In a new paper in the journal Emotion, a team of psychologists at the University of Washington finds that not everyone sees positive emotions such as joviality and self-assurance as unequivocally good. Depending on your ethnic background, you may find such emotions suspicious and even dangerous.
The UW team, led by psychologist Janxin Leu, surveyed more than 600 students from three groups: European-Americans, Asian-American U.S. citizens, and Asian immigrants to the U.S.
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Beginning with the provocative hypothesis that Asians may tend to “find the bad in the good,” the psychologists compared 330 European Americans with 147 Asian Americans, all of them born in the U.S., and 156 Asians who had immigrated to the U.S.
The researchers asked participants to rate their levels of stress and depression, including how often they were in sad moods, felt worthless or had changes in sleep or appetite. The participants were also asked to rate the intensity of the positive emotions they felt.
The study found that having positive emotions — “happy,” “joyful,” “proud,” “strong” — tended to reduce stress and depression symptoms among European Americans but not immigrant Asians. The results for U.S.-born Asian Americans were mixed.
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