Do our emotional response and behavior depend on our upbringing?

Amrit Hallan
4 min readOct 17, 2021


Here is a nice article I came across today:

The author somewhere mention is that politics and ideology place a big role in the psychologists accepting that our emotional response to various events in life as well as in the world are the result of our experiential growth.

So far, it has been believed that there is a Basic Emotion Theory — our emotional and psychological responses to the stimuli around us are universal.

To an extent, it may be. If you see something funny, you laugh. It doesn’t matter if you’re in India or in an Eskimo of living near the North Pole.

But then, how much you love and how you love depends on your cultural upbringing. The proverbial British stiff upper lip may not allow you to enjoy the humor as much as, let’s say someone living in Punjab with less inhibition.

There are some societies and communities with a greater sense of victimhood. In the recent times we have seen how a crowd of Sikhs tortured, mutilated, and then killed someone who was suspected of committing blasphemy. They chopped off the hand of an emaciated person. They beat him up. There was no frenzy, mind you. It was not even lynching. It was cold-blooded. Bloodcurdling in fact. Even when he pleaded that his head be cut off because he could no longer bear the pain, they hung him upside down. They kept torturing him. They were standing around him as if they were talking about a scooter that wouldn’t start. Normal folks. They were using their phone cameras to make videos and click photos. Even when he was dead, they wouldn’t allow the police to take the body.

How do you generate so much hatred? In fact, in this case, you can’t even call it hatred. It is just simple, boorish disregard for someone else’s life just because at that time, you are in full control of that person’s life. The same people will be yelping like kicked dogs in a similar situation when they are being the target.

Does this emotion exist in every society? I doubt that. I’m not talking about Taliban, in fact, I have begun to respect Taliban after seeing the bunch of those old and bloated Sikhs with overgrown beards, committing the dastardly act.

Muslims are also known to not allowing people to live if they have insulted their religion. These communities don’t tolerate any sort of humor towards their gurus or prophet.

The Sikh community has a strong sense of entitlement and what you may call a superiority complex. The Muslim community has a strong sense of victimhood and an innate aggression towards opposition.

The Hindu community on the other hand reacts differently when their gods are insulted. Although they may show aggression when provoked, they won’t go as far as mutilating and executing someone or stoning someone to death. Their emotional response is different from the communities mentioned above. In fact, you will find themselves lampooning their gods and deities and enjoying a good laugh even when people from other communities lampoon their gods and deities, as many people from India must have seen during Ramlilas.

The aggression among the Sikhs comes from their unwavering sense of entitlement, and the political mollycoddling they have enjoyed so far. This is the stimuli, their environment, that has a direct bearing on how they react and what emotions they show.

Similarly, the Muslims are literally able to get away with murder (at least in India) while the political and intellectual class looks the other way. This defines their emotional and psychological behavior when dealing with other communities.

Hindus, both within India and internationally, are scrutinized with greater severity. They have first been tarred by the stigma of being a caste-ridden culture, and once they have been tarred, they are fair game for all sorts of accusations. They cannot be assertive towards their traditions. They cannot celebrate their festivals the way other communities can. They cannot protest if they feel victimized and targeted. They are the Jews of the 19th century. The Christian attitude towards Jews eventually led to the Holocaust. The same is happening with Hindus right now, and this has a bearing on their emotional and psychological response.

Naipaul in his book called Hindus a “wounded civilization”. They have been victimized for almost 1000 years now to such an extent that now they don’t even realize that they are being culturally, judicially, politically, religiously, and socially being victimized. They have internalized that this is how they are to be treated, and it is perfectly fine.

This proves that our emotional responses and other psychological reactions depend on our environment and cultural-social upbringing rather than all the emotions and reactions being the same across all the communities. Yes, fundamental emotions are everywhere. All the people get angry. Everyone wants to laugh. Sexual arousal exists everywhere. In every community people feel depressed or elated at certain points. We all crave for company and amiable society. But how we react to different environmental and social stimuli, differs from culture to culture, and it is unfair to paint all the communities with the same brush.



Amrit Hallan

I don’t care much about being politically correct. Things are just right or wrong and yes, sometimes there are grey areas in this is why we write, don’t we?