Emotion lexicon in the Sepedi, Xitsonga and Tshivenda language groups in South Africa : the impact of culture on emotion
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Emotions are seen as one of the basic functions of the human psyche and therefore play a central role in psychology (Salovey & Mayer, 1990), especially in work and organisational psychology, both in theoretical and applied settings. Moreover, studying emotions is also most relevant for applied psychology within the South-African context with cross-cultural assessments becoming more prominent since South Africa's first democratic elections held in April 1994, as well as with stronger demands for the cultural appropriateness of psychological tests. With its advanced legal regulations with respect to the use of psychological tests (Constitution of the Republic of South Africa (Act 108 of 1996), the Labour Relations Act (66 of 1995), and the Employment Equity Act (55 of 1998), and the Health Professions Act (56 of 1974)), it is essential to know at which point universal aspects of emotions turn culture-specific since only psychological tests that are restricted to the universal aspects can be used without bias across cultural groups. The objectives of this research was to conceptualise emotion and culture according to a literature study, to identify the different emotion words within the Sepedi, Xitsonga and Tshivenda language groups, to determine prototypical emotion words and to determine the cognitive structure (different dimensions) of emotion concepts across these three language groups, as well as to do a comparison between the Sepedi, Xitsonga and Tshivenda emotion structure in order to determine how emotions manifest itself within these language groups. A survey design with convenience sampling was used to achieve the research objectives in a series of three studies (phases). The study population for the first (N=310) and third (N=550) study consisted of entry level police applicants from the South African Police Services (SAPS). The study population of the second phase consisted of language experts (N=30). Free listing questionnaires, prototypicallity questionnaires and Similarity rating questionnaires were administered. Statistical methods and procedures (Multidimensional Scaling and Descriptive Statistics) were used and Cronbach alpha coefficients were determined to analyse the results. Results of the free listing task gave a strong indication that basic emotion concepts (love, joy, anger, sadness, fear, and surprise) readily came to mind within all three cultures. Emotion concepts listed (with higher frequency) by the Xitsonga group, more so than the other two groups, could be interpreted as emotion words associated with social, personality or environmental aspects and may be related to negative evaluation, dominance and/or aggression. Large, practically significant differences were found with regards to the emotion concepts derived from the prototypicality results. Most prototypical concepts listed by the Sepedi speaking group were that of loneliness, emptiness, glumness, melancholy, moodiness, restlessness, unhappiness, displeasure and more. Most prototypical concepts as rated by the Xitsonga speaking group were that of shock, doubt, humiliation, shyness and other. The Tshivenda speaking group rated the following emotion concepts as most prototypical: upset, worry, troubled, aggression, revulsion, disgust, insecurity and more. In order to determine the cognitive structure of emotion concepts a multi-dimensional scaling was performed where a three-dimensional structure (evaluation, arousal, and dominance) and a four factor loading (positive emotion, sadness, fear, and anger) were expected for each language group. With emotion categories being formed as a result of experiences within a specific social environment and organised around basic prototypes, similarities and differences was found.
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