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Journal Article

Cross-cultural recognition of basic emotions through nonverbal emotional vocalizations


Eisner,  Frank
Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, University College London, United Kingdom;
Adaptive Listening, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Sauter, D., Eisner, F., Ekman, P., & Scott, S. K. (2010). Cross-cultural recognition of basic emotions through nonverbal emotional vocalizations. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(6), 2408-2412. doi:10.1073/pnas.0908239106.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-2A5E-F
Emotional signals are crucial for sharing important information, with conspecifics, for example, to warn humans of danger. Humans use a range of different cues to communicate to others how they feel, including facial, vocal, and gestural signals. We examined the recognition of nonverbal emotional vocalizations, such as screams and laughs, across two dramatically different cultural groups. Western participants were compared to individuals from remote, culturally isolated Namibian villages. Vocalizations communicating the so-called “basic emotions” (anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and surprise) were bidirectionally recognized. In contrast, a set of additional emotions was only recognized within, but not across, cultural boundaries. Our findings indicate that a number of primarily negative emotions have vocalizations that can be recognized across cultures, while most positive emotions are communicated with culture-specific signals.