Culture and Brain

, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp 130–150 | Cite as

The cultural neuroscience of emotion regulation

  • Ryan S. HamptonEmail author
  • Michael E. W. VarnumEmail author
Original Research Article


In this paper, we review and advocate for a cultural neuroscience approach to studying culture and emotion regulation. First, we summarize theoretical accounts regarding how culture influences the way people experience and prefer to regulate their internal experiences and outward expression of emotions. Next, we briefly summarize physiological and neural indicators of affect and the regulation of affect including examining skin response and heart rate, spatial differences in BOLD hemodynamic responses, and event-related potentials. We then review extant cultural neuroscience studies examining differences in emotion regulation across cultural groups and highlight how these findings extend theory from more traditional methods and provide novel insights. Finally, we outline several issues the field faces moving forward and offer recommendations for best practices as well as offering future directions for a culturally informed affective neuroscience.


Cultural neuroscience Affective neuroscience Emotion Emotion regulation EEG ERP 


  1. Banks, S. J., Eddy, K. T., Angstadt, M., Nathan, P. J., & Luan Phan, K. (2007). Amygdala-frontal connectivity during emotion regulation. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2(4), 303–312. Scholar
  2. Boocock, S. S. (1999). Social prisms: An international comparison of childrearing manuals. International Journal of Japanese Sociology, 8, 5–33.Google Scholar
  3. Bradley, M. M., Codispoti, M., Cuthbert, B. N., & Lang, P. J. (2001). Emotion and motivation I: Defensive and appetitive reactions in picture processing. Emotion, 1(3), 276–298. Scholar
  4. Bradley, M., & Lang, P. (2000). Affective reactions to acoustic stimuli. Psychophysiology, 37, 204–215.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Caudill, W., & Schooler, C. (1973). Child behavior and child rearing in Japan and the United States: An interim report. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 157(5), 323–338.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Caudill, W., & Weinstein, H. (1969). Maternal care and infant behavior in Japan and America. Psychiatry, 32, 12.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Chambers, R., Gullone, E., & Allen, N. B. (2009). Mindful emotion regulation: An integrative review. Clinical Psychology Review, 29(6), 560–572. Scholar
  8. Chen, C., Lee, S., & Stevenson, H. W. (1995). Response style and cross-cultural comparisons of rating scales among East Asian and North American students. Psychological Science. Scholar
  9. Chiao, J. Y., Cheon, B. K., Pornpattanangkul, N., Mrazek, A. J., & Blizinsky, K. D. (2013). Cultural neuroscience: Progress and promise. Psychological Inquiry, 24(1), 1–19. Scholar
  10. Chiao, J. Y., Harada, T., Komeda, H., Li, Z., Mano, Y., Saito, D., et al. (2009). Neural basis of individualistic and collectivistic views of self. Human Brain Mapping, 30(9), 2813–2820. Scholar
  11. Crites, S. L., Jr., Cacioppo, J. T., Gardner, W. L., & Berntson, G. G. (1995). Bioelectrical echoes from evaluative categorization: II. A late positive brain potential that varies as a function of attitude registration rather than attitude report. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(6), 997–1013. Scholar
  12. Cuthbert, B. N., Schupp, H. T., Bradley, M. M., Birbaumer, N., & Lang, P. J. (2000). Brain potentials in affective picture processing: Covariation with autonomic arousal and affective report. Biological Psychology, 52(2), 95–111. Scholar
  13. De Leersnyder, J., Boiger, M., & Mesquita, B. (2013). Cultural regulation of emotion: Individual, relational, and structural sources. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1–11. Scholar
  14. Driscoll, D., Tranel, D., & Anderson, S. W. (2009). The effects of voluntary regulation of positive and negative emotion on psychophysiological responsiveness. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 72(1), 61–66. Scholar
  15. Dudley, N. M., McFarland, L. A., Goodman, S. A., Hunt, S. T., & Sydell, E. J. (2005). Racial differences in socially desirable responding in selection contexts: Magnitude and consequences. Journal of Personality Assessment, 85(1), 50–64. Scholar
  16. Dunning, J. P., & Hajcak, G. (2009). See no evil: Directing visual attention within unpleasant images modulates the electrocortical response. Psychophysiology, 46(1), 28–33. Scholar
