Office of Post-Doctoral Training



Post-Doctoral Training

School of Graduate Studies

site header

The Cultural Aspects of Emotion

November 27, 2014

Sieun An

Psychology Post-doctoral fellow Dr. Sieun An on the wintery Queen's campus

In her research, Sieun An works to uncover and understand cultural differences in social cognition and emotion. Dr. An is a post-doctoral fellow in the Culture and Cognition Lab under the supervision of Dr. Li-Jun Ji (Department of Psychology) where she studies the ways in which people across various cultures conceptualize emotion.

Originally from South Korea, Dr. An moved to the United States to pursue her education, earning a B.A. in Psychology from SUNY Albany, NY and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from New Mexico State University, where her research focused on moral attribution. “Morality is a crucial facet of human behavior, which can be used to explain why we behave the way we do. It is not simply an objective matter of what is morally right or wrong, but also involves our judgments and decisions about what is right or wrong, as well as parsing apart the various shades of grey”, Dr. An describes. “My research addresses the processes involved in moral cognition. I recently published a paper focusing on how moral processes occur differently in different cultures. I am also continuing several projects related to moral judgments in which I aim to clarify what might be the social nature of our moral processes, and what triggers our moral judgments.”

When joining Queen’s in the spring of 2014, Dr. An brought with her this expertise on the cultural aspects of cognition, which she applies to her research interest in emotion: “Traditionally, researchers in the field have considered emotion to be universal. In particular, emotional expressions appear to be consistent across cultures. We now understand, however, that emotions are subjective, and extend much deeper than their expressions. Furthermore, as our society becomes more globalized, we have come to notice that the quality of emotion that people from different cultures feel might vary. Thus, my colleagues and I are measuring emotion in a way that reveals the quality of each emotion, and perhaps the cause of cultural differences. We hope this can lead to a better understanding of cross-cultural differences and human behavior in general.”

In her most recent project, she and Dr. Ji investigate people’s responses to tragedies that affect others, how these tragedies affect their sense of responsibility, and how this effect differs across cultures. “We hope that our findings, which so far have produced interesting results, can assist individuals within a given culture by knowing how to handle, treat, counsel, and report on such occurrences. Our results also help to understand how people from outside cultures might interpret a tragic event.”

Dr. An has received a Post-Doctoral Travel Award to present her research on “The Role of Culture in People’s Responses to Accidental Tragedies” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology in Long Beach, California. 
She has recently been featured in an article in the Alumni Review on the international experience at Queen's.