Dampening or Savoring Positive Emotions: A Dialectical Cultural Script Guides Emotion Regulation

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Abstract

Four studies examined the hypothesis that, although people may generally want to savor, rather than to dampen, their positive emotions (i.e., hedonic emotion regulation), such a hedonic emotion regulation tendency should be less pronounced for Easterners than for Westerners. Using retrospective memory procedures, Study 1 found that Easterners recalled engaging in hedonic emotion regulation less than Westerners did, even after controlling for their initial emotional reactions. Studies 2–3 showed that cultural differences in emotion regulation were mediated by dialectical beliefs about positive emotions. Study 4 replicated the findings by examining online reports of emotion regulation strategies on the day students received a good grade. Furthermore, there were cultural differences in actual emotion change over time, which was partly explained by dialectical beliefs about positive emotions. These findings highlight the active role cultural scripts play in shaping emotion regulation and emotional experiences.

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