  17. Eid, M., & Diener, E. (2001). Norms for experiencing emotions in different cultures: Inter- and intranational differences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(5), 869–885. Scholar
  18. Ekman, P. (1972). Universal and cultural differences in facial expressions of emotion. In J. Cole (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on motivation, 1971 (Vol. 19, pp. 207–282). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  19. Forman, S. D., Cohen, J. D., Fitzgerald, M., Eddy, W. F., Mintun, M. A., & Noll, D. C. (1995). Improved assessment of significant activation in function magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI): Use of a cluster-size threshold. Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, 33(5), 636–647.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Foti, D., & Hajcak, G. (2008). Deconstructing reappraisal: Descriptions preceding arousing pictures modulate the subsequent neural response. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 20(6), 977–988. Scholar
  21. Goldin, P. R., McRae, K., Ramel, W., & Gross, J. J. (2008). The neural bases of emotion regulation: Reappraisal and suppression of negative emotion. Biological Psychiatry, 63(6), 577–586. Scholar
  22. Gross, J. J. (1998). The emerging field of emotion regulation: An integrative review. Review of General Psychology, 2(5), 271–299. Scholar
  23. Gross, J. J. (2002). Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive, and social consequences. Psychophysiology, 39, 281–291. Scholar
  24. Gross, J. J., & John, O. P. (2003). Individual differences in two emotion regulation processes: Implications for affect, relationships, and well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 85(2), 348–362. Scholar
  25. Gross, J. J., & Levenson, R. W. (1993). Emotional suppression: Physiology, self-report, and expressive behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64(6), 970–986.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Hackenbracht, J., & Tamir, M. (2010). Preferences for sadness when eliciting help: Instrumental motives in sadness regulation. Motivation and Emotion, 34(3), 306–315. Scholar
  27. Hajcak, G., Moser, J. S., & Simons, R. F. (2006). Attending to affect: Appraisal strategies modulate the electrocortical response to arousing pictures. Emotion, 6(3), 517–522. Scholar
  28. Hajcak, G., & Nieuwenhuis, S. (2006). Reappraisal modulates the electrocortical response to unpleasant pictures. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 6(4), 291–297. Scholar
  29. Hampton, R. S., Kwon, J. Y., & Varnum, M. E. W. (2018). Universals and variations in cross-cultural patterns of regulating neural affective signals. Manuscript in preparation for publication.Google Scholar
  30. Hampton, R. S., & Varnum, M. E. W. (2017). Do cultures vary in self-enhancement? ERP, behavioral, and self-report evidence. Social Neuroscience. Scholar
  31. Han, S., & Ma, Y. (2014). Cultural differences in human brain activity: A quantitative meta-analysis. NeuroImage, 99, 293–300. Scholar
  32. Hechtman, L., Raila, H., Chiao, J., & Gruber, J. (2013). Positive emotion regulation and psychopathology: A transdiagnostic cultural neuroscience approach. Journal of Experimental Psychopathology, 4(5), 502–528. Scholar
  33. Hirt, E. R., & McCrea, S. M. (2000). Beyond hedonism: Broadening the scope of affect regulation. Psychological Inquiry, 11(3), 180–183.Google Scholar
  34. Iliev, R., Hoover, J., Dehghani, M., & Axelrod, R. (2016). Linguistic positivity in historical texts reflects dynamic environmental and psychological factors. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113(49), E7871–E7879. Scholar
  35. Immordino-Yang, M. H., Yang, X.-F., & Damasio, H. (2014). Correlations between social-emotional feelings and anterior insula activity are independent from visceral states but influenced by culture. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 728. Scholar
  36. Immordino-Yang, M. H., Yang, X.-F., & Damasio, H. (2016). Cultural modes of expressing emotion influence how emotions are experienced. Emotion, 16(7), 1033–1039. Scholar
  37. Jackson, D. C., Malmstadt, J. R., Larson, C. L., & Davidson, R. J. (2000). Suppression and enhancement of emotional responses to unpleasant pictures. Psychophysiology, 37(4), 515–522. Scholar
  38. Ji, L., Nisbett, R. E., & Su, Y. (2001). Culture, change, and prediction. Psychological Science, 12(6), 450–456.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Jiang, C., Varnum, M. E. W., Hou, Y., & Han, S. (2014). Distinct effects of self-construal priming on empathic neural responses in Chinese and Westerners. Social Neuroscience, 9(2), 130–138.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Keil, A., Debener, S., Gratton, G., Junghöfer, M., Kappenman, E. S., Luck, S. J., et al. (2014). Committee report: Publication guidelines and recommendations for studies using electroencephalography and magnetoencephalography. Psychophysiology, 51(1), 1–21. Scholar
