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Emotional fit within and between cultural contexts: Analyzing natural language to describe and compare the conceptual system for emotions

Project description

Analyzing emotional fit in natural language descriptions of experience

It is remarkable how we learn to understand and express our emotions. It is a process that takes place within our culture. In fact, emotional fit between ourselves and other members of our culture is a protective factor for mental and physical health. Our descriptions of experience demonstrate how we understand our emotions, and how we fit with other culture members. Previous research has focused on the emotion words we use to label our experiences. Additional research is necessary to discover what other aspects of language are important to emotional fit. Using qualitative and automated analyses of natural language, the EU-funded CONCEPT FIT project will address this need by investigating how Dutch-speaking Belgians describe their emotional experiences. A cross-cultural comparison with English speakers from the US will also be conducted.


The frequencies, intensities, and types of emotions people experience in a given situation differ systematically across cultural boundaries. This variation is inherently meaningful because it reflects differences in the conceptual system for emotions, with implications for well-being. Emotional fit between an individual and other members of their culture is a protective factor for mental and physical health, as is a well-developed conceptual repertoire for emotions. Although language is often used to understand the conceptual system for emotions, this work has remained limited by theories that focus on emotion words at the expense of other features of language, and methods that do not allow for discovery-oriented analysis. In this research project, I will address these limitations by describing the conceptual system for emotions in Dutch-speaking Belgians using a qualitative (objective 1) and automated (objective 2) analysis of natural language. I will then perform a cross-cultural comparison with English speakers from the US (objective 3), and derive a natural language-based measure of emotional fit between individuals and their fellow culture members (objective 4). To accomplish these goals, I propose a 2-year stay at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven under the supervision of Prof. Batja Mesquita, a pioneer in the study of culture and emotion whose ERC Advanced grant will provide key data for my project. I will also be supported by Profs. Peter Kuppens and Dirk Geeraerts, experts in individual differences and linguistic theory, respectively. I further propose a secondment with Dr. Ryan L. Boyd of Lancaster University, who will train me in state-of-the-art methods in automated text analysis. The deliverables of the project also include an article reviewing approaches to analyzing emotion language, and development of supervision and communication skills. This project will expand the understanding of emotional experience, and will enhance my future career possibilities.


Net EU contribution
€ 178 320,00
3000 Leuven

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Vlaams-Brabant Arr. Leuven
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 178 320,00