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Cross-cultural differences in beliefs about emotions: A comparison between Brazilian and British participants

Diferenças transculturais em crenças sobre emoções: uma comparação entre participantes brasileiros e britânicos

ABSTRACT

Objective:

Perfectionist beliefs about emotions impact the experience and expression of emotions, being linked to increased levels of depression and anxiety. Given the influence of culture in the representation and expression of emotion, it is possible that beliefs vary across countries, but few empirical studies have been conducted on the theme. This study aims to compare Brazilian and British samples regarding their beliefs about emotional experience and expression.

Methods:

The current study compared a total of 960 Brazilian and British participants, with the samples having a similar profile in terms of age, gender and ethnicity. Participants answered online the Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7), Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), and Beliefs about Emotions Scale (BES). This study aims to compare Brazilian and British samples with regard to beliefs about emotional experience and expression.

Results:

Significant differences between samples were found for beliefs about emotions. As hypothesized, Brazilians scored lower on unhelpful beliefs about emotions, except for beliefs about experiencing negative feelings and emotional control. Differences in total BES scores remained even after the inclusion of depression and anxiety as covariates.

Conclusions:

Results suggest higher endorsement of perfectionist beliefs in a European versus a Latin American context, but highlight that this pattern depends on the specific beliefs being studied. These differences should be considered when working with people from different cultural backgrounds and developing cultural adaptations for clinical interventions and psychopathology models.

KEYWORDS
Beliefs; emotion; perfectionism; emotional regulation; cross-cultural comparison

RESUMO

Objetivo:

Crenças perfeccionistas sobre emoções afetam a experiência e expressão de emoções, estando relacionadas a níveis aumentados de depressão e ansiedade. Dada a influência da cultura na representação e expressão de emoções, é possível que as crenças variem entre os países, mas poucos estudos empíricos foram realizados sobre o tema. Este estudo tem o objetivo de comparar amostras brasileiras e britânicas em relação às suas crenças sobre a experiência emocional e expressão.

Métodos:

O presente estudo comparou um total de 960 participantes brasileiros e britânicos, com as amostras tendo um perfil semelhante em termos de idade, gênero e etnia. Os participantes responderam on-line à Escala de Ansiedade Generalizada (GAD-7), ao Questionário de Saúde do Paciente (PHQ-9) e à Escala de Crenças sobre Emoções (BES).

Resultados:

Foram encontradas diferenças significativas entre as amostras em relação às crenças sobre emoções. Como hipotetizado, os brasileiros obtiveram pontuações mais baixas em crenças prejudiciais sobre emoções, exceto nas crenças sobre experienciar sentimentos negativos e controle emocional. As diferenças nos escores totais da BES permaneceram mesmo após a inclusão de depressão e ansiedade como covariáveis.

Conclusões:

Os resultados sugerem maior endosso de crenças perfeccionistas em um contexto europeu, em comparação com um contexto latino-americano, mas destacam que esse padrão depende das crenças específicas estudadas. Essas diferenças devem ser consideradas ao trabalhar com pessoas de diferentes origens culturais e no desenvolvimento de adaptações culturais para intervenções clínicas e modelos de psicopatologia.

PALAVRAS-CHAVE
Crenças; emoção; perfeccionismo; regulação emocional; comparações transculturais

