UC Berkeley Institute of Personality and Social Research



Emotional acculturation

Presenter: Batja Mesquita, Professor | Center for Social and Cultural Psychology | University of Leuven

Fri, Nov 18, 2016, 2:15 pm to 3:15 pm

5101 Tolman Hall

People learn to have emotions that fit the values central to their own culture and that benefit the types of relationships that are valued in that culture. By sharing the emotions of the culture, individuals align themselves –often unwittingly-- with the values of their groups and cultures. Thus, cultural variations in emotional phenomena are best understood as a function of culturally normative relationship goals that tell individuals how to feel, when to feel, and why to feel. Considered this way, having the “right” emotions is a key social competence in achieving belongingness, fit, and wellbeing.

In this talk I address the question of what happens when individuals immigrate, or when they move between different cultures. Do they emotionally acculturate? (i.e., do they learn new ways of emotional responding?)  Do the new ways of emotional responding replace the original ones? Can people be emotionally bicultural, and what does this mean for our understanding of emotion regulation?  I also focus on the consequences of emotional fit to the belongingness, fit, and wellbeing of immigrant minorities. I will present findings from research with community samples of immigrant minorities in Europe and the US, as well as findings from a representative longitudinal study of middle school students in Belgium. Finally, I will discuss how our insights on emotional acculturation may inform interventions to improve the belongingness and wellbeing of immigrant minorities.

Batja Mesquita is Professor and Director at the Center of Social and Cultural Psychology at the University of Leuven, Belgium. She is an international authority on culture and emotion, and part of the cohort of researchers who in the early 90s started Cultural Psychology. Her socio-cultural theory of emotions conceptualizes emotions as culturally attuned acts in the world to which others respond. It has been generative of research on the social roles and functions of emotions generally. It has provided the starting point for her own research on the social sharing of emotions, emotions in hierarchical relations, the spreading of emotions in groups, emotions in dyads, and most recently, emotional acculturation.  Batja Mesquita received her PhD from the University of Amsterdam (1993), did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Michigan (1993-1995), was a Fellow of the Dutch Royal Academy of Science (1995-1997), and was an Assistant and Associate Professor at Wake Forest University (1997-2007) before coming to Leuven. She is currently a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences.

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