Heterogeneity of long-history migration explains cultural differences in reports of emotional expressivity and the functions of smiles

Magdalena Rychlowska, Yuri Miyamoto, David Matsumoto, Ursula Hess, Eva Gilboa-Schechtman, Shanmukh Kamble, Hamdi Muluk, Takahiko Masuda, Paula Marie Niedenthal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Citations (Scopus)


A small number of facial expressions may be universal in that they are produced by the same basic affective states and recognized as such throughout the world. However, other aspects of emotionally expressive behavior vary widely across culture. Just why do they vary? We propose that some cultural differences in expressive behavior are determined by historical heterogeneity, or the extent to which a country's present-day population descended from migration from numerous vs. few source countries over a period of 500 y. Our reanalysis of data on cultural rules for displaying emotion from 32 countries [n = 5,340; Matsumoto D, Yoo S, Fontaine J (2008) J Cross Cult Psychol 39(1):55-74] reveals that historical heterogeneity explains substantial, unique variance in the degree to which individuals believe that emotions should be openly expressed. We also report an original study of the underlying states that people believe are signified by a smile. Cluster analysis applied to data from nine countries (n = 726), including Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States, reveals that countries group into "cultures of smiling" determined by historical heterogeneity. Factor analysis shows that smiles sort into three social-functional subtypes: pleasure, affiliative, and dominance. The relative importance of these smile subtypes varies as a function of historical heterogeneity. These findings thus highlight the power of social-historical factors to explain cross-cultural variation in emotional expression and smile behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E2429-E2436
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number19
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2015


  • Collectivism-individualism
  • Culture
  • Emotion
  • Historical demographics
  • Smile


Dive into the research topics of 'Heterogeneity of long-history migration explains cultural differences in reports of emotional expressivity and the functions of smiles'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this