Emotion Speaks Louder than Words Across 11 Cultures, 10 Countries and 8 Languages!
Welcome to Part 3 of our international, multilingual exploration of culture using text analytics!
In Part 1 of this series, I provided a topline analysis of comments from more than 15,500 people spanning 11 cultures in 10 countries and eight languages in response to one question:
“How would you explain <insert country> culture to someone who isn’t at all familiar with it?”
Part 2 took a deeper dive into the key similarities and differences among cultures in our study, revealing how respective members see themselves.
But things got really interesting when OdinText analyzed people’s comments for emotion. Here we have a bit of a surprise. One might expect people’s descriptions of their cultures to be generally positive and for the range of emotions to be fairly narrow, but this was hardly the case. In fact, the emotional analysis revealed much more than just people’s impressions of their own cultures; this exercise tapped into state of mind! You’ll see what I mean in the spider charts for our emotional analysis and verbatim* comments included below.
*Note: Verbatim comments are either translated or [sic]
U.S.A. (High Positive Sentiment)
Americans are Angry! Twice as Angry as the international average. The Anger is accompanied by high levels of Fear/Anxiety and even Disgust, an emotion we don’t see often outside of food categories and which in this case appears to be related to the recent presidential election.
Joy is also lower than average (and trust is slightly below average), which begs the question: How could we also have a somewhat higher than average overall positive sentiment? The answer lies in a very polarized/divided populous, almost half of whom are bullish and joyful in their descriptions!
[USA Emotions Blue - International Mean Red]
“Expect cordiality and indifference equally, as well as politeness and kindness that may turn to anger and malice. We are all different, and reflections of the world around us. We expect to be treated fairly and bear grudges beyond what is necessary. Racism is a dread poison that has seeped into the veins of our country. While none truly want to take the antidote. There is no standard in our country, people are all different as America breeds individuality.” – FEAR/ANXIETY (and mixed emotion)
“the expression of self in the most obnoxious form one can think of…Fat, dumb and ugly, Loud and obnoxious, Donald Trump - the ugly American” – DISGUST
“I honestly don't know what American culture is. We're such a large country, not at all homogenous. I think we have regional cultures and I would be comfortable explaining southern culture to someone. In the south, most people are neighborly, incredibly polite, and have a strong sense of pride for their region. I would have said a unifying feature of American citizenry was out unified devotion to country, but even that is questionable at times. Overall, I think it depends where in America one is.” – TRUST
“Freedom. Even with all the stuff going on, we still have the best country in the world because we have freedom of speech, choice, and worship…” – JOY
UNITED KINGDOM (Average Positive Sentiment)
In the UK, emotion around culture scored pretty average with one notable exception: Fear/Anxiety registered almost twice as high as the international average (although neither was as pronounced as what Americans expressed).
“Difficult to say as different parts of Britain have different cultures… difficult to understand Polite hypocritical compassionate confusing people” – FEAR/ANXIETY
“We have a prime minister we didn't elect, England messed up Scotland independence, Brexit is a disaster but we never give up.” – FEAR/ANXIETY
“Unsure, confused and varied… It's dead” – FEAR/ANXIETY
[NOTE: comments like “unsure, confused and varied” is a common theme in many of the cultural descriptions, not just for the UK]
AUSTRALIA (Very High Positive Sentiment)
Australians described their culture as laid back, and the emotions they expressed back it up. Their comments contained far less (about half as much) Anger than the international average, lower Sadness and significantly higher Joy. Australian comments also don’t reflect much Surprise, with very few using terms such as “amazing.” Comments are more often relaxed (and often mention this term).
“Its full of kindness, reslectfuly, courageness and happy” - JOY
“limited. But great mateship” – JOY
“Inclusive, relaxed, full of laughter” – JOY
“Laid back, relaxed and able to laugh at ourselves” – JOY
BRAZIL (Low Positive Sentiment)
Even though Carnival was a frequently mentioned feature in descriptions of Brazilian culture, life for Brazilians isn’t one big party. Brazilians’ culture comments are significantly more likely than average to contain Anger. They also contain fewer Trust mentions. Most of these sentiments involved frustration with corruption and/or crime. Paradoxically, at the same time, we found low instances of Anticipation and Fear/Anxiety, indicating Brazilians have somewhat resigned themselves or have grown accustomed to these conditions. Moreover, Joy is neither significantly lower nor higher than the international average.
