The Moderation Effect of Culture on the Relationship Between Ideal Affect and Emotion Regulation

Research output: Conference PapersPosterpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


Title126th Annual American Psychological Association Convention, APA 2018
LocationMoscone Center
PlaceUnited States
CitySan Francisco
Period9 - 12 August 2018


There is a growing interest in understanding the ways people regulate their negative emotions and the corresponding consequences (Gross, 2015). However, limited research investigates the antecedents of emotion regulation. This study proposes that emotion regulation may be affected by one’s desired emotional state (known as ideal affect; Tsai, 2007). Culture plays an important role in shaping people’s ideal affect and emotion regulation. In particular, European Americans value high arousal positive emotions (HAP; e.g., excitement), while Hong Kong Chinese value low arousal positive emotions (LAP; e.g., calmness) (Tsai et al., 2007). These two cultural groups also differ in the use of emotion regulation strategies. For example, Chinese used more avoidance than Americans (Lee, Aaker, & Gardner, 2000). Therefore, this study aims to test the relationship between ideal affect and emotion regulation strategies and whether such an association will be moderated by culture.

An online survey was conducted with 128 Caucasian American and 84 Hong Kong Chinese students (Mean age = 20.32; SD = 4.48; 75% female). The measurements included ideal affect (Tsai et al., 2006) and emotion regulation strategies including cognitive reappraisal and suppression (Gross & John, 2003), avoidance (Schirda et al., 2016), display rules (Matsumoto et al., 2005), and situation modification (Tsai, 2007).
Results showed that the interaction effects between ideal affect and culture on cognitive reappraisal were significant (0 = U.S. sample; 1 = HK sample; ideal HAP x culture: B = -.68, SE = .33, p =. 04, and ideal LAP x culture: B = -.76, SE = .35, p = .03). Specifically, ideal affect was only positively related to cognitive reappraisal in the U.S. sample (ideal HAP: B = .74, SE = .20, p < .001; ideal LAP: B = .68, SE = .24, p = .01), but not the Hong Kong sample (ideal HAP: B = .06, SE = .26, p > .05; ideal LAP: B = -.09, SE = .25, p > .05). For display rules, the interaction effect (ideal HAP x culture) was found in amplification (express more than true feelings), B = 1.29, SE = .48, p = .01. In particular, ideal HAP was only positively correlated with amplification in the Hong Kong sample (B = .76, SE = .38, p = .05), but not the U.S. sample (B = -.53, SE = .29, p = .07).
For other strategies, there were only main effects of ideal HAP (B = .46, SE = .23, p = .05) and culture (B = .93, SE = .33, p = .005) on avoidance, and the main effect of culture on situation modification (B = 1.03, SE = .42, p = .02). Relative to Americans, Hong Kong Chinese were more likely to use avoidance and choose a LAP situation (e.g., listen to calm music) to regulate their emotions.
Findings of this study revealed that the selection of emotion regulation strategies could be influenced by one’s desired emotion. This sheds a light on the roles of ideal affect and culture when studying emotion regulation.

Citation Format(s)

The Moderation Effect of Culture on the Relationship Between Ideal Affect and Emotion Regulation. / Zhou, Xiaoyu; Zhang, Yuye ; Yeung, Dannii et al.
2018. Poster session presented at 126th Annual American Psychological Association Convention, APA 2018, San Francisco, California, United States.

Research output: Conference PapersPosterpeer-review