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Batja Mesquita

Batja Mesquita

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Batja Mesquita is a social psychologist, an affective scientist, and a pioneer of cultural psychology. She is a Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Leuven, Belgium, where she studies the role of culture in emotions, and of emotions in culture and society. She is director of the Center for Social and Cultural Psychology in Leuven.

Mesquita obtained a Bachelors in Psychology and a Bachelors in Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. She obtained a Masters (summa cum laude) in experimental psychology from the same university, focusing her master thesis on gender differences in emotions. During her Ph.D. in psychology (summa cum laude) she developed her initial insights in the (indispensable) role of culture for emotions. Mesquita spent her postdoc years at the University of Michigan, where she was part of the ‘Culture and Cognition group’ that played a key role in the start of Cultural Psychology.

Professional development
Intrigued by the contrast between the ethnographic findings of marked cultural differences in emotions and psychological research that yielded universality, Mesquita set out to understand the role of culture in emotions. In an extensive literature review that appeared in Psychological Bulletin, she and Nico H. Frijda arrived at a synthesis of the research findings from different discipline, which challenged the notion of universal basic emotions. They concluded that, while some aspects of emotions may be universal, other aspects are cross-culturally different. In later work, Mesquita showed how cultural differences in emotions are systematic and meaningful, and can be understood from cultural differences in self and relationship models (e.g., Mesquita, 2003Mesquita, B. (2003). Emotions as dynamic cultural phenomena. In R. Davidson, H. Goldsmith, & K. R. Scherer (Eds.), The handbook of the affective sciences (pp. 871-890). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.). The finding of systematic and meaningful cultural differences led Mesquita to formulate a socio-cultural theory of emotions. According to this theory, emotions emerge from interpersonal interactions that are bound and guided by cultural meanings and practices. Her current research focuses on unveiling the interpersonal processes that give rise to cross-culturally different emotions. In another line of research, Mesquita and her colleagues study the consequences of cultural differences in emotions for the multicultural society. They have yielded evidence for emotional acculturation: Emotions change as a result of contact with another culture. The work on acculturation shows the role of culture in producing and reproducing emotions, even beyond their initial socialization. It has also led to a cultural psychological theory of acculturation, in which ‘deep’ psychological processes, such as emotions, change upon contact with another culture. Mesquita’s research interests include the consequences of emotional misfit of immigrant minorities for their belonging to and inclusion in majority culture.

Primary Interests:

  • Culture and Ethnicity
  • Emotion, Mood, Affect
  • Intergroup Relations
  • Interpersonal Processes
  • Motivation, Goal Setting
  • Self and Identity

Research Group or Laboratory:

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Journal Articles:

Other Publications:

Courses Taught:

  • Cultural Psychology
  • Emotion Psychology
  • Methods of Qualitative and Mixed-Methods Research
  • Psychology, Culture, and Society
  • Social and Cultural Psychology

Batja Mesquita
Department of Psychology
KU Leuven
Tiensestraat 102
3000 Leuven

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