“…Because of the [income] distribution … very Robin Hood, ie acceptable to steal from large companies and also the government. So bank robberies without victims are not perceived negatively by the population, stealing TV signals, tax evasion, political and corruption in general is high, there is strong prejudice against the poor. unqualified civil servants are lazy (stealing their government salaries) High use of pesticides in food, eliminating its nutrients.” – ANGER (multiple examples)
“A mixture of cultures, and now with evil people in charge making it very difficult to live with the current culture” – ANGER
“good. I believe in Brazil, that one day it will be great” - JOY
FRANCE (Average Positive Sentiment)
French comments contain less Surprise than average. In other words, they are less likely than average to use terms like “amazing” and “extraordinary” to describe their culture. This may be because French culture, conceptually, is so familiar and established in the minds of the French, yet the opposing emotion to Surprise—Anticipation—is also not significantly higher than average. French comments describing their culture are also somewhat less likely than average to contain Anger.
“We cannot explain French culture. We can only share its ideology, although doing so has evident limitations. I consequently, and personally, see it as wealth gained by mixing cultures: extraordinary traditions gained through the people who have lived here before us. – SURPRISE (rare example)
MEXICO (High Positive Sentiment)
Mexicans exhibit a high level of positivity in describing their culture, with their comments containing almost twice the amount of Joy as the international mean. Similarly, their Anger is also almost
half that of the ten-country aggregate. Mexicans are also notable for their amount of Surprise—almost three times the average!
“It is very rich and has many very beautiful and amazing things, traditions are super beautiful and have much biodiversity” – JOY and SURPRISE
“As a wonderful and amazing and different gift to what can be seen elsewhere in the world.” – JOY and SURPRISE
“Full of diversity and incredible things that transport you back in time to a magical place” – SURPRISE
“Mexican culture as a set of traditions and art that defined not only the beauty but the feeling of the nation is very particular as we have a very cheerful culture.” – JOY
SPAIN (Low Positive Sentiment)
When describing Spanish culture, the Spanish are three times less likely than others to mention issues related to Trust. Surprisingly, they also exhibit almost twice the average level of Sadness. And importantly, we found significantly higher amounts of Anger in Spanish comments about their culture, often related to corruption.
“For me, the Spanish culture is summed up in the torture of an animal (bull) and very rich food like potato omelette and paella” - ANGER
“bulls, crisis, corruption, political thieves, injustice, cachondeo” – ANGER
“Culture rather low and in many cases ridiculous. Eat and drink like monkeys and hang as much as possible with whoever is around. Idiots, political vermin, thieves and plunderers posing as big cahunas, big wealthy guys, the magnates of oil companies. These guys at the oil companies, they are just clowns but because they work there they become very wealthy, they steal and get a lot of money from the oil companies. They are thieves, corrupt. They become rich. They call this success. Like Rafa Mora or Belen Esteban they are very mediocre people in this country. I am ashamed of these people.” – ANGER and SADNESS
GERMANY (Low Positive Sentiment)
Germans have far less positive sentiment in descriptions and about half the proportion of Joy compared to the international average. Like the French, there is also very little Surprise in their comments. It’s not that negative emotions like Anger and Sadness are significantly higher, but rather the lack of positive emotions is significant.
“Well organized, industrious, intelligent, technically well developed.” – JOY (infrequent example of German Joy)
“Conservative, many rules, precise but also pleasure in little things, family” – JOY (infrequent example of German Joy)
JAPAN (Very Low Positive Sentiment)
By “Very Low Positive Sentiment” we do not mean that Japanese sentiment was negative, but that the Japanese sentiment was absent. The Japanese are very reserved and conservative, so it should come as no shock that the degree to which they expressed emotions, generally, was significantly lower than average.
“Though it is the culture of an island isolated by sea, it is special in its ability to ‘mimic’, and therefore it has developed into a simultaneously unique and multifaceted culture” – JOY
“The origins of the great culture of the Samurai” – JOY
“Japanese culture is special in that it is mellow and refined and is characterized by many gorgeous things. For example, tea ceremony, calligraphy, flower arranging, etc., at first appear to be quite quiet and plain endeavors, however such an impression belies a perfection and refined beauty that exists therein.” – JOY
“Japanese culture is a culture of hospitality and care” – TRUST
CANADA-ENGLISH (High Positive Sentiment)
Peace of mind doesn’t appear to be much of a problem for English-speaking Canadians, whose comments reflected significantly low Anger and high Trust. They also exhibited significantly less Fear/Anxiety than the international average, and a modestly higher level of JOY.