  41. Kim, Y.-H., Cohen, D., & Au, W.-T. (2010). The jury and abjury of my peers: The self in face and dignity cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 98(6), 904–916. Scholar
  42. Kitayama, S., Markus, H. R., & Kurokawa, M. (2000). Culture, emotion, and well-being: Good feelings in Japan and the United States. Cognition and Emotion, 14(1), 93–124. Scholar
  43. Kitayama, S., & Park, J. (2014). Error-related brain activity reveals self-centric motivation: Culture matters. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143, 62–70. Scholar
  44. Kitayama, S., & Uskul, A. K. (2011). Culture, mind, and the brain: Current evidence and future directions. Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 419–449. Scholar
  45. Kitayama, S., Yanagisawa, K., Ito, A., Ueda, R., Uchida, Y., & Abe, N. (2017). Reduced orbitofrontal cortical volume is associated with interdependent self-construal. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(30), 201704831. Scholar
  46. Knyazev, G. G., Savostyanov, A. N., Volf, N. V., Liou, M., & Bocharov, A. V. (2012). EEG correlates of spontaneous self-referential thoughts: A cross-cultural study. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 86, 173–181. Scholar
  47. Koole, S. (2009). The psychology of emotion regulation: An integrative review. Cognition and Emotion, 23(1), 4–41. Scholar
  48. Lang, P. J., Bradley, M. M., & Cuthbert, B. N. (2008). International affective picture system (IAPS): Affective ratings of pictures and instruction manual. Technical Report A-8. Gainesville, FL: University of Florida.Google Scholar
  49. Lao, J., Vizioli, L., & Caldara, R. (2013). Culture modulates the temporal dynamics of global/local processing. Culture and Brain, 1(2–4), 158–174. Scholar
  50. Larsen, R. J. (2000). Toward a science of mood regulation. Psychological Inquiry, 11(3), 129–141. Scholar
  51. Levenson, R. W., Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1990). Voluntary facial action generates emotion-specific autonomic nervous system activity. Psychophysiology, 27(4), 363–384. Scholar
  52. Liu, Y., Huang, H., McGinnis-Deweese, M., Keil, A., & Ding, M. (2012). Neural substrate of the late positive potential in emotional processing. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(42), 14563–14572. Scholar
  53. Luck, S. J. (2014). An introduction to the event-related potential technique (2nd ed.). Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  54. Luck, S. J., & Gaspelin, N. (2017). How to get statistically significant effects in any ERP experiment (and why you shouldn’t). Psychophysiology, 54, 146–157. Scholar
  55. Ma, Y., Wang, C., & Han, S. (2011). Neural responses to perceived pain in others predict real-life monetary donations in different socioeconomic contexts. NeuroImage, 57(3), 1273–1280. Scholar
  56. MacNamara, A., Ferri, J., & Hajcak, G. (2011). Working memory load reduces the late positive potential and this effect is attenuated with increasing anxiety. Cognitive, Affective & Behavioral Neuroscience, 11(3), 321–331. Scholar
  57. Masuda, T., Russell, M. J., Chen, Y. Y., Hioki, K., & Caplan, J. B. (2014). N400 incongruity effect in an episodic memory task reveals different strategies for handling irrelevant contextual information for Japanese than European Canadians. Cognitive Neuroscience, 5(1), 17–25. Scholar
  58. Matsumoto, D., Yoo, S. H., & Fontaine, J. (2008a). Mapping expressive differences around the world: The relationship between emotional display rules and individualism versus collectivism. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 39(1), 55–74. Scholar
  59. Matsumoto, D., Yoo, S. H., Hirayama, S., & Petrova, G. (2005). Development and validation of a measure of display rule knowledge: The Display Rule Assessment Inventory. Emotion, 5(1), 23–40. Scholar
  60. Matsumoto, D., Yoo, S. H., & Nakagawa, S. (2008b). Culture, emotion regulation, and adjustment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(6), 925–937. Scholar
  61. Matsumoto, D., Yoo, S. H., & Nakagawa, S. (2008c). Culture, emotion regulation, and adjustment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94(6), 925–937. Scholar
  62. Mauss, I. B., Bunge, S. A., & Gross, J. J. (2007). Automatic emotion regulation. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1(1), 146–167. Scholar
