“Many of the answers about emotions are not to be found in our insides, but importantly, in our social contexts,” contends Mesquita, a psychology professor at the University of Leuven, Belgium, in her dazzling debut. Arguing that “we primarily have emotions in order to adjust to changes in our relationship with the (social) world,” the author uses social psychology and eye-opening case studies to examine the cultural, political, and economic factors that influence what people feel. Mesquita lays out two ways of thinking about emotions: MINE (“Mental, INside the person, and Essentialist”) and OURS (“OUtside the person, Relational, and Situated”). She suggests that Western cultures tend to take the MINE approach while OURS predominates everywhere else, and she cites a study that found Japanese Olympic athletes emphasized the relational aspect of emotions more than their American counterparts in interviews. Exploring how parents instruct children in emotional norms, Mesquita describes how Minangkabau people in West Sumatra shame kids when they break a norm and how Bara people in Madagascar teach the young to fear displeasing ancestral spirits so that the children comply with authority. The bounty of case studies captivates and makes a strong argument that social conditions have the power to dictate how one expresses and experiences emotions. The result is a bracing and bold appraisal of how feelings develop. (July)
"Emotions are cultural tools for surviving, thriving in, and even shaping the world we live in. Between Us is a vibrant tour de force from the preeminent scholar on cultural variation in emotions. Prepare to be astounded."
"If you want to understand how the patterns of your emotional life emerge from the sociocultural context of your life, there is no better book to read than Between Us. It’s a profound book. Yet, at its core, it is also a powerful humility, a humility that is an actual methodology for understanding and navigating cultural differences in emotion. It should be read by everyone from kindergarten teachers to corporate CEOs. And blessedly, it’s a great read—accessible, delightful, and inspiring."
"Batja Mesquita’s work on culture and emotion is highly original and highly important and has been influential in shaping the science of emotion. It’s no surprise that Between Us is a groundbreaking book."
"In Between Us, acclaimed affective scientist Batja Mesquita compellingly shows that understanding people across cultural and racial divides requires immersing yourself in their diverse emotional realities. The book is a must-read for everyone working towards justice and inclusion from law enforcement to schools to the workplace."
"Stemming from over three decades of scientific study and immigrant experiences, Between Us presents engaging stories and evidence-based insights that both satisfy and fascinate. You’ll come away understanding how and why emotion scientists got answers to the culture question so wrong for so long, as well as how Batja Mesquita and others ventured to get it right. Between Us is a must-read."
"Between Us takes you on a grand tour of the world and the mind, led by one of the world’s leading experts on emotion and culture. The journey is a joy, full of puzzles, insights, and empathy, and by the end you'll understand yourself, your culture, and our common yet variable humanity better."
"With globalization increasing, time and again we face the unsettling realization that emotions unfurl so differently across cultural lines. Why is that? Now, from the world’s leading expert on the science of culture and emotion, you’ll find answers to this increasingly consequential question. Beyond an informative read, Batja Mesquita’s Between Us is a fun read. Here, stemming from her 3+ decades of scientific study and immigrant experiences, you’ll find engaging stories and evidence-based insights that both satisfy and fascinate. You’ll come away understanding how and why emotion scientists got answers to the culture question so wrong for so long, as well as how she and others ventured to get it right. To better understand humanity, in the widest sense, Between Us is a must-read."
Emotions have long been considered internal feelings common to all humans. Not so, according to this insightful analysis.
Born and raised in Holland, a professor in the U.S. for 20 years, and now the director of the Center for Social and Cultural Psychology in Leuven, Belgium, Mesquita has learned that her emotions—or anyone’s emotions—are not part of some kind of universal default. As the author shows, outside of WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic) cultures, “talking about our emotions as internal experiences is quite exceptional in the world. People in many cultures talk about emotions as more ‘public, social, and relational’…as acts in the social and moral world.” In other words, “emotions are OURS as much as they are MINE.” For skeptical readers, Mesquita delivers a few interesting jolts. We take for granted that expressing emotions is psychologically healthy. Even non-Freudian experts agree that suppressing one’s feelings leads to neuroticism, misery, or worse. Yet it turns out that “authenticity”—expressing one’s inner feelings—is a virtue in WEIRD society and almost nowhere else. In much of Africa and Asia, it’s a sign of immaturity. “Calmness is a preferred emotion in a culture that expects you to put the group’s needs above your own,” and this is largely the norm outside the West. In Buddhist teachings, expressing negative feelings exacerbates them, so mature adults remain detached in the face of suffering or frustration. Mesquita maintains that much scientifically confirmed psychology does not survive exposure to other cultures. “Bridging cultural differences in emotions,” she writes, “will require you to do the hard work of unpacking the emotional episodes….Unpacking emotional episodes means to humanize the people who live through them.” Countless words regarding emotions fail to translate across language barriers. For example, Japanese employs the same word for shame and embarrassment, and Polish lacks a word for disgust.
An astute psychological study of emotions around the world.