Non-verbal emotional vocalizations across cultures [Abstract]

Sauter, D. (2010). Non-verbal emotional vocalizations across cultures [Abstract]. In E. Zimmermann, & E. Altenmüller (Eds.), Evolution of emotional communication: From sounds in nonhuman mammals to speech and music in man (pp. 15). Hannover: University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover.
Despite differences in language, culture, and ecology, some human characteristics are similar in people all over the world, while other features vary from one group to the next. These similarities and differences can inform arguments about what aspects of the human mind are part of our shared biological heritage and which are predominantly products of culture and language. I will present data from a cross-cultural project investigating the recognition of non-verbal vocalizations of emotions, such as screams and laughs, across two highly different cultural groups. English 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 recognised. In contrast, a set of additional positive emotions was only recognised within, but not across, cultural boundaries. These results indicate that a number of primarily negative emotions are associated with vocalizations that can be recognised across cultures, while at least some positive emotions are communicated with culture-specific signals. I will discuss these findings in the context of accounts of emotions at differing levels of analysis, with an emphasis on the often-neglected positive emotions.
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