  63. Mauss, I. B., & Butler, E. A. (2010). Cultural context moderates the relationship between emotion control values and cardiovascular challenge versus threat responses. Biological Psychology, 84(3), 521–530. Scholar
  64. Mauss, I. B., Butler, E. A., Roberts, N. A., & Chu, A. (2010). Emotion control values and responding to an anger provocation in Asian-American and European-American individuals. Cognition and Emotion, 24(6), 1026–1043. Scholar
  65. Miyamoto, Y., & Ma, X. (2011). Dampening or savoring positive emotions: A dialectical cultural script guides emotion regulation. Emotion, 11(6), 1346–1357. Scholar
  66. Miyamoto, Y., Ma, X., & Petermann, A. G. (2014). Cultural differences in hedonic emotion regulation after a negative event. Emotion, 14(4), 804–815. Scholar
  67. Miyamoto, Y., Uchida, Y., & Ellsworth, P. C. (2010). Culture and mixed emotions: Co-occurrence of positive and negative emotions in Japan and the United States. Emotion, 10(3), 404–415. Scholar
  68. Moser, J. S., Hajcak, G., Bukay, E., & Simons, R. F. (2006). Intentional modulation of emotional responding to unpleasant pictures: An ERP study. Psychophysiology, 43(3), 292–296. Scholar
  69. Moser, J. S., Krompinger, J. W., Dietz, J., & Simons, R. F. (2009). Electrophysiological correlates of decreasing and increasing emotional responses to unpleasant pictures. Psychophysiology, 46(1), 17–27. Scholar
  70. Murata, A., Moser, J. S., & Kitayama, S. (2013). Culture shapes electrocortical responses during emotion suppression. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 8(5), 595–601. Scholar
  71. Na, J., & Kitayama, S. (2011). Spontaneous trait inference is culture-specific: Behavioral and neural evidence. Psychological Science, 22(8), 1025–1032. Scholar
  72. Ng, S. H., Han, S., Mao, L., & Lai, J. C. L. (2010). Dynamic bicultural brains: fMRI study of their flexible neural representation of self and significant others in response to culture primes. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 13(2), 83–91. Scholar
  73. Nieuwenhuis, S., Aston-Jones, G., & Cohen, J. D. (2005). Decision making, the P3, and the locus coeruleus–norepinephrine system. Psychological Bulletin, 131(4), 510–532. Scholar
  74. Obhi, S. S., Hogeveen, J., & Pascual-Leone, A. (2011). Resonating with others: The effects of self-construal type on motor cortical output. The Journal of Neuroscience, 31(41), 14531–14535. Scholar
  75. Ochsner, K. N., Bunge, S. A., Gross, J. J., & Gabrieli, J. D. E. (2002). Rethinking feelings: An fMRI study of the cognitive regulation of emotion. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 14(8), 1215–1229. Scholar
  76. Ochsner, K. N., Silvers, J. A., & Buhle, J. T. (2012a). Functional imaging studies of emotion regulation: A synthetic review and evolving model of the cognitive control of emotion. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1251, E1–E24. Scholar
  77. Ochsner, K. N., Silvers, J. A., & Buhle, J. T. (2012b). Review and evolving model of the cognitive control of emotion. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1251, E1–E24. Scholar
  78. Ohira, H., Nomura, M., Ichikawa, N., Isowa, T., Iidaka, T., Sato, A., et al. (2006). Association of neural and physiological responses during voluntary emotion suppression. NeuroImage, 29(3), 721–733. Scholar
  79. Park, B., Blevins, E., Knutson, B., & Tsai, J. L. (2017). Neurocultural evidence that ideal affect match promotes giving. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 12(7), 1083–1096. Scholar
  80. Park, J., & Kitayama, S. (2014). Interdependent selves show face-induced facilitation of error processing: Cultural neuroscience of self-threat. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 9(2), 201–208. Scholar
  81. Park, B., Tsai, J. L., Chim, L., Blevins, E., & Knutson, B. (2016). Neural evidence for cultural differences in the valuation of positive facial expressions. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 11(2), 243–252. Scholar
  82. Peng, K., & Nisbett, R. E. (1999). Culture, dialectics, and reasoning about contradiction. American Psychologist, 54(9), 741–754. Scholar
  83. Phelps, E. A., & LeDoux, J. E. (2005). Contributions of the amygdala to emotion processing: From animal models to human behavior. Neuron, 48(2), 175–187. Scholar
  84. Qu, Y., & Telzer, E. H. (2017). Cultural differences and similarities in beliefs, practices, and neural mechanisms of emotion regulation. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 23(1), 36–44. Scholar
