Research Lead: Cross-cultural

“Social status and anger expression: The cultural moderation hypothesis”


In a cross-cultural study of emotion, published in the December issue of Emotion, Park et al. explored the relationship between anger and social status in American and Japanese adults. Park et al. point out that while research has linked low status individuals to higher levels of anger, the work to date has been conducted primarily on Western populations. In the West, anger is primarily used to vent frustration–a precursor to anger thought to be the result of limited opportunity to pursue individual goals. In Japan, however, due to the interdependent nature of the culture, anger is not as readily expressed. Japanese of high status, however, may be more willing to display anger as a way to exert authority and dominance over others.

In the present work, Park et al employed large representative surveys in both the United States and Japan to study the relationship between anger, subjective and objective social status, and frustration. Consistent with previous research Park et al. found that Americans who reported lower subjective social status were more likely to report being angry, with the link between status and anger mediated by level of frustration. Conversely, objectively higher status Japanese were more likely to report anger, with the link between status and anger mediated by decision-making authority. These results suggest culture moderates the link between an individual’s expression of anger and his or her social status. More broadly, this study highlights the role culture plays in emotional expression.