We present a novel role of affect in the expression of culture. Four experiments tested whether individuals' affective states moderate the expression of culturally normative cognitions and behaviors. We consistently found that value expressions, self-construals, and behaviors were less consistent with cultural norms when individuals were experiencing positive rather than negative affect. Positive affect allowed individuals to explore novel thoughts and behaviors that departed from cultural constraints, whereas negative affect bound people to cultural norms. As a result, when Westerners experienced positive rather than negative affect, they valued self-expression less, showed a greater preference for objects that reflected conformity, viewed the self in more interdependent terms, and sat closer to other people. East Asians showed the reverse pattern for each of these measures, valuing and expressing individuality and independence more when experiencing positive than when experiencing negative affect. The results suggest that affect serves an important functional purpose of attuning individuals more or less closely to their cultural heritage.

C. Ashton-James, W. Maddux, Adam Galinsky, and T. Chartrand
Journal Article
Publication Date
Psychological Science

Full Citation

Ashton-James, C., W. Maddux, Adam Galinsky, and T. Chartrand
. “Who I am depends on how I feel: The role of affect in the expression of culture.”
Psychological Science
, (January 01, 2009):