not been corrected….
O divided mind,
your narrow devotion to the Goddess
is mere self-seeking and self-adoration.
You have not entered the radical contemplation
where she reveals her final secret:
Kali’s sword and Krishna’s flute are one….
— Ramprasad Sen
“For Mesquita, the OURS model, which invites us to look “outward, rather than inward” when it comes to emotion, is a more appropriate schema than the long-vaunted MINE model. She maintains that we must let go of our belief that emotions happen mainly inside a person, and instead look to emotions as culturally constructed experiences that happen between people, vary between cultures, and look different depending on cultural and social context.”
So is she saying that there isn’t any internal aspect to emotions? I’m happy to consider that emotions aren’t solely internal and have a social component but to say they are “culturally constructed” without qualification smacks of the ding-battery of post-structuralist claims of the fundamental status of language. Experience always precedes language, there must be an object for there to be a subject. Likewise there has to be an emotion, let’s say an ur-emotion, for there to be a socially constructed one. I suppose the use of the weasel words “gender” and “equitable” might be giveaways…
Inward/outward has more to do with diagnosis of mental illness then emotion. If you are sad because a loved one dies, that is normal. If you feel like mourning, but it has no relationship to external reality, then it is “inside” and, if it persists, your going to get tagged with depression or something similar (which then becomes your diagnosis that says something about you–because the source of the emotion cannot be externalized). Since you now have a self-descriptor, I assume that is what she means by essentialist.
I’m not sure fury at being cut off in traffic is not outward, relational or situational, whereas if you just start running amok (which only happens in Malaya), it is mental, inward, and essentialist, in that you are a bloody madman as they say. Ergo, conceptual confusion, all the way through, even if we have to probably universalize a protean affective state and then say that gets filtered through language and culture. (Certainly, dogs can display emotion, or protean affective states at least, even though they can’t speak and don’t have cultures.)
“Inward/outward has more to do with diagnosis of mental illness then emotion.”
Really? You don’t think that emotions have an internal and an external aspect? Have you ever smiled because you are happy? Frowned because you are sad? Rolled up you eyes in disbelief at what someone has written?
Yes, emotions are expressions of the state of being of an organism. Being is one. Only when you introduces deception can you create an internal and an external.
I’m not sure that “experience always precedes language”–but infants and toddlers are capable of displaying expressive states prior to language acquisition, nor am I convinced that whatever we take to be the “object” that we refer to when we talk of someone’s sadness is the same kind of “object” that we refer to when we talk of someone’s Ford 150 truck.
I am. You must experience anything to speak of it, unless you are proposing speaking of things or the ideas of things you haven’t experienced. As for my use of “object”, a glance at the dictionary can clear up your confusion:
A focus of attention, feeling, thought, or action.
This can be sadness, a truck, or anything else we can perceive for that matter.
A sign must have a signifier. An mental description must signify a mental object, as a physical description must signify a physical object.
OK, as far as it goes. How do you go about verifying someone else’s mental description? Isn’t it different from how you verify someone else’s physical description? Doesn’t the fact that in actuality these practices are so different suggest that despite the similarity in linguistic form (mental object/physical object) that they are in fact two totally different types of concepts?
I invite you to consider what I posted above. That there is always an emotion associated with every human perception, and that it is based on an interpretation that comes from your belief structures. I say beliefs are cultural conditioning. In that sense emotions are all outside, and culturally dependent.
Someone above says, “if I am happy, or if I am sad”, as if that is a “pure personal emotive quality”. You are happy because some perception confirms your previous (culturally motivated) desire. You are sad because some perception denies your wishes. (Someone died, and even death has a cultural belief structure behind it). “Pure” infant emotions before any language, are also from fulfillment or denial of desires. The desires are not to be hungry, to have attention that allays the fear of the unknown, to be touched. Agreed, that is not cultural.
It is likely that dogs reflect the emotions of the family they live with. Dogs pick up more than you or I know. Our dog knows when my wife is going to come home, at various hours. Does she hear the truck from a distance that I cannot hear it? I don’t know how she does it.
I claim (anecdotally) that for decades, no emotion has a power over me. (I’ll repeat), Once you really know this mechanism of emotion, you can let them play out or not. You alter them by changing the story behind them. They can’t hurt you either way. Of course the good one’s I celebrate. I hope they are not coming from comparison, but they are coming from what I say I wanted, a smooth and satisfying life.
I have no desire to lead someone else’s life. I would never be touched by envy, jealousy, greed or troubles. I don’t story in that way, (don’t make those definitions). Sometimes things don’t work the first time, but I would never label it as frustration. Anger is so counterproductive. It is only a drama constructed to scare somebody. What if there is no one there to be afraid? (Then take it out on yourself I suppose.) I don’t confuse prudence with fear. Many words used to describe emotion are a closed loop. Choose a word open to change. It is actually very easy, and all negative (counterproductive) emotions are conditioning from my viewpoint.
Repeat: every perception has a feeling attached to it. Some may be subtle.
“every perception has a feeling attached to it. Some may be subtle.” – Well yes, if you mean it as Shaftesbury did:
[Perception is of] “the Fair and Shapely, the Amiable and Admirable, apart from the Deform’d, the Foul, the Odious, or the Despicable.” “[It] feels the soft and harsh, the agreeable and disagreeable… and finds… a harmonious and a dissonant.”
As for this: “I have no desire to lead someone else’s life” – I say there can be no desire for the necessarily impossible.
Added resource about inner dialog, and how not everyone seems to have it.
Framing emotions and emotional responses in cultural contexts seemed obvious as I read this review. After all, we’ve long recognized that there are no absolutes, that all is relative.
But, given that what nevertheless seems almost universal is female primacy, not only in bearing children, but in nurturing them, especially in formative years, it seems clear that the chief force in shaping our emotions is women.
Eh. This seems a bit like a ‘some cultures don’t see a difference between green and blue’ type of thing. In that it’s not true, and is confusing semantics with actual understanding.
(all cultures can easily differentiate between blue and green, they just don’t all have separate words for it. They’ll just call ‘green’ ‘tree blue’, or ‘blue’ ‘sky green’ or something similar)
All people feel the same emotions (other than, perhaps, literal psychopaths). Different cultures just might have different words to specifically designate a very particular emotional state or scenario, but the feeling itself is universal. It just might take one language a sentence to describe something another language might summarize in a single word. But it’s all sort “you know, the thing”, and it’s pretty universal that people will know the gist of the thing in question.
What is really new in the author’s approach compared to Lisa Feldman Barrett’s work ?