“Look great from the outside, is great on the inside. But does have its flaws. Not to mention prejudice, inequality and racism is still embedded in large portions of our culture. Media also does a great job of covering stories that don't matter and are not actually informing.” – JOY (mixed/modest)
“Canadians are usually warm and welcoming people. We are mostly immigrants and understand peoples needs and desires to strive for a better life. We tend to supposrt one another yet respect peoples privacy.” - TRUST
“Like America only with gun control, socialized health care, and French on the packaging. And a much cuter leader.” – TRUST
“Friendly, fair, safe and welcoming” – TRUST
CANADA-FRENCH (Lower Positive Sentiment)
The Quebecois’ level of Joy is significantly higher than the international average, but it’s accompanied by equally high levels of Anger and Fear/Anxiety. This combination was unique in our data, perhaps as it represents a strong, well-understood and distinct culture that is defensively positioned within a larger, somewhat opposing culture that sometimes feels threatening. Comments from French Canadians—in contrast to those of the actual French from France—contained quite a lot of emotion. There were also significantly higher levels of Trust, and Sadness scored slightly above average.
“People welcoming, open and proud. rich and diverse culture.” – JOY
“Mixture of French European roots in a North American context. Culture which developed from a difficult kind, hard winter. But a warm and supportive culture, proud of its language on an English-speaking continent.” – JOY
“A welcoming culture, which focuses on French and fights for its rights. Who are past present and future is important. Which is multi-ethnic” – ANGER
“people proud of its language and its history. Quebec is slightly open, yet desperate to preserve its values.” – FEAR/ANXIETY
“We are tolerant but do not humiliate us. Our history is full of situations where we have been crushed but wounds heal slowly. We are proud revelers but we lack confidence in us. We need to assert ourselves in the world and we are receiving from everyone so obviously there is no danger for us.” – FEAR/ANXIETY
What Have We Learned?
First of all, thank you to everyone for the incredible interest you’ve shown and for joining us on this journey!
While I’ll leave the final word on the cultural impact of globalization to anthropologists and others specializing in the study of culture, this surface-level read strongly suggests that we are becoming more alike. Multiculturalism, in particular, has become an important component of cultural identities across many countries and cultures. The data also obviously show that 1. significant differences endure, 2. their dimensions and 3. the degree to which they matter.
Somewhat surprisingly, the hero today may have been the emotional analysis, which told us that cultural identity is not necessarily a static construct, and that how people think about their culture at a given point in time is strongly influenced by current affairs and circumstances, hence the variation in emotions expressed and their intensity.
But what’s really striking about this exercise is that we were able to run these analyses and visualizations and glean all of these insights from data collected from a SINGLE open-ended question.
Look at how much we learned!
Imagine for a moment trying to collect this same information using a multiple-choice instrument. You’d need more than one, and I still don’t think it would be possible to achieve the same insights.
Then there’s the scale to consider. We analyzed responses from more than 15,500 people in their own words.
Lastly, we accomplished this using OdinText across 11 cultures, 10 countries and eight languages in fewer than two hours! (It actually took longer to prepare this blog post than it did to translate and analyze the data!)
In summary, research innovation today is generally assessed in three questions:
- Is it better? Yes! This approach yielded insight that would have been impossible to achieve with a conventional, multiple-choice survey.
- Is it faster? Yes! Manual coding alone would’ve taken days or weeks. OdinText did it in fewer than two hours.
- Is it cheaper? Yes! This international project was affordable enough to conduct on a whim.
Whatever the size of your organization or your resources, this project demonstrates that you can now conduct, translate and analyze a multinational, multilingual study among key consumers in key markets and capture meaningful insights quickly, affordably and easily without even getting up from your desk using OdinText.
Contact us here to talk about it.
Thanks for reading. I’d love to hear what you think!
About Tom H. C. Anderson
Tom H. C. Anderson is the founder and managing partner of OdinText, a venture-backed firm based in Stamford, CT whose eponymous, patented SAS platform is used by Fortune 500 companies like Disney, Coca-Cola and Shell Oil to mine insights from complex, unstructured and mixed data. A recognized authority and pioneer in the field of text analytics with more than two decades of experience in market research, Anderson is the recipient of numerous awards for innovation from industry associations such as CASRO, ESOMAR and the ARF. He was named one of the "Four under 40" market research leaders by the American Marketing Association in 2010. He tweets under the handle @tomhcanderson.