  85. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 141–166.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  86. Rychlowska, M., Miyamoto, Y., Matsumoto, D., Hess, U., Gilboa-Schechtman, E., Kamble, S., et al. (2015). Heterogeneity of long-history migration explains cultural differences in reports of emotional expressivity and the functions of smiles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112(19), 2429–2436. Scholar
  87. Schupp, H. T., Cuthbert, B. N., Bradley, M. M., Cacioppo, J. T., Ito, T., & Lang, P. J. (2000). Affective picture processing: The late positive potential is modulated by motivational relevance. Psychophysiology, 37(2), 257–261. Scholar
  88. Sims, T., Tsai, J. L., Jiang, D., Wang, Y., Fung, H. H., & Zhang, X. (2015). Wanting to maximize the positive and minimize the negative: Implications for mixed affective experience in American and Chinese contexts. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 109(2), 292–315. Scholar
  89. Sng, O., Neuberg, S. L., Varnum, M. E. W., & Kenrick, D. T. (2018). The behavioral ecology of cultural psychological variation. Pschological Reviews. Scholar
  90. Soto, J. A., Lee, E. A., & Roberts, N. A. (2016). Convergence in feeling, divergence in physiology: How culture influences the consequences of disgust suppression and amplification among European Americans and Asian Americans. Psychophysiology, 53(1), 41–51. Scholar
  91. Stearns, P. N. (1994). American cool: Constructing a twentieth-century emotional style. New York, NY: New York University Press.Google Scholar
  92. Triandis, H. (1995). Individualism & collectivism. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  93. Tsai, J. L. (2007). Ideal affect: Cultural causes and behavioral consequences. Perspectives on Psychological Science. Scholar
  94. Tsai, J. L., Knutson, B., & Fung, H. H. (2006). Cultural variation in affect valuation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90(2), 288–307. Scholar
  95. Tsai, J. L., Louie, J. Y., Chen, E. E., & Uchida, Y. (2007). Learning what feelings to desire: Socialization of ideal affect through children’s storybooks. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33(1), 17–30. Scholar
  96. Twenge, J. M., Joiner, T. E., Rogers, M. L., & Martin, G. N. (2018). Increases in depressive symptoms, suicide-related outcomes, and suicide rates among U.S. adolescents after 2010 and links to increased new media screen time. Clinical Psychological Science, 6(1), 3–17. Scholar
  97. Tzourio-Mazoyer, N., Landeau, B., Papathanassiou, D., Crivello, F., Etard, O., Delcroix, N., et al. (2002). Automated anatomical labeling of activations in SPM using a macroscopic anatomical parcellation of the MNI MRI single-subject brain. NeuroImage, 15(1), 273–289. Scholar
  98. Varnum, M. E. W. (2016). The emerging (social) neuroscience of SES. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 10(8), 423–430. Scholar
  99. Varnum, M. E. W., Blais, C., Hampton, R. S., & Brewer, G. A. (2015). Social class affects neural empathic responses. Culture and Brain, 3(2), 122–130. Scholar
  100. Varnum, M. E. W., & Grossmann, I. (2017). Cultural change: The how and the why. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 12(6), 956–972. Scholar
  101. Varnum, M. E. W., & Hampton, R. S. (2017). Cultures differ in the ability to enhance affective neural responses. Social Neuroscience, 12(5), 594–603. Scholar
  102. Varnum, M. E. W., Na, J., Murata, A., & Kitayama, S. (2012). Social class differences in N400 indicate differences in spontaneous trait inference. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(3), 518–526. Scholar
  103. Varnum, M. E. W., Shi, Z., Chen, A., Qiu, J., & Han, S. (2014). When “Your” reward is the same as “My” reward: Self-construal priming shifts neural responses to own vs. friends’ rewards. NeuroImage, 87, 164–169. Scholar
  104. Vrana, S. R., Spence, E. L., & Lang, P. J. (1988). The startle probe response: A new measure of emotion? Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 97(4), 487–491. Scholar
  105. Wager, T. D., Davidson, M. L., Hughes, B. L., Lindquist, M. A., & Ochsner, K. N. (2008). Prefrontal-subcortical pathways mediating successful emotion regulation. Neuron, 59(6), 1037–1050. Scholar
  106. Wang, F., Peng, K., Chechlacz, M., Humphreys, G. W., & Sui, J. (2017). The neural basis of orienting independence vs. interdependence: A voxel-based morphometric analysis of brain volume. Psychological Science, 28(4), 519–529.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  107. Wierzbicka, A. (1996). Contrastive sociolinguistics and the theory of “cultural scripts”: Chinese versus English. In M. Hellinger & U. Ammon (Eds.), Contrastive Sociolinguistics (pp. 313–344). New York: Mouton de Druyter.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations