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Multinational Study on

Cultural Display Rules of Emotional Expressions


Project Description

This page last updated on November 14, 2005


Cultural display rules are rules learned early in childhood that help individuals manage and modify their emotional expressions depending on social circumstances (Ekman & Friesen, 1969). The concept of cultural display rules is arguably one of the most important in the study of culture and emotion; they provide valuable information on cultural differences in emotional expression. Ekman and Friesen coined the term over 30 years ago (Ekman & Friesen, 1969), and used their study of American and Japanese college students to demonstrate their existence (Ekman, 1972; Friesen, 1972).


     Despite the importance of this concept in psychology, there has only been a handful of studies examining display rules across cultures since the concept was established (e.g. Matsumoto, 1990; Matsumoto, Takeuchi, Andayani, Kouznetsova, & Krupp, 1998; Matsumoto, Yoo, Hirayama & Petrova, 2005; Stephan, Stephan, Saito & Barnett, 1998; Stephan, Stephan, Cabezas de Vargas, 1996; Waxer, 1985), and even fewer examining spontaneous emotional behavior in a standardized setting (Matsumoto & Kupperbusch, 2001). 


In order to address this gap, we are conducting a multinational study on cultural display rules. The purpose of this study is to examine the display rules of countries around the world. We started in 2003 (and still on-going) with 60 collaborators from 40 countries and we currently have data on university students from 32 countries in 5 continents. This is the first comprehensive cross-cultural study of display rules.


In this study, we use the modified version of the Display Rules Assessment Inventory (DRAI; Matsumoto, Takeuchi, Andayani, Kouznetsova, & Krupp, 1998) to assess display rules. The modification of the DRAI was a collaborative effort of more than 30 collaborators. The modified DRAI asks participants what they should do if they felt each of seven emotions (anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise.) toward 21 interactants (family, friend, schoolmates/professors) in two contexts public and private. The response alternatives represent the various ways in which display rules may operate (express, neutralize, deamplify, amplify, mask, qualify). The DRAI has been translated to many different languages for this study (e.g. Cantonese, Danish, Dutch, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Turkish and more). 


We are continuing data collection in other countries and are planning to collect data using non-students in the near future.



Ekman, P. (1972). Universal and cultural differences in facial _expression of emotion. In J. R. Cole (Ed.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, 1971 (pp. 207-283). Lincoln, NE: Nebraska University Press.

Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. (1969). The repertoire of nonverbal behavior: Categories, origins, usage, and coding. Semiotica, 1, 49-98.

Friesen, W. V. (1972). Cultural differences in facial expressions in a social situation: An experimental test of the concept of display rules. Unpublished Doctoral dissertation, University of California, San Francisco.

Matsumoto, D. (1990). Cultural similarities and differences in display rules. Motivation & Emotion, 14, 195-214.

Matsumoto, D., & Kupperbusch, C. (2001). Idiocentric and allocentric differences in emotional _expression and experience. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 4, 113-131.

Matsumoto, D., Takeuchi, S., Andayani, S., Kouznetsova, N., & Krupp, D. (1998). The contribution of individualism-collectivism to cross-national differences in display rules. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 1, 147-165. 

Matsumoto, D., Yoo, S. H., Hirayama, S., & Petrova, G. (2005). Development and initial validation of a measure of display rules: The Display Rule Assessment Inventory (DRAI). Emotion, 5, 23-40.

Stephan, W.G., Stephan, C.W., & Cabezas de Vargas, M.(1996). Emotional _expression in Costa Rica and the United States. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 27, 147-160. 

Stephan, C.W., Stephan, W.G., Saito, I., & Barnett, S.M. (1998). Emotional _expression in Japan and the United States; The nonmonolithic nature of individualism and collectivism. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 29, 728-748. 

Waxer, P. H. (1985). Video ethology: Television as a data base for cross-cultural studies in nonverbal displays. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 9, 111-120













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