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Cultural Diversity

In this line of work, I  investigate cultural diversity in the way that emotions are perceived and experienced. I conduct field work in small-scale societies (Himba pastoralist society in Namibia and Hadza hunter-gatherer society in Tanzania). This research has revealed considerable variation in meaning-making about Western style expressions of emotion (in the face and voice), with a relative emphasis on action and situation in these societies compared to Americans.  See Media Coverage


Ongoing research leverages behavioral and ambulatory neuroimaging techniques to examine this cultural variation.  In addition, I have expanded this line of research to examine cultural diversity in large-scale industrialized societies as well, with a particular focus on emotions in Chinese culture. ​

Individual Diversity

People vary in how interchangeably they use words to describe their experiences of emotion. Some people use words with a high degree of specificity, suggesting that their emotion concepts have high- distinctiveness and point to unique features in experience. Other people use words interchangeably, suggesting those words do not anchor distinct representations of emotions. This individual difference, granularity, is linked to many important markers of well-being, including social relationship quality,  mental health, health behaviors, and, potentially even physical health. My research in this area investigates why some people are more granular than others, how this relates to interpersonal processes (such as empathic responding). I am also engaged in several projects to improve measurement granularity.


This line of work investigates "situational" diversity in emotion. That is, what are the drivers of moment-to-moment diversity in how emotions are perceived and expressed. In one line of work, I investigate how the emotion knowledge that is accessible in that moment, impacts how we "see" emotions in others. Some of my prior research has focused on endpoints of perceptual processing-- categorizations and perceptual memory. Ongoing research extends to the dynamics of sensory sampling, using eye tracking technology to look at gaze patterns to emotional faces. 
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