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A negative side of positive psychology
Positive emotions hold a different meaning for people from Asian cultures, according to a new study (Emotion: tinyurl.com/6ds424h). Janxin Leu, Jennifer Wang and Kelly Koo at the University of Washington made their claim after surveying the depression symptoms, stress levels and average emotional experience of 330 European Americans, 147 Asian Americans and 156 immigrant Asians (who'd taken residence in the USA at an average age of 11).
For European Americans and Asian Americans (all were born in the USA), the experience of more positive emotions was associated with having fewer depression symptoms. This is consistent with previous work in positive psychology, which suggests that positive emotions can serve a protective function. By contrast, for immigrant Asians, having more positive emotions was not associated with having fewer depression symptoms. Leu and her team said this makes sense given that Asian cultures have a more equivocal relationship with positive emotions than do Westerners: a balance of positive and negative emotions is seen as a goal rather than the maximisation of positive emotions.
Another finding was that positive emotions appeared to buffer the link between stress and depression for European Americans but not for Asian Americans or immigrant Asians.
Whilst acknowledging the need for further longitudinal work, Leu and her colleagues said: 'With Asians comprising more than 60 per cent of the global population, these findings suggest the need to proceed with some caution in our claims about the benefits of positive emotions for everyone.'
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