Our perception of the world is unavoidably influenced by our beliefs about the world (Feyerabend, 1965; Nisbett & Wilson, 1977). These beliefs serve as an organizational structure through which new experiences and observations are understood. Consequently, people's perceptions of the world color their interpretations of events and behaviors, and shape the goals they wish to attain. The effect of our beliefs becomes most apparent when we encounter situations in which the majority do not share our beliefs, such as when we immerse ourselves in a foreign cultural setting. In these situations, questions arise as to what is, in fact, universal.
For example, death is widely perceived as a time of loss, mourning, and sadness. At certain American funerals, however, in particular for devoted Christian families, it is not uncommon for the close friends and family of the deceased to be genuinely happy and to express that feeling. This is not to say that they are not sad as well, but that this sadness is not as visible as it is in other cultures. The reason for this muted sadness and at times overt happiness is rooted in a strong Christian belief that the deceased is still alive and has moved to someplace better than Earth, and moreover that the living will join the deceased there someday. In this context, it is not unheard of for people to feel somewhat selfish or guilty if they are sad, as it means that they wish that the deceased were still with them instead of with God.