Our lab focuses on the interplay between cultural contexts and psychological processes. To understand dynamic ways in which culture and psychological processes mutually shape and sustain each other, the specific aims of our research programs are twofold: (i) to illuminate cultural differences in both cognition and communication (i.e., context-independence vs. context-dependence) and emotion (i.e., hedonic vs. dialectical) and (ii) to elucidate proximal mechanisms through which distal cultural systems shape psychological processes.


Cultural Differences in Cognition and Communication:

Context-Independence vs. Context-Dependence


A large body of studies has shown cultural differences in how much people attend to contextual information: whereas Westerners tend to focus on a focal object without being overly constrained by its surrounding context (i.e., context-independent cognition), East Asians tend to attend to the relationships between objects and their contexts (i.e., context-dependent cognition; Nisbett, Peng, Choi, & Norenzayan, 2001). Such differences in cognitive processes are closely tied to the nature of communication practices (Hall, 1976). In Western communication practices, most information is conveyed directly through verbal and explicit channels (i.e., low-context communication), whereas in Eastern communication practices, most information is assumed to be shared in contexts and conveyed indirectly through non-verbal, implicit, and contextual means (i.e., high-context communication). Our lab focuses on elucidating the nature of such context-independent and context-dependent cognition and communication.


Relevant Publications:

Miyamoto, Y., Yoshikawa, S., & Kitayama, S. (2011). Feature and configuration in face processing: Japanese are more configural than Americans. Cognitive Science, 35, 563-574. [pdf]

Shechter, O., Durik, A. M., Miyamoto, Y., & Harackiewicz, J. M. (2011). The role of utility value in achievement behavior: The importance of culture. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 303-317. [pdf]

Miyamoto, Y. & Schwarz, N. (2006). When conveying a message may hurt the relationship: Cultural differences in the difficulty of using an answering machine. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42, 540-547. [pdf]

Miyamoto, Y. & Kitayama, S. (2002). Cultural variation in correspondence bias: The critical role of attitude diagnosticity of socially constrained behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 83, 1239-1248. [pdf]


Multilevel Mechanisms Underlying Cultural Differences in Cognition


How do the above cultural differences emerge and how are they sustained within each culture? Our lab has been trying to elucidate how distal processes shape individual processes through proximal processes. For example, Miyamoto, Nisbett, and Masuda (2006) showed how exposure to daily perceptual environments (i.e., townscapes) affords culturally divergent perceptual styles. At the same time, our psychological processes must be shaped and sustained to serve us not only in physical environments but also in interpersonal contexts. Our lab, thus, has also been examining how cognition is grounded in and shaped through participation in interpersonal processes, especially power relationships.


Relevant Publications:

Miyamoto, Y. (2013). Culture and analytic versus holistic cognition: Toward multilevel analyses of cultural influences. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 131-188. [pdf]

Miyamoto, Y., & Wilken, B. (2013). Cultural differences and their mechanisms. In D. Reisberg (Ed.), Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Psychology, pp. 970-985. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [pdf]

Miyamoto, Y., & Ji, L.J. (2011). Power fosters context-independent, analytic cognition. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 37, 1449-1458. [pdf]

Miyamoto, Y. & Wilken, B. (2010). Culturally contingent situated cognition: Influencing others fosters analytic perception in the U.S. but not in Japan. Psychological Science, 21, 1616-1622. [pdf]

Miyamoto, Y., Nisbett, R. E., & Masuda, T. (2006). Culture and the physical environment: Holistic versus analytic perceptual affordances. Psychological Science, 17, 113-119. [pdf]

Nisbett, R. E. & Miyamoto, Y. (2005). The influence of culture: Holistic versus analytic perception. Trends in Cognitive Science, 9, 467-473. [pdf]


Cultural Differences in Emotion:

Hedonic vs. Dialectical Emotional Style and Emotion Regulation


Different cultures have different scripts about how positive and negative emotions should be combined (Miyamoto & Ryff, in press). East Asian cultures have historically emphasized dialecticism, which is characterized by both a belief that reality is constantly changing and a tolerance of contradictions through finding a “middle way”. Reflecting this dialecticism, the dominant script about emotions in East Asian cultures is to seek a middle way by experiencing a balance between positive and negative emotions. In Western cultures, on the other hand, there is an emphasis on attending to the positives and discounting the negatives. The dominant cultural script in the West thus prescribes maximization of positive emotions and minimization of negative emotions. To elucidate how dominant cultural scripts underlie experiences of emotions in each culture, our lab has focused on dialectical emotions by examining them both as (i) an accumulated experience of positive and negative emotions over time, thus maintaining a balance between the two over an extended period of time, and as (ii) a simultaneous experience of positive and negative emotions within a specific situation. Furthermore, we also examine emotion regulation to illuminate the processes through which cultural scripts shape emotional experiences (Miyamoto & Ma, accepted). Different cultural scripts may shape how people regulate their emotions, and repeated engagement in such emotion regulation strategies may result in cultural differences in emotional experiences.


Relevant Publications:

Miyamoto, Y., & Ma, X. (2011). Dampening or savoring positive emotions: A dialectical cultural script guides emotion regulation. Emotion, 11, 1346-1357. [pdf]

Miyamoto, Y. & Ryff, C. (2011). Cultural differences in the dialectical and non-dialectical emotional styles and their implications for health. Cognition and Emotion, 25, 22-30. [pdf]

Miyamoto, Y., Uchida, Y., & Ellsworth, P. C. (2010). Culture and mixed emotions: Co-occurrence of positive and negative emotions in Japan and the U.S. Emotion, 10, 404-415. [pdf]

Miyamoto, Y. & Kitayama, S. (2009). Individualism and collectivism. In K. Scherer & D. Sander (Eds.), Oxford Companion to Emotion and the Affective Sciences, pp. 215-217. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Antecedents and Consequences of Cultural Differences in Emotion


Our lab is also exploring interpersonal foundations and health implications of different emotional styles. For example, we are examining whether the experience of dialectical emotions has any health implications. In addition, we are also examining how differences in cultural scripts are shaped and sustained through early socialization practices as well as through relationships people engage in.


Relevant Publications:

Miyamoto, Y., Boylan, J. M., Coe, C. L., Curhan, K., Levine, C. S., Markus, H. R., Park, J., Kitayama, S., Kawakami, N., Karasawa, M., Love, G. D., & Ryff, C. (in press). Negative emotions predict elevated interleukin-6 in the United States but not in Japan. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. [pdf]

Miyamoto, Y. & Ryff, C. (2011). Cultural differences in the dialectical and non-dialectical emotional styles and their implications for health. Cognition and Emotion, 25, 22-30. [pdf]

Ishii, K., Miyamoto, Y., Mayama, K., & Niedenthal, P. M. (2011). When your smile fades away: Cultural differences in sensitivity to the disappearance of smiles. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 516-522. [pdf]