Neural responses to affective stimuli across culturally similar and dissimilar situations

Van Vu, Anna van de Meulen, Dirk Heslenfeld, Kate Woodcock, Shihui Han, Lydia Krabbendam

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Previous research suggests that individuals from individualistic and collectivistic cultures, due to different construal of the self and social groups, might have different emotional experiences and attenuate their emotional experiences differently across situations. The current research investigates the influence of these cultural orientations specifically on the neural response to different valences of emotions and across different social situations. Event-related brain potentials were recorded when individualism-representative Dutch in the Netherlands and collectivism-representative Chinese participants in China (N = 40) viewed affective pictures (the IAPS) while being alone, being accompanied by a culturally similar person, and being accompanied by a culturally dissimilar person. The late positive potential (LPP) in Dutch participants showed a differentiation between valences (negative vs. positive) of emotions while this was not the case for Chinese participants. This suggests a wider range of emotional experience in the Dutch group and possibly stronger emotional attenuation in the Chinese group. Furthermore, the Chinese group showed a hemispheric differentiation in LPP amplitude between culturally similar and dissimilar situations whereas the Dutch did not. However, this effect was small and laterality index analysis indicated that there was no corresponding statistically significant difference in hemispheric dominance. These findings indicate that culture has an effect on neural emotional responding indexed by LPP. Evidence for a role of culture in the impact of social situation on emotional responding indexed by LPP was weak.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCulture and Brain
Early online date16 Jul 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Jul 2019


  • ERP
  • emotion
  • situation
  • culture
  • LPP


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