INTRODUCTION

Personal beliefs that the experience and expression of negative emotions are unacceptable have been associated with higher levels of fatigue, depression and anxiety11 Rimes KA, Chalder T. The Beliefs about Emotions Scale: validity, reliability and sensitivity to change. J Psychosom Res. 2010 Mar;68(3):285-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2009.09.014.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.200...
and can be described as a transdiagnostic vulnerability factor. As suggested by cognitive models2,3, unhelpful beliefs about emotions can have a deleterious effect on symptoms, as well as on treatment adherence and outcomes. Such beliefs may be considered a form of negative perfectionism11 Rimes KA, Chalder T. The Beliefs about Emotions Scale: validity, reliability and sensitivity to change. J Psychosom Res. 2010 Mar;68(3):285-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2009.09.014.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.200...
,44 DiBartolo PM, Rendón MJ. A critical examination of the construct of perfectionism and its relationship to mental health in Asian and African Americans using a cross-cultural framework. Clin Psychol Rev. 2012 Apr;32(3):139-52. doi: 10.1016/j.cpr.2011.09.007.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2011.09.00...
,55 James K, Verplanken B, Rimes KA. Self-criticism as a mediator in the relationship between unhealthy perfectionism and distress. Pers Individ Differ. 2015 Jun 1;79:123-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2015.01.030
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2015.01.0...
due to the high standards imposed towards one's emotions and the fear of negative evaluation by peers if this ideal is not reached.

Identifying unhelpful beliefs about emotions is important to reduce maladaptive coping and compensatory strategies, for instance understanding their contribution to potentially harmful behaviors such as emotional suppression66 Hambrook D, Oldershaw A, Rimes K, Schmidt U, Tchanturia K, Treasure J, et al. Emotional expression, self-silencing, and distress tolerance in anorexia nervosa and chronic fatigue syndrome. Br J Clin Psychol. 2011 Sep;50(3):310-25. doi: 10.1348/014466510X519215.
https://doi.org/10.1348/014466510X519215...
. Considering that there are cultural differences in the expression of emotions77 Matsumoto D. Cultural similarities and differences in display rules. Motivation and emotion. 1990 Sep;14(3):195-214., with different societies showing distinct display rules88 Ekman P. Facial expressions. In: Dalgleish T, Power M, editors. Handbook of cognition and emotion. New York: John. Wiley & Sons Ltd.; 1999., it is likely that there are cross-cultural and contextual differences in relation to these beliefs. Nevertheless, this topic has been seldom explored empirically.

Culture can be understood as shared and socially transmitted ideas (e.g., values, beliefs, attitudes) that are reflected in and reinforced by institutions, products, and rituals99 Tsai JL. The cultural shaping of emotion (and other feelings). Noba textbook series. 2013. Available from: http://nobaproject.com/modules/culture-and-emotion.
http://nobaproject.com/modules/culture-a...
. Culture can modulate whether emotions are perceived as harmful or beneficial, and there are differences in the profile of emotional responses to specific contexts, consistent with socially rewarded cultural values1010 Mesquita B, De Leersnyder J, Boiger M. The cultural psychology of emotion. In: Barrett L, Lewis M, Haviland-Jones JM. Handbook of emotions. New York: Guilford Press; 2016.. Sociocultural factors may also impact emotional regulation strategies1111 Ford BQ, Mauss IB. Culture and emotion regulation. Curr Opin Psychol. 2015;3:1-5. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2014.12.004.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2014.12...
. For instance, emotional suppression, which is typically associated with negative outcomes in individualistic Western cultures, has been shown to differ in its association with psychopathology across cultures1212 Arens EA, Balkir N, Barnow S. Ethnic variation in emotion regulation: Do cultural differences end where psychopathology begins? J Cross Cult Psychol. 2013 Apr;44(3):335-51. https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022112453314
https://doi.org/10.1177/0022022112453314...
. Nevertheless, most comparisons have focused on the contrast between Western individualistic and Eastern collectivist cultures1111 Ford BQ, Mauss IB. Culture and emotion regulation. Curr Opin Psychol. 2015;3:1-5. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2014.12.004.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2014.12...
. Investigating beliefs about emotion in different cultural value systems may have important implications for the understanding of behavior and social interaction, as well as the way mental disorders are defined and treated in different contexts.

Comparing African American and European American mothers, Nelson and colleagues1313 Nelson JA, Leerkes EM, O'Brien M, Calkins SD, Marcovitch S. African American and European American mothers’ beliefs about negative emotions and emotion socialization practices. Parenting. 2012 Jan 1;12(1):22-41. doi:10.1080/15295192.2012.638871
https://doi.org/10.1080/15295192.2012.63...
investigated whether cultural differences in emotion socialization are associated with maternal beliefs concerning their children exhibition and management of negative emotions. Their results indicate that African American mothers were less prone to endorse their children showing negative emotions in public or private settings than European American mothers. One potential explanation is that minority mothers can be more apprehensive regarding their children being ill judged by the predominant ethnic group, reinforcing prejudice.

Specifically in Latin America, Halberstadt et al.1414 Halberstadt AG, Oertwig D, Riquelme EH. Beliefs about children's emotions in Chile. Front Psychol. 2020 Jan 30;11:34. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00034.
https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00034...
investigated parents and teachers’ beliefs about emotions in children. Their results suggest an overestimation of independence and capability in controlling and regulating emotions in children, and the belief that positive emotions can have undesirable consequences if they are not moderated. Morelen and Thomassin1515 Morelen D, Thomassin K. Emotion socialization and ethnicity: An examination of practices and outcomes in African American, Asian American, and Latin American families. Yale J Biol Med. 2013 Jun 13;86(2):168-78. explored family processes in relation to emotion, contrasting Latin American and European American families. Due to values such as individualism, the latter believed emotions were less important compared with families who followed Latin American values, like “familismo”, i.e., the critical emotional bond that ties families. This suggests the possibility of enriched emotional experiences in Latin American families1515 Morelen D, Thomassin K. Emotion socialization and ethnicity: An examination of practices and outcomes in African American, Asian American, and Latin American families. Yale J Biol Med. 2013 Jun 13;86(2):168-78.. Despite these initial efforts in the region, there are no studies comparing beliefs about emotions between Latin and European cultures with samples collected from their respective regions.

Accordingly, the current study aims to compare Brazilian and British participants in relation to beliefs about emotional experience and expression. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study contrasting a European and a Latin American culture in beliefs about emotion. In order to isolate the effect of culture on beliefs about emotions, data were collected with samples matched for age, gender and ethnicity. It was hypothesized that the Brazilian sample would endorse fewer unhelpful beliefs about emotions.

METHODS

Participants

The sample was composed of 960 participants aged between 18 and 69 years, with half of them being recruited in the UK and half in Brazil. The British data had been collected previously, so data collection in Brazil aimed to include participants with a similar profile in terms of age, gender and ethnicity (classified as a binary White/non-White variable); samples were not matched in terms of educational achievement because these data were not available in the British sample. Data were collected between 2018-2019.

UK participants were recruited via opportunity sampling through university e-mails, online research recruitment sites and social networking sites. Recruitment in Brazil was carried out through electronic advertisements (social networks and e-mails) and word of mouth. Inclusion criteria were being 18 years or older, being literate and possessing the means to access and respond to the electronic survey (e.g., through a computer or cell phone). All participants provided informed consent before taking part in the study.

Procedures

Data was collected anonymously online without time limit to complete the questionnaires. Participants received specific instructions about each instrument and had the option of stopping the survey and withdrawing from the study at any point.

Instruments

For all instruments, validated versions in the local language, with established psychometric properties, were used.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7)

The GAD-7 is a 4-point Likert scale with 7 items measuring general anxiety levels, organized in a single factor, showing good psychometric properties1616 Monteiro RP, Nascimento BS, Monteiro TM, da Silva PD, Ferreira AJ. Psychometric evidence of the 7-item generalized anxiety disorder questionnaire in Brazil. Int J Ment Health Addict. 2020 Nov 23:1-2. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-020-00423-9.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-020-00423...
,1717 Teymoori A, Real R, Gorbunova A, Haghish EF, Andelic N, Wilson L, et al. Measurement invariance of assessments of depression (PHQ-9) and anxiety (GAD-7) across sex, strata and linguistic backgrounds in a European-wide sample of patients after Traumatic Brain Injury. J Affect Disord. 2020 Feb 1;262:278-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.10.035.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2019.10.03...
. Individuals evaluate each item based on how often the symptoms have caused distress in the past two weeks (not at all = 0; several days = 1; more than half the days = 2; nearly every day = 3). The total scores can range from 0 to 21, where higher scores indicate greater severity of GAD symptoms1616 Monteiro RP, Nascimento BS, Monteiro TM, da Silva PD, Ferreira AJ. Psychometric evidence of the 7-item generalized anxiety disorder questionnaire in Brazil. Int J Ment Health Addict. 2020 Nov 23:1-2. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-020-00423-9.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-020-00423...
. For the Brazilian scale, Cronbach's alpha coefficient (α = .92) and rho composite reliability coefficient (ρ = .91) were suitable1616 Monteiro RP, Nascimento BS, Monteiro TM, da Silva PD, Ferreira AJ. Psychometric evidence of the 7-item generalized anxiety disorder questionnaire in Brazil. Int J Ment Health Addict. 2020 Nov 23:1-2. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-020-00423-9.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-020-00423...
.

Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9)

This scale was developed to measure depression and response to treatment based on the 9 diagnostic criteria for major depression present in DSM-IV, with 9 items scored with a 4-point Likert scale1717 Teymoori A, Real R, Gorbunova A, Haghish EF, Andelic N, Wilson L, et al. Measurement invariance of assessments of depression (PHQ-9) and anxiety (GAD-7) across sex, strata and linguistic backgrounds in a European-wide sample of patients after Traumatic Brain Injury. J Affect Disord. 2020 Feb 1;262:278-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.10.035.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2019.10.03...
,1818 de Lima Osório F, Vilela Mendes A, Crippa JA, Loureiro SR. Study of the Discriminative Validity of the PHQ-9 and PHQ-2 in a Sample of Brazilian Women in the Context of Primary Health Care. Perspect Psychiatr Care. 2009 Jul;45(3):216-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6163.2009.00224.x.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6163.2009...
. The total score ranges from 0 to 27. If an item is missing, ordinary mean substitution is employed, but only if fewer than three items are missing. It has solid psychometric properties1717 Teymoori A, Real R, Gorbunova A, Haghish EF, Andelic N, Wilson L, et al. Measurement invariance of assessments of depression (PHQ-9) and anxiety (GAD-7) across sex, strata and linguistic backgrounds in a European-wide sample of patients after Traumatic Brain Injury. J Affect Disord. 2020 Feb 1;262:278-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2019.10.035.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2019.10.03...
,1818 de Lima Osório F, Vilela Mendes A, Crippa JA, Loureiro SR. Study of the Discriminative Validity of the PHQ-9 and PHQ-2 in a Sample of Brazilian Women in the Context of Primary Health Care. Perspect Psychiatr Care. 2009 Jul;45(3):216-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6163.2009.00224.x.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6163.2009...
, with good Cronbach's alpha coefficient (α = 0.87)1818 de Lima Osório F, Vilela Mendes A, Crippa JA, Loureiro SR. Study of the Discriminative Validity of the PHQ-9 and PHQ-2 in a Sample of Brazilian Women in the Context of Primary Health Care. Perspect Psychiatr Care. 2009 Jul;45(3):216-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6163.2009.00224.x.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1744-6163.2009...
.

Beliefs about Emotions Scale (BES)

This scale evaluates how much people endorse beliefs about the unacceptability of experiencing or expressing emotions through 12 questions scored in a 7-point Likert scale. Good psychometric properties have been reported for the scale11 Rimes KA, Chalder T. The Beliefs about Emotions Scale: validity, reliability and sensitivity to change. J Psychosom Res. 2010 Mar;68(3):285-92. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2009.09.014.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.200...
,1919 Mograbi DC, Indelli P, Lage CA, Tebyriça V, Landeira-Fernandez J, Rimes KA. Adaptação transcultural e validação da versão brasileira da Escala de Crenças sobre Emoções. Trends Psychiatry Psychother. 2018 Mar;40(1):21-8. https://doi.org/10.1590/2237-6089-2017-0064
https://doi.org/10.1590/2237-6089-2017-0...
. For the Brazilian full scale, Cronbach's alpha was appropriate (α = .86), suggesting adequate internal consistency; a two-factor solution for the BES-BR presented a well-defined structure, with all items having salient loadings in a single factor exclusively, and without any hyperplane items. The two factors referred to: (1) seeing emotions as signs of weakness and inferiority and not expressing them in front of others; (2) emotional control1919 Mograbi DC, Indelli P, Lage CA, Tebyriça V, Landeira-Fernandez J, Rimes KA. Adaptação transcultural e validação da versão brasileira da Escala de Crenças sobre Emoções. Trends Psychiatry Psychother. 2018 Mar;40(1):21-8. https://doi.org/10.1590/2237-6089-2017-0064
https://doi.org/10.1590/2237-6089-2017-0...
.

Ethical procedures

The project was approved by the King's College London (KCL) Research Ethics Committee (PNM/13/14-50) and by the Psychology Department Ethics Committee PUC-Rio (018/2014).

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

All participants signed the Informed Consent Form formalizing compliance with the Guidelines and Regulatory Standards for research involving human subjects, as outlined in Resolution 196 of the National Health Council (CNS), which was ratified on October 10, 1996.

Data analysis

Descriptive statistics were generated to illustrate sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of the samples. Chi-square tests were used to investigate differences between samples regarding gender and ethnicity, with t-tests for independent samples being calculated for age, anxiety (GAD-7), depression (PHQ-9) and total BES scores. Analysis of total BES scores were repeated as analysis of variance models to allow inclusion of anxiety and depression as covariates (ANCOVA). For individual BES items, considering the ordinal characteristics of the variables, Mann-Whitney tests were used to compare the samples; considering the need to correct for multiple testing, in this analysis α was set at .001. All data were analyzed with version 26 of the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS).

RESULTS

Sample characteristics

Table 1 presents sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of participants. As expected, consistent with the matching attempts during recruitment, there were no significant differences for age (t (958) = 1.47; p = .141), gender (χ22 Ali A, Toner BB, Stuckless N, Gallop R, Diamant NE, Gould MI, Vidins EI. Emotional abuse, self-blame, and self-silencing in women with irritable bowel syndrome. Psychosom Med. 2000 Jan-Feb;62(1):76-82. doi: 10.1097/00006842-200001000-00011.
https://doi.org/10.1097/00006842-2000010...
(1) < .01, p = .969) and ethnicity (χ22 Ali A, Toner BB, Stuckless N, Gallop R, Diamant NE, Gould MI, Vidins EI. Emotional abuse, self-blame, and self-silencing in women with irritable bowel syndrome. Psychosom Med. 2000 Jan-Feb;62(1):76-82. doi: 10.1097/00006842-200001000-00011.
https://doi.org/10.1097/00006842-2000010...
(1) = 0.70, p = .404). Nevertheless, higher scores for anxiety (t (951) = 3.51, p < .001) and depression (t (950) = 2.19, p = .029) were found in the Brazilian sample.

