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


It has been assumed that people generally want to seek positive emotions and avoid negative emotions – the emotion regulation strategy termed “hedonic emotion regulation” (Miyamoto & Ma, 2011). However, studies have shown that there are individual and situational variations in the extent to which people regulate their emotions hedonically. Furthermore, an attempt to increase positive emotions can sometimes bring negative consequences. Such findings suggest that hedonic emotion regulation is not always the most common or beneficial way to regulate emotions. By focusing on Eastern beliefs in dialecticism that accepts contradiction and change (Peng & Nisbett, 1999), our lab elucidates how dialectical beliefs lead Easterners to engage in less hedonic emotion regulation than Westerners do, and how such beliefs manifest in the way positive and negative emotions are experienced.


Relevant Publications:

Miyamoto, Y., Ma, X., & Petermann, A. G. (2014). Cultural differences in hedonic emotion regulation after a negative event. Emotion, 14, 804-815. [pdf]

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.


Health Correlates of Cultural Differences in Emotion


Various studies conducted in Western culture have shown that negative emotions are linked to worse physical health, including increased mortality (e.g., Kiecolt-Glaser, McGuire, Robles, & Glaser, 2002). However, in Eastern cultural contexts where negative emotions are less likely to be perceived as unacceptable or to be avoided, adverse health concomitants may be less evident compared to Western cultural contexts. In fact, our research has shown that although negative emotions are associated with worse mental and physical health outcomes in the United States, such associations between negative emotions and health are weaker or non-existent in Japan.


Relevant Publications:

Curhan, K. B., Sims, T., Markus, H.R., Kitayama, S., Karasawa, M., Kawakami, N., Love, G., Coe, C. L., Miyamoto, Y., & Ryff, C.D. (in press). Just how bad negative affect is for your health depends on culture. Psychological Science. [pdf]

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. (2013). Negative emotions predict elevated interleukin-6 in the United States but not in Japan. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 34, 79-85. [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]