Cultural Background and Input Familiarity Influence Multisensory Emotion Perception

Peiyao Chen*, Ashley Chung-Fat-Yim, Taomei Guo, Viorica Marian

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: During multisensory emotion perception, the attention devoted to the visual versus the auditory modality (i.e., modality dominance) varies depending on the cultural background of the perceiver. In the present study, we examined (a) howcultural familiarity influences multisensory emotion perception in Eastern and Western cultures and (b) the underlying processes accounting for the cultural difference in modality dominance. Method: Native Mandarin speakers from China and native English speakers from the United States were presented with audiovisual emotional stimuli from their own culture (i.e., familiar) and from a different culture (i.e., unfamiliar) and asked to evaluate the emotion from one of the two modalities. Across modalities, the emotions were either the same (i.e., congruent, happy face, and happy voice) or different (i.e., incongruent, happy face, and sad voice). Results: When the input was in a familiar cultural context,American participants were more influenced by the visual modality, while Chinese participants were more influenced by the auditory modality. While both groups integrated the incongruent emotion from the irrelevant modality, only the American group integrated the congruent emotion from the irrelevant modality. When the input was in a less familiar cultural context, both groups showed increased visual dominance, but only the Chinese group simultaneously showed decreased auditory dominance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • cross-cultural differences
  • emotions
  • familiarity
  • modality dominance
  • multisensory perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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