Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Therapies based on positive emotions may not work for all cultures, psychologists warn

Date:
April 25, 2011
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
Thinking happy thoughts, focusing on the good and downplaying the bad is believed to accelerate recovery from depression, bolster resilience during a crisis and improve overall mental health. But pursuing happiness may not be beneficial across all cultures.

Thinking happy thoughts, focusing on the good and downplaying the bad is believed to accelerate recovery from depression, bolster resilience during a crisis and improve overall mental health. But a new study by University of Washington psychologists reveals that pursuing happiness may not be beneficial across all cultures.

Related Articles


In a survey of college students, Asian respondents showed no relationship between positive emotions and levels of stress and depression. For European-American participants, however, the more stress and depression they felt, the fewer positive emotions they reported.

The study indicates that psychotherapies emphasizing positive emotions, which can relieve stress and depression in white populations, may not work for Asians, who make up 60 percent of the world population.

The findings have implications for helping the Japanese recover from natural disasters and subsequent nuclear crisis in March, and for Chinese coping with post-traumatic stress following the 2008 Sichuan province earthquake.

"If we are to relieve some of the trauma from the tsunami and earthquakes, we have to be careful of imparting Western therapies," said Janxin Leu, UW assistant professor of psychology. "I worry that if a therapy which relies on positive emotions and thinking is used with Asian patients, it will not be effective and may even make patients feel worse."

Mindfulness therapies that encourage patients to pay attention to the good and the bad will likely work better, she said.

Co-authors of the paper are Jennifer Wang and Kelly Koo, both UW psychology graduate students. The journal Emotion published the study online March 28.

The researchers asked 633 college students -- a mix of Asian immigrants, Asian Americans and European Americans -- to rate how much stress and depression they felt and how often they've been in a sad mood, felt worthless or had sleep or appetite changes.

The participants also rated the intensity of the positive emotions that they felt, including feelings of serenity, joy, confidence and attentiveness.

For European-American participants, there was a strong correlation showing that the more positive emotions they expressed, the less depression or stress they reported. The correlation was more subtle among Asian-Americans, but for Asians, there was no correlation between positive emotions and depression and stress.

The findings show that Asians interpret and react to positive emotions differently in regards to their mental health.

Upon winning an award, for instance, the researchers said that a typical response would be "I'm so happy that I'm afraid." The award would trigger feelings of happiness for the achievement combined with concern that others would be jealous.

This blend of emotions is common among Asians, Leu said, and it may be shaped by Buddhist beliefs that happiness either leads to suffering or is impossible to obtain.

"Happiness signals that something bad will happen next; happiness is fleeting," she said. Similarly, yin-and-yang attitudes may instill views that life is a natural balance of good and bad.

For Asians with depression, therapies likely to work the best are those that encourage patients to "observe when they feel good and bad and notice that both will disappear. Everything passes," Leu said.

The UW's Institute for Ethnic Studies in the United States funded the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Leu, Janxin; Wang, Jennifer; Koo, Kelly. Are positive emotions just as 'positive' across cultures? Emotion, 2011; [link]

Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Therapies based on positive emotions may not work for all cultures, psychologists warn." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110425091511.htm>.
University of Washington. (2011, April 25). Therapies based on positive emotions may not work for all cultures, psychologists warn. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110425091511.htm
University of Washington. "Therapies based on positive emotions may not work for all cultures, psychologists warn." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110425091511.htm (accessed February 1, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

NFL Concussions Down; Still on Parents' Minds

NFL Concussions Down; Still on Parents' Minds

AP (Jan. 30, 2015) The NFL announced this week that the number of game concussions dropped by a quarter over last season. Still, the dangers of the sport still weigh on players, and parents&apos; minds. (Jan. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Shows Newborn Chicks Count From Left to Right Just Like Humans

Study Shows Newborn Chicks Count From Left to Right Just Like Humans

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) Researchers for the first time identified human&apos;s innate preference for associating low and high numbers with the left and right respectively in another species. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Best Mood Elevating, Feel Good Shakes & Smoothies

Best Mood Elevating, Feel Good Shakes & Smoothies

Buzz60 (Jan. 30, 2015) You can elevate your mood by having a meal in a glass. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) offers the best &apos;feel good&apos; smoothies and shakes chock full of depression-relieving ingredients...including apples, berries, lemons, cucumbers, papaya, kiwi, spinach, kale, whey protein, matcha, ginger, turmeric and cinnamon. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Poll Says Firstborn Is Responsible, Youngest Is Funnier

Poll Says Firstborn Is Responsible, Youngest Is Funnier

Newsy (Jan. 30, 2015) According to a poll out of the U.K., eldest siblings feel more responsible and successful than their younger siblings. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins