A cross-cultural study on emotion expression and the learning of social norms

Shlomo Hareli, Konstantinos Kafetsios, Ursula Hess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When we do not know how to correctly behave in a new context, the emotions that people familiar with the context show in response to the behaviors of others, can help us understand what to do or not to do. The present study examined cross-cultural differences in how group emotional expressions (anger, sadness, neutral) can be used to deduce a norm violation in four cultures (Germany, Israel, Greece, and the US), which differ in terms of decoding rules for negative emotions. As expected, in all four countries, anger was a stronger norm violation signal than sadness or neutral expressions. However, angry and sad expressions were perceived as more intense and the relevant norm was learned better in Germany and Israel than in Greece and the US. Participants in Greece were relatively better at using sadness as a sign of a likely norm violation. The results demonstrate both cultural universality and cultural differences in the use of group emotion expressions in norm learning. In terms of cultural differences they underscore that the social signal value of emotional expressions may vary with culture as a function of cultural differences, both in emotion perception, and as a function of a differential use of emotions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1501
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberOCT
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Hareli, Kafetsios and Hess.


  • Emotion expressions
  • Normative behavior
  • Social signals

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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