Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Different Bumps in the Road: The Emotional Dynamics of Couple Disagreements in Belgium and Japan

Boiger, Michael, Kirchner-Häusler, Alexander, Schouten, Anna, Uchida, Yukiko, Mesquita, Batja (2020) Different Bumps in the Road: The Emotional Dynamics of Couple Disagreements in Belgium and Japan. Emotion, . ISSN 1528-3542. (doi:10.1037/emo0000910) (KAR id:82179)


In the present study, we propose that the emotional “bumps” that couples experience during relationship disagreements differ systematically among cultures. We predicted that self-assertive emotions such as anger or strength play a central role in Belgium, where they are instrumental for relational independence. In comparison, other-focused emotions such as shame or empathy for the partner should play a central role in Japan, where they support relational interdependence. Romantic couples from Belgium (n = 58) and Japan (n = 80) discussed relationship disagreements in the lab, which were video-recorded. After the interaction, participants separately rated their emotional experience during video-mediated recall. We identified the emotions that played a central role during the interactions in terms of attractors; these are the emotions around which couples stabilize and that likely play a central role in realizing different relationship ideals. In line with our predictions, attractors reflected states of the interpersonal emotional system that support independence in Belgium (e.g., angry or strong feelings) and interdependence (e.g., empathy) in Japan. Moreover, we found that—at least in Belgium—having more culturally typical interactions was associated with a stronger endorsement of culturally valued relationship ideals and, in turn, better relational functioning.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1037/emo0000910
Uncontrolled keywords: Culture, close relationships, attractors, dynamic systems
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Psychology
Depositing User: Alexander Kirchner Hausler
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2020 13:33 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2024 18:58 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Kirchner-Häusler, Alexander.

Creator's ORCID:
CReDIT Contributor Roles:
  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.