Table 1
Socio-demographic and clinical characteristics of participants

Table 2 shows the mean and standard deviation for each item and total scores of the Beliefs about Emotions scale. Almost all items showed significant differences between Brazilian and British participants (p < .001), with the exception of items #4 (“I should be able to control my emotions.”) (p = .175) and #8 (“I should be able to cope with difficulties on my own without turning to others for support.”) (p = .202). For items #7 (“I should not let myself give in to negative feelings.”) (p < .001) and #12 (“Others expect me to always be in control of my emotions.”) (p < .001) the Brazilian sample showed higher scores, while the British sample showed higher scores in all other items and in the total scale score. Additionally, ANCOVA indicated that although anxiety (F (1, 948) = 6.25, p = .013, ηp22 Ali A, Toner BB, Stuckless N, Gallop R, Diamant NE, Gould MI, Vidins EI. Emotional abuse, self-blame, and self-silencing in women with irritable bowel syndrome. Psychosom Med. 2000 Jan-Feb;62(1):76-82. doi: 10.1097/00006842-200001000-00011.
https://doi.org/10.1097/00006842-2000010...
= .01) and depression (F (1, 948) = 21.64, p < .001, ηp22 Ali A, Toner BB, Stuckless N, Gallop R, Diamant NE, Gould MI, Vidins EI. Emotional abuse, self-blame, and self-silencing in women with irritable bowel syndrome. Psychosom Med. 2000 Jan-Feb;62(1):76-82. doi: 10.1097/00006842-200001000-00011.
https://doi.org/10.1097/00006842-2000010...
= .02) are significantly associated with total BES scores, differences between groups in total scores remain unchanged after their inclusion as covariates (p < .001, ηp22 Ali A, Toner BB, Stuckless N, Gallop R, Diamant NE, Gould MI, Vidins EI. Emotional abuse, self-blame, and self-silencing in women with irritable bowel syndrome. Psychosom Med. 2000 Jan-Feb;62(1):76-82. doi: 10.1097/00006842-200001000-00011.
https://doi.org/10.1097/00006842-2000010...
= .12).

Table 2
Mean score for each BES item and total scale

DISCUSSION

This study aimed to investigate beliefs about the unacceptability of experiencing or expressing emotions cross-culturally, exploring these in Brazilian and British participants. There were no significant differences between samples for sociodemographic variables, potentially isolating the impact of culture in beliefs about emotions. Overall, British participants endorsed more unhelpful beliefs, but for two items, exploring negative feelings and emotional control, scores were higher for the Brazilian sample. Although anxiety and depression were significantly linked to total BES scores, their inclusion as covariates did not eliminate group differences in total BES scores.

Confirming the main hypothesis of the study, the Brazilian sample generally showed lower endorsement of unhelpful beliefs about emotional experience and expression. The groups differed in anxiety and depression scores, and the current research also confirmed the association between anxiety and depression on beliefs about emotions, in line with previous results2020 Sydenham M, Beardwood J, Rimes KA. Beliefs about emotions, depression, anxiety and fatigue: A mediational analysis. Behav Cogn Psychother. 2017 Jan;45(1):73-78. doi: 10.1017/S1352465816000199.
https://doi.org/10.1017/S135246581600019...
. However, controlling for anxiety and depression as covariates did not eliminate group differences, so it is unlikely that differences in BES scores were driven by these variables. It is plausible that differences in the BES scores reflect cultural differences about how emotions should be modulated in everyday life.

For instance, Clark et al.2121 Clark P, Paiva ES, Ginovker A, Salomón PA. A patient and physician survey of fibromyalgia across Latin America and Europe. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013 Jun 14;14:188. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-14-188.
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2474-14-188...
, researching pain management by contrasting samples from European and Latin American populations, found that the latter rated anxiety and depression related to pain as more disruptive to their daily lives than participants from Europe. This was interpreted in terms of a greater “expressive” nature of Latin American participants. The finding that an expressive culture can show increased anxiety and depression in relation to a more stoic culture converges with our results, suggesting that these variables may be correlated to beliefs about emotion but without providing a full explanation to the phenomenon.

