Facial expressions are our primary means of communicating emotions. As such, recognizing facial cues is an important component of social interaction, critical to interpreting the emotional states of others. Indeed, an abundance of empirical evidence over the last several decades suggests that facial expressions of basic emotions can be universally recognized, suggesting the importance of emotional expressions for human communication. However, consistent with the current zeitgeist in which psychologists continue to uncover cultural boundaries in even the most robust psychological phenomena, more recent research has also found evidence that there are clear but subtle variations with which how people from different cultures interpret emotions differently.
One particular finding of interest is the idea that individuals have an ingroup advantage in emotion recognition. In other words, people are more accurate at judging emotional expressions by members of a cultural ingroup rather than members of a cultural outgroup.
Abstract from Masaki Yuki, William W. Maddux & Takahiko Masuda’s paper, Are the windows to the soul the same in the East and West? Cultural differences in using the eyes and mouth as cues to recognize emotions in Japan and the United States (pdf). Commentary from Ars.