Monday 21 July 2008

Research Bulletin: Learning about Emotions

With this post, we introduce our research bulletins, in which empirical studies both current and past, which are relevant to the psychology of fiction, are briefly described. Jeanne Tsai, along with Jennifer Louie, Eva Chen and Yukiko Uchida recently published a fascinating paper that examined culture, children’s storybooks, and ideal emotions, in three separate studies. Ideal emotions are emotional states that are viewed as optimal. The researchers found that European American preschoolers—as compared with Taiwanese preschoolers—viewed excited states as preferable to, and happier than, calm states (Study 1). This difference was also reflected in the popular storybooks for each country. In America, the pictures in storybooks were more likely to depict an excited state (in both expressions and activities), than were the pictures in storybooks popular in Taiwan (Study 2). Lastly, exposing children from either culture to either exciting or calm stories, altered preference and evaluations of either excited or calm states. That is: no matter what the culture, children who were read an exciting story (as opposed to a calm story) were more likely to view excited states as preferable to calm states, and also to see these excited states as happier (Study 3). This research provides important insight into how exposure to children’s storybooks can influence emotional preferences, and also provides a good model of how a complicated research question can be approached by multiple different methodological perspectives. For more details, please read:

Tsai, J. L., Louie, J. Y., Chen, E. E., & Uchida, Y. (2007). Learning what feelings to desire: Socialization of ideal affect through children’s storybooks. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 17–30.

If you have any difficulty obtaining this paper, please contact Raymond Mar.

This post was written by Raymond Mar, and is made on his behalf while he is temporarily away.

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