Americans more cheerful about Jesus than South Koreans: Study

Washington: Was Jesus Christ happy? So think the Americans, but South Koreans seem to have a different view about the founder of Christianity, associating him with words like "sacrifice" and "suffering", a new study has found.

The research, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, found that while Americans tend to associate Jesus with positive terms such as "love" and "amazement", South Koreans are more likely to associate him with words like "sacrifice," "blood" and "suffering".

The results held true for both Christians and non-Christians in each culture, according to study researcher Shigehiro Oishi, a psychologist at the University of Virginia.

"It is clear that there is an interesting cultural difference in the image of Jesus," Oishi was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

"The image of Jesus might be culturally constructed (to fit the existing ideal in a given culture), or it could be the reflection of individuals` self-image," Oishi explained.

More than 80 per cent of Americans and 41 per cent of South Koreans are Christian, and all draw their faith from the same biblical descriptions of Jesus. Thus, Oishi and his colleagues figured that any differences in the way Americans and South Koreans see Jesus would likely be cultural.

The researchers had reason to suspect that there might be differences: A former South Korean student of Oishi`s had mentioned to him that her American roommate thought Jesus was happy. The South Korean student thought that idea was absurd ? she assumed Jesus must have worried a lot.

So the researchers set up two experiments. In the first, they simply asked 71 European-American students and 59 South Korean students at an American university to write down the words that came to mind when they thought of Jesus.

They found that Americans were much more chipper about Jesus than their South Korean counterparts. For example, about three per cent of Americans mentioned pain or suffering on their list, compared with 15 per cent of South Koreans.

In a second experiment, the researchers asked 83 South Korean and 200 American students to fill out questionnaires that would get at major aspects of their personalities and happiness. Then they were asked to fill out the same questions for Jesus.

Again, Americans viewed Jesus as happier, more agreeable, more extroverted, open to experience and more conscientious (a trait related to responsibility and carefulness) than did the South Koreans, the researchers found.

Americans also rated themselves higher than South Koreans on traits such as life satisfaction, agreeableness, extroversion and openness to experience, they said.

It`s possible that these different views of Jesus arise from different conceptions of Christianity, Oishi wrote.

South Korean culture is traditionally family-focused, with an emphasis on forgoing one`s own needs for the needs of relatives.

That could result in an emphasis on Jesus` sacrifices, the researchers said, adding that cultural factors determine an "ideal" personality that could be transferred onto Jesus, who was supposed to be the perfect model of humanity.

It`s also possible that Americans simply view themselves as happier than South Koreans, so they project their own happiness onto Jesus, the researchers wrote.