Discover more about the research program.

Emotion acculturation - Gateways into minority inclusion

March 2020 – March 2025

ERC Advanced Grant

International migration has often been referred to as one of the major challenges of the 21st century. Numbers of immigrants have been increasing, but social integration of migrants and their children is lagging at the detriment of immigrant minorities themselves and often resulting in conflict within receiving societies.

EmotionAcculturation investigates the role of emotions, as key processes of interaction, for immigrant minorities’ social inclusion, and their wellbeing. It builds on research showing that, in each culture, emotions are socialized to fit the most valued kinds of relationships, and that the prevalent emotions, therefore, vary across different cultures.  

We pose that a misfit of the emotions of immigrant minorities with the typical majority emotions compromises interactions, and that this will hamper their social integration, and therefore their opportunities in the larger society.

We study how and when emotional acculturation forms an important gateway to the social inclusion and wellbeing of immigrant minority individuals.

The project is organized around three objectives: 

  • The nature of emotional acculturation.
  • The conditions of emotional acculturation.
  • The outcomes of emotional acculturation.   

In order to answer these questions, we collect new and innovative data through several studies.

Newcomers Study

October 2020 – June 2024

Newcomers study is a three-wave longitudinal study (each wave separated by one year) among immigrants during their first three years in the new culture, which is a very dynamic phase that may determine long-term social inclusion. Newcomers will have been in the country for less than 5 years. The Newcomers’ Study will include 400 newcomers from Muslim countries (Turkish, Morrocan, and Algerian) to Belgium and 400 Central-American newcomers to Southern California. It also includes 200 majority members (N = 200 majority Belgians and N = 200 European Americans) who will serve as the standards of fit.

Dail Diary School Study

October 2021 – April 2022

The Daily Diary School study involves 200 Turkish/Moroccan-Belgian students and 100 of their majority Belgian class mates from ethnically diverse secondary schools in Flanders. They report their emotions during a seven-day period. This study allows us to systematically test the prediction that the minority students will have different emotions when they are in majority than in minority contexts, and that the level of fit with majority emotions varies by context.

Dyadic Interaction Study

September 2022 – June 2024

The Dyadic interaction study is a lab study that will enable us to test the role of emotional fit in social interactions. By conducting the study in the lab, we are able to measure the coordination of facial behaviors as a behavioral indication of emotional fit. The study will be conducted with 200 dyads (400 participants) of college students. The study will be conducted both in Belgium (Turkish-Belgian minority and Belgian majority) and the US (Mexican-American minority and European American majority).

Towards emotional understanding in multicultural contexts​

October 2022 – October 2026

C2 Grant (IOF)​

Emotions vary across cultures in meaning, prevalence, and social adaptability. In increasingly multicultural societies, these cultural differences in emotions might hinder intercultural understanding between individuals and the development of intercultural relationships.

This project builds on cross-cultural research on emotions to develop an intervention that promotes awareness of cultural differences in emotion. This intervention is expected to aid mutual emotional understanding and bolster intercultural relationships. The intervention shifts its focus from remedying “shortcomings” in social competence among minority individuals to cultivating a multicultural competency between both minority and majority individuals.

This project is organized around three main findings

  • Emotions are key to social relationships. Emotions play a major role in our everyday social lives. Having emotions means to appraise what events mean to our motives and goals and to decide how to relate to the social world.
  • Emotional understanding is key to social competence. There is overwhelming evidence that emotional understanding is key to successful relationships and professional outcomes. Adults with better emotional understanding tend to be responsible, caring, and socially competent members of their society.
  • Emotional understanding is cultured. Emotional understanding may be harder in intercultural interactions, as there is marked cultural variation in emotions

Emotion-difference understanding in intercultural buddy relationships study

October 2022 – October 2024

This study explores whether awareness of cultural differences in emotions promotes mutual emotional understanding among intercultural dyads in buddy projects in Belgium. The buddies will engage in two emotional tasks and discuss them with each other. These interactions will be assessed through coding, along with the buddy’s questionnaire responses. The findings will contribute to a better understanding of how awareness of cultural differences in emotions influences emotional understanding within intercultural relationships.

Emotion-difference intervention in intercultural buddy relationships

June 2024 – June 2025

This study explores the effects of an emotion-difference intervention on relationship quality. The same buddies involved in the emotion-difference understanding study will be approached at a later time.