Cultural difference in recognition of facial emotional expression: Contrast between Japanese and American raters


Correspondence address: SiuWa TangMD, PhD Department of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour, North Campus Research LAB (ZOT 1681), University of California, Irvine, CA 92697, USA. Email:


Using the Japanese and Caucasian Facial Expressions of Emotion (JACFEE) photo set, the relationship between recognition and intensity ratings of universal facial expressions of emotions in 123 Japanese undergraduate students was examined and compared with data reported by American raters. In Japanese raters, although the intensity was rated as high for some of the poses, their correctness scores were poor, suggesting a serious misjudgment of the intended emotions as defined in the JACFEE photo set. Only in Japanese raters were significant relationships between the intensity scores and the percentage correctness scores for sadness detected (r = 0.97, P < 0.0001), but no significant relationship was observed for other emotions. The robust correlation suggests the possibility that Japanese raters might be more responsive to certain emotional expressions when they are fully or intensely expressed. It is proposed that the facial emotional expression paradigm cannot be applied to the psychiatric setting without first refining for cultural differences.