Experiencing mixed emotions shows emotional complexity, not indecision, and people living in different parts of the world vary in their ability to distinguish between multiple feelings they’re having at once, according to new research.
“We found that both westerners and non-westerners who show mixed feelings are better able to differentiate their emotions and experience their lives in an emotionally rich and balanced fashion,” said lead author Igor Grossmann, a professor at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
People living in self-oriented cultures -- such as Canada, the US, Australia or Great Britain -- were less emotionally complex than people living in other-oriented cultures with a greater emphasis on feelings of duty and familial bonds.
People in various parts of Asia and Russia showed considerably more complexity in their emotions, the research indicated.
“People in those other-oriented cultures are more likely to experience emotional complexity because they are able to see different perspectives,” said Grossmann.
The study examined how people across 16 cultures vary in their tendency to see situations as either all good or all bad, or in a more complex fashion by seeing a little of both.
The research involved three studies. One of them used a text-analysis tool to measure the prevalence of mixed emotional expressions in 1.3 million English-language websites and blogs.
The other two studies focused on the ways in which people report their emotions across a range of daily experiences, examining whether they report experiencing mixed feelings, and whether they differentiate between different types of positive and negative experiences.
The paper was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
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