Cultural differences between Western and Asian cultures in individualism-collectivism (I-C), a dimension of cultural variability, show a strong possibility that Asians are predisposed to more negative emotions than are Westerners.
Individualistic cultures, most of which are Western, promote individual needs, wishes, desires, and values over group and collective ones (Matsumoto, 1990). Consequently, hierarchical differences in status or power are minimized while equality is emphasized (Matsumoto, 1990).
In contrast, collective cultures, many of which are Asian, promote the opposite; they stress the needs of a group, individuals identify themselves as members of a group, and one’s social role is defined by an entrenched system of hierarchical differences and vertical relationships (Matsumoto, 1990).
Members of individualistic cultures tend to display more negative emotions to ingroup members and more positive emotions to outgroup members. Conversely, members of collective cultures tend to display more positive emotions to members of ingroups and more negative emotions to those of outgroups (Matsumoto, 1990).
These display rules should predispose Asians to more negative emotions, which may result in depression, at least in the social interactions with outgroups.
Emotion regulation norms for Asian and Western cultures also demonstrate a greater likelihood for depression among Asians than among Westerners. Since emotion regulation refers to the ability to manage and modify one’s emotional reactions in order to achieve a desirable outcome, it reflects the different ways that culture tries to achieve social order (Matsumoto, Yoo, & Nakagawa, 2005).
Cultural display rules, social roles, and emotion regulation norms have effectively contributed to the predisposition of Asians to be more passive, non-assertive, and anxious in interpersonal situations than Westerners (Okazaki, Liu, & Minn, 2002). The results from a study that examined differences between Asian American and White American on a trait measure of social anxiety and self-reports of anxiety-related emotions during a 3-min social performance task indicated that Asian Americans reported more anxiety than White Americans (Okazaki et al., 2002).
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