Cross-cultural judgments of spontaneous facial expressions of emotion

David Matsumoto, Andres Olide, Joanna Schug, Bob Willingham, Mike Callan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


We report data concerning cross-cultural judgments of emotion in spontaneously produced facial expressions. Americans, Japanese, British, and International Students in the US reliably attributed emotions to the expressions of Olympic judo athletes at the end of a match for a medal, and at two times during the subsequent medal ceremonies. There were some observer culture differences in absolute attribution agreement rates, but high cross-cultural agreement in differences in attribution rates across expressions (relative agreement rates). Moreover, we operationalized signal clarity and demonstrated that it was associated with agreement rates similarly in all cultures. Finally, we obtained judgments of won-lost match outcomes and medal finish, and demonstrated that the emotion judgments were associated with accuracy in judgments of outcomes. These findings demonstrated that members of different cultures reliably judge spontaneously expressed emotions, and that across observer cultures, lower absolute agreement rates are related to noise produced by non-emotional facial behaviors. Also, the findings suggested that observers of different cultures utilize the same facial cues when judging emotions, and that the signal value of facial expressions is similar across cultures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-238
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Nonverbal Behavior
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2009


  • Attributions
  • Culture
  • Emotion
  • Facial expressions
  • Judgment accuracy
  • Signal clarity


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