In this line, Wagstaff and Rowledge2222 Wagstaff GF, Rowledge AM. Stoicism: Its relation to gender, attitudes toward poverty, and reactions to emotive material. J Soc Psychol. 1995 Apr;135(2):181-4. doi: 10.1080/00224545.1995.9711421.
https://doi.org/10.1080/00224545.1995.97...
, in a study on stoicism, found that British participants can show traits such as denial, suppression, and control of emotions accentuated, particularly in men. This stoicism may lead to beliefs that sharing emotions is a sign of fragility or lack of control that would result in a poor evaluation by peers, while other cultures can be less judgmental about the expression of emotions. Support for this notion comes from a study by Okougha and Tilki2323 Okougha M, Tilki M. Experience of overseas nurses: the potential for misunderstanding. Br J Nurs. 2010 Jan 28-Feb 10;19(2):102-6. doi: 10.12968/bjon.2010.19.2.46293.
https://doi.org/10.12968/bjon.2010.19.2....
, in which the experiences of nurses from Ghana and Philippines caring for British families were analyzed. Their results suggest that British stoicism dealing with grief can lead to communication difficulties and others being judgmental about a perceived lack of distress. Their findings may also indicate reduced perceived usefulness of emotions, regardless of them being seen as signs of weakness2424 Tamir M, Ford BQ. Should people pursue feelings that feel good or feelings that do good? Emotional preferences and well-being. Emotion. 2012 Oct;12(5):1061-70. doi: 10.1037/a0027223.
https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027223...
.

Contrary to expectations, and in contrast with overall results, the Brazilian sample showed higher scores for item #12 (“Others expect me to always be in control of my emotions.”). One potential explanation for that is that Brazilians may believe that others expect emotional control, but if this control does not occur, they will not necessarily be evaluated as inferior. This is reinforced by item #3 (“If I lose control of my emotions in front of others, they will think less of me.”) having higher scores in the British sample, suggesting that Brazilians may perceive their peers as less judgmental about emotional expression. This is in line with the factor structure found by Mograbi et al.1919 Mograbi DC, Indelli P, Lage CA, Tebyriça V, Landeira-Fernandez J, Rimes KA. Adaptação transcultural e validação da versão brasileira da Escala de Crenças sobre Emoções. Trends Psychiatry Psychother. 2018 Mar;40(1):21-8. https://doi.org/10.1590/2237-6089-2017-0064
https://doi.org/10.1590/2237-6089-2017-0...
for the BES in Brazil, indicating emotional self-control and emotional expression as a sign of weakness as independent factors.

A similar reasoning can be used in relation to findings with item #7 (“I should not let myself give in to negative feelings.”) and #9 (“To be acceptable to others, I must keep any difficulties or negative feelings to myself.”), with Brazilians showing higher scores for the former but lower for the latter. While item #7 represents emotional self-control, item #9 refers to emotional expression. This suggests that Brazilians might think that they cannot give in to negative feelings, although this would not necessarily interfere with social acceptance. The emphasis of item #7 on negative feelings may also explain higher scores in the Brazilian sample, suggesting that participants from this country may show difficulties to accept negative emotions. This is supported by Senft et al.2525 Senft N, Campos B, Shiota MN, Chentsova-Dutton YE. Who emphasizes positivity? An exploration of emotion values in people of Latino, Asian, and European heritage living in the United States. Emotion. 2021 Jun;21(4):707-19. doi: 10.1037/emo0000737.
https://doi.org/10.1037/emo0000737...
results about the concept of “simpatia”, which expresses a warm ambience on interpersonal interaction found in Usonians with Latino heritage, suggesting that the experience and expression of negative emotions are less desirable for this group. This is also partially supported by the results of the cross-cultural adaptation of the Negative Mood Regulation Scale2626 Catanzaro SJ, Mearns J. Measuring generalized expectancies for negative mood regulation: Initial scale development and implications. J Pers Assess. 1990 Summer;54(3-4):546-63. doi: 10.1080/00223891.1990.9674019.
https://doi.org/10.1080/00223891.1990.96...
, in which Brazilians seem to have less capacity to regulate unpleasant emotions2727 Schneider JA, Habigzang LF, de Freitas CP. Translation, cultural, adaptation and validity evidence of the negative mood regulation scale for the Brazilian context. Curr Psychol. 2023 Mar;42(7):5188-99. doi:10.1007/s12144-021-01876-4
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-021-01876...
in relation to samples from other countries from the same region2828 Pfeiffer N, Martínez V, Mearns J, Catanzaro SJ, Rojas G, Backenstrass M, et al. Preliminary reliability and validity of the spanish generalized expectancies for negative mood regulation scale. Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2012 Feb;31(2):129-34., although there was no direct comparison between samples. This effect can also be linked to fear of judgement between social groups1313 Nelson JA, Leerkes EM, O'Brien M, Calkins SD, Marcovitch S. African American and European American mothers’ beliefs about negative emotions and emotion socialization practices. Parenting. 2012 Jan 1;12(1):22-41. doi:10.1080/15295192.2012.638871
https://doi.org/10.1080/15295192.2012.63...
, with developing countries having many layers of social divisions and low levels of social mobility compared to developed regions2929 Camelo LV, Giatti L, Duncan BB, Chor D, Griep RH, Schmidt MI, et al. Gender differences in cumulative life-course socioeconomic position and social mobility in relation to new onset diabetes in adults – the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil). Ann Epidemiol. 2016 Dec;26(12):858-64.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2016.09.014.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annepidem.2016...
. Future studies should investigate further potential differences in the expression and acceptability of negative emotions in Brazil.

