Jessie Mano ’20 researches cultural ties to the way emotions and moods are affected at Dr. Jeanne Tsai’s Culture and Emotion Laboratory in Stanford, CA

Hello! My name is Jessie Mano and I am a rising senior at Whitman College majoring in Psychology. This summer I had the amazing opportunity to be a Research Assistant at Dr. Jeanne Tsai’s Culture and Emotion Laboratory. Located at the heart of Stanford University’s campus in Jordan Hall, the mission of this lab is to investigate and compare people’s affect (emotions and moods) across cultures.

The Culture and Emotion lab implements a variety of methods, such as surveys and neuroimaging techniques, to examine how culture influences people’s feelings, and how that ultimately extends to become moderators of behavior. The lab has already established that culture plays a role in shaping the affective state that an individual ideally wants to feel, also known as their ideal affect. For example, it has been observed in previous works that members of North American culture value high arousal positive (HAP) states like excitement and enthusiasm, whereas members of East Asian cultures value low arousal positive (LAP) states like calmness. Extending off this knowledge, the lab has several ongoing projects, each looking at how different behaviors and actions are affected. I primarily worked on two projects, the first dealing with the role of ideal affect in prosocial behavior. This study examines how cultural differences in ideal affect influences the extent to which a person is willing to give to others in an economic context when an ideal affect match is either present or not. My duties for this project included conducting literature research for background information on the time duration of affective stimuli on mood induction and troubleshooting the survey paradigm so that it could be launched to participants.

The second study I helped on looks at the differences of social perception across cultures and how cultural differences in ideal affect shape how an individual perceives others and makes judgements about leadership potential. Specifically, this study compares European American’s leadership choices during times of growth, stability, and crisis to those of Hong Kong Chinese individuals, under the same varying conditions. For this project, I worked alongside postdoctoral researcher and head of the project, Dr. Lucy Zhang Bencharit. My responsibilities for this study involved collecting additional background literature reviews and meta-analyses related to the topic of leadership choice/qualities and decision making under times of crisis. Furthermore, Dr. Bencharit and I created the study paradigm through Qualtrics. In this survey, I coded/inserted images, text, and display logic to create hypothetical situations in which participants are asked to choose a business leader under certain conditions.

There were also points throughout my internship where I was able to observe other studies’ behavioral and MRI scan sessions, as well as sit in on meetings in which postdocs and graduate students from the other psychology labs presented their currents works in progress for feedback. These meetings were especially interesting to be a part of because I was able to learn about the different types of research being done within the social psychology department at Stanford, like how race shapes perception in the criminal justice system or how culture influences who we choose relationships with. I was also able to see all the ins and outs of the thought processes that go into conducting one’s own research study.

This was my second time doing a research internship, and I am thankful to have been able to build on my skills necessary for such work and meet some incredibly accomplished people within the field. I am especially grateful for this past summer’s work as it has validated my passion for pursuing a career involving social psychology research. I believe it is incredibly valuable to understand the impact cultural differences have in the way people think and act. Acknowledging the implications of such findings seems pertinent for coexisting in an ever-growing multicultural world.

Experiences like Jessie Mano’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez



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