Open Access Meeting report

Cultural variations in sentiments

David R Heise

Author Affiliations

Department of Sociology, Indiana University, Indiana, USA

SpringerPlus 2014, 3:170  doi:10.1186/2193-1801-3-170

Published: 1 April 2014

Abstract

The largest in-depth cross-cultural study of the 20th Century, directed by psychologist Charles Osgood at the University of Illinois, demonstrated that the affective meanings of concepts vary along three dimensions within all 30 cultures considered in the project, and for individuals responding in more than 21 languages. I analyze data on 17 cultures from this project in order to get some insights on how cultures differ in their sentiments and how sentiments about some concepts vary across cultures. An affective map of the cultures derived with multi-dimensional scaling revealed that affective similarities and differences among cultures cannot be explained in terms of geography, nationality, or major religions. Underlying dimensions of the affective map perhaps relate to secularization and to a history of slavery/colonization. Meanwhile, sentiments about most concepts are remarkably similar across cultures, compared to the divergences of sentiments about different concepts. Thus, ubiquitous breakdowns in inter-cultural understandings must emerge from relatively small variations in feelings, or from issues where there are major differences in sentiments across cultures.

Keywords:
Culture; Affective meanings; Emotions