The current study has a few important limitations. Firstly, data were collected online, which may have led to sampling biases (e.g., only participants who had internet access) and limits the ability to generalize results. As a related problem, the study lacks an elaborate assessment performed by a clinician. Nevertheless, online data collection was done to recruit a large sample, powering the study to detect differences. Secondly, the absence of a measure of educational level across the sites did not allow to control for the effects of this variable, with educational achievement being typically lower in Brazil than in the UK. Lower educational level has been linked to higher scores in the BES in Brazil1919 Mograbi DC, Indelli P, Lage CA, Tebyriça V, Landeira-Fernandez J, Rimes KA. Adaptação transcultural e validação da versão brasileira da Escala de Crenças sobre Emoções. Trends Psychiatry Psychother. 2018 Mar;40(1):21-8. https://doi.org/10.1590/2237-6089-2017-0064
https://doi.org/10.1590/2237-6089-2017-0...
. Finally, ethnicity, as a binary White/non-White variable, had a similar distribution across countries, but the composition of the non-White group was potentially very different for each site (e.g., the British sample had a larger proportion of Asian participants). Future studies should investigate the role of these sociodemographic variables in detail.

CONCLUSIONS

the current study indicated cultural differences in beliefs about emotions, with British participants generally showing greater endorsement of beliefs about the unacceptability of emotional experience and expression, but Brazilians endorsing more the need to control their feelings, especially if negative in nature. Cultural differences in beliefs about the expression of emotions need to be considered in treatment approaches by a variety of health workers, particularly by clinicians working in multicultural cities. The formulation of public mental health policies may also benefit from a deeper understanding of how people react to the experience of feeling and expressing emotions.

Individual Contributions

All authors declare to have fulfilled the following conditions: (1) to have significantly contributed to the conception and design of the studies, and to the analysis and interpretation of the data; (2) to have substantially contributed to the drafting of the article, critically reviewed its intellectual content, and (3) to have approved its final version to be published.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The authors acknowledge funding from Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (Capes – Brazil), Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPQ – Brazil; ref #311083/2020-0) and Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio de Janeiro (Faperj – Brazil; ref #246815).

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Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    28 Aug 2023
  • Date of issue
    2023

History

  • Received
    11 May 2023
  • Accepted
    17 July 2023
Instituto de Psiquiatria da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro Av. Venceslau Brás, 71 Fundos, 22295-140 Rio de Janeiro - RJ Brasil, Tel./Fax: (55 21) 3873-5510 - Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil
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