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Department of Psychology Gartstein Temperament Lab

Russians don’t smile much, but that doesn’t mean they don’t like you

Excerpt from Washington Post Article June 2018:

In the lead-up to the World Cup, articles appeared noting that Russian workers were being taught how to properly smile at the foreign soccer fans who would soon be visiting their country.

One of us – Masha – is a Russian immigrant. She’ll be quick to tell you that in Russia, randomly smiling at strangers in public is often viewed as a sign of mental illness or inferior intellect.

Of course, in the U.S. and many other countries, smiling is a common, reflexive gesture of goodwill.

There is, indeed, truth to the “smiling gap”: In our psychology research, we’ve noticed a striking difference in how often people smile in the United States when compared to Russia. To Americans, it might be easy to assume that this says something about Russians – that they’re an unfriendly, callous people.

But that’s not the case at all. Instead, it’s worth looking at why certain expressions, like smiling, become a key part of social exchanges in some cultures and not others.

As far as we can tell, there are two likely explanations for the smiling gap: how people in different cultures communicate with one another and cross-cultural differences in personality or temperament.

 

How U.S. Babies Behave Differently From Infants in Other Cultures – HUFFPO

Excerpt from Huffington Post Article January 2017:

Babies are comfortable expressing negative moods, while American babies are particularly active and social. That’s because the values and norms of your culture shape the person you’ll become from a young age, scientists believe.

And the earliest, and likely the most lasting, of these cultural influences comes from ― you guessed it ― your parents.

During the five years she spent studying babies around the world, Washington State University psychologist Dr. Maria Gartstein made some striking observations of how parents’ different cultural values influenced the temperaments and behavior of their babies. These temperamental patterns could set the stage for mental health or illness down the road.

Gartstein and her colleagues conducted a cross-cultural examination of the behavior of Chilean, Polish, South Korean and American babies, the results of which were recently published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology. The mothers of 125 to 420 babies in each country were asked to fill out observations of more than 200 behaviors and temperamental qualities in their infants at 6 months and 1 year old, including activity level, shyness, sadness, cuddliness and attention focusing.

The results showed significant parenting differences across these four cultures. American babies, for instance, were more social and impulsive than babies from the other countries, and they were also the most likely to enjoy highly stimulating activities.

“[American babies] have some unique opportunities and challenges, compared to infants growing up in other regions of the world,” Gartstein said. “I really appreciate their readiness to engage and share enjoyment ― the baby version of extraversion, if you will.”

American mothers also reported that their babies were less likely to display negative emotions, and are easy to soothe when upset. This behavior may result from parents discouraging their children from expressing negative emotions.

The other babies, however, acted very differently. In fact, Garstein says that she was taken aback by the extent of the behavioral differences seen across cultures.

“One of my more profound moments occurred when I realized that parent-infant interaction dynamics varied dramatically, even in cultures we think of as being similar,” Gartstein told The Huffington Post.

U.S. Babies are more social than other kids – TIME


Babies born in the United States are more social and impulsive than those from some other countries, outlines a recent publication authored by Dr. Masha Gartstein.

East–west, collectivist-individualist: A cross-cultural examination of temperament in toddlers from Chile, Poland, South Korea, and the U.S.“, published in the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, Oct 2016 – shows US kids are also, according to their moms, more likely to enjoy highly stimulating activities, less likely to be unhappy or angry and are easier to comfort when they do get upset.

Dutch babies smile more than US peers

A study by Gartstein et al in 2015 examined temperamental differences between U.S. and Dutch babies – and found infants born in the Netherlands are more likely to be happy and easier to soothe in the latter half of their first year. U.S. infants, on the other hand, were typically more active and vocal, said study co-author Maria Gartstein, a Washington State University associate professor of psychology.

The results of the study, published in the January 2015 print edition of the European Journal of Developmental Psychology, in many ways reflect American and Dutch parents’ unique cultural values, Gartstein said.

U.S. parents often emphasize the importance of stimulation, exposing their children to a wide variety of new experiences to promote independence, a cultural ideal. Parents in Holland are more likely to incorporate children into daily activities at home, placing strong value on the importance of rest and regularity.

A greater understanding of these values and the impact they have on an infant’s temperament will help psychologists fine-tune ways to prevent infant temperament issues from becoming behavioral problems later in life.Dutc