Of Cross Cultural Marriages

What happens when people from different cultures meet and fall in love? We might expect that the more differences between the cultures, the greater the potential difficulties in the marriage. Large cultural differences—such as those in language, religion, race, politics, and class—may create major divides that may separate a cross-cultural couple. There are also sociological and legal differences between cultures. For example, some countries (e.g., Germany) do not legally recognize arranged marriages, whereas in other countries (e.g., India) arranged marriages are still fairly common.

Sociologists Rosemary Breger and Rosanna Hill (1998) present a detailed look at cross-cultural marriages. Throughout the book, the emphasis is on how cultural differences create challenges in marriages. For example, many cultural rituals surround food and eating. In some cultures, men are served first and begin eating before women. A man from a different culture might politely wait and not touch his food until his wife begins to eat. If the wife comes from a culture in which men eat first, she might suspect that her husband is dissatisfied with the meal or that something is wrong because he is not eating before her. A polite social behavior in one culture can thus be seen as a signal of dissatisfaction in another.

There are many such small differences between cultures that pose daily challenges in cross-cultural marriages. For example, there are differences in conversational style, in privacy, in dress, in the use of space, in attention, in what counts as being polite, in role expectations for husbands and wives, in child-

rearing beliefs and practices, and even in how a "good" marriage is defined. For example, in some cultures, the extended family becomes a large part of the couple's life, sometimes to the point of expecting to share sleeping space in their bedroom. In some cultures, you don't just marry the person; you marry his or her extended family as well.

According to Larsen & Prizmic-Larsen (1999), one of the largest challenges in cross-cultural marriages results from differences in native languages. They report a case where the wife, who

Relationships that bridge two cultures bring unique challenges, as well as unique opportunities, to the couple.

was from Eastern Europe, said to the husband, "You are boring," when her real intent was to ask, "Are you bored?" Good communication is essential to any marriage. However, when one person has to conduct his or her marriage in a foreign language, there exists a minefield of potential misunderstandings between the spouses. Moreover, the presence of a heavy accent can lead to verbal misunderstandings, even when the content of a communication is accurate. Communicating in a foreign language also takes mental effort and, when tired or at times of strong emotion (ranging from anger to ecstasy), one may not be able to communicate very well in a second language.

In exploring the meaning of cross-cultural marriage, Larsen and Prizmic-Larsen (1999) suggest that psychologists consider the positive characteristics and possibilities, as well as the challenges. For example, cross-cultural couples have a wider choice of cultural models when it comes to gender roles, family relations, language use, child-rearing behaviors, and general lifestyle than do those in mono-cultural marriages. Although such choices have a high potential for conflict, they are also a source of diversity within the relationship. The couple can negotiate a new "culture of marriage" for their family by selecting and including the parts of their native cultures that they value and want to keep. Children of cross-cultural marriages, while shouldering their own unique difficulties, can nevertheless choose, and even alternate between, cultural identities.

There are at least two lines of inquiry that interest personality psychologists about cross-cultural marriages. One question concerns who is the most likely to marry outside of his or her own culture. Are some personality variables involved in being attracted to others who are very different from oneself? A second line of inquiry concerns process, what happens in cross-cultural marriages that might make them different from mono-cultural marriages. How do two people, who have more than their share of differences, come to accommodate and adapt to each other? Are there ways that people can emancipate themselves from cultural bonds and more easily function in a cross-cultural relation? How do people maintain their identities and sense of self, even when living in a foreign country and conducting their marriage in a foreign language?

Cross-cultural marriages have existed throughout history. However, the problems facing cross-cultural couples today are changing. In the past, the difficulties were most likely connected with social class differences (e.g., Romeo and Juliet), nonacceptance by one's extended family (e.g., King Edward VIII, who voluntarily abdicated the throne of England in order to marry Wallis Warfield Simpson, a twice-divorced American), religion, or race. Throughout much of the twentieth century, interracial (black-white) marriage was illegal in many U.S. jurisdictions, but today it is widely regarded as a matter of personal choice, and black-white couples are accepted at the highest levels of society.

In many ways, boundaries between cultures are becoming more permeable, especially in the European community. On the other hand, there are many wars and ethnic conflicts based on animosities associated with cultural differences. Those animosities may deter opportunities or even the acceptability of certain cultural combinations in marriage. A good example can be found in the countries of former Yugoslavia, where cross-cultural marriages between, say, Muslims and Serbs or between Serbs and Croats were once common and acceptable. However, the conflicts set in motion in 1991 with the breakup of former Yugoslavia, and continuing in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Montenegro, have resulted in a reversal of social diversity in this area of the world. A new term has even entered the Eng-

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, born in Ghana, met Swedish attorney Nane Lagergren when they both worked for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. They have been married since 1984.

lish language: Balkanization, meaning social resegregation following a time of peaceful integration and social diversity. Balkanization in various countries around the world may make life difficult for cross-cultural marriages.

teachers or through observations of the behavior of others within the culture. Now we turn to another possible example of transmitted culture—the self-concept.

Cultural Differences in Self-Concept

As we discussed in Chapter 14, the ways in which we define ourselves—our self concepts—are the core components of human personality . These self-concepts influ ences our behavior. A woman who defines herself as conscientious, for example, ma take pains to show up for classes on time, to return all phone calls from friends and family, and to remember to spell check her term paper before final printing. A man who defines himself as agreeable may ensure that the wishes of others are taken int account when deciding where to eat, may give more than his share in gifts to charity, and may wait until all others have feasted at the buf fet table before helping himself. Our self-concepts, in short, af fect how we present ourselves to others and how we behave in everyday life. Research has shown that self-concepts dif fer substantially from culture to culture.

Markus and Kitayama (1991, 1994, 1998) propose that each person has two fundamental "cultural tasks," which have to be confronted. The first is communion, o interdependence. This cultural task involves how you are af filiated with, attached to or engaged in the lar ger group of which you are a member . Interdependence includes your relationships with other members of the group and your embeddedness within the group. The second task—agency, or independence—involves how you dif feren-tiate yourself from the larger group. Independence includes your unique abilities, your personal internal motives and personality dispositions, and the ways in which you separate yourself from the lar ger group.

According to Markus and Kitayama, people from dif ferent cultures dif fer profoundly in how they balance these two tasks. Western cultures, such as the United States and Western Europe, according to this theory , are characterized by independence. Independence is elaborated and supported by various cultural institutions and practices. Conversations emphasize individual choices (e.g., "Where do you want to eat tonight?"). The system of salaries puts a premium on individual merit—your salary is specifically pegged to your performance.

In contrast, many non-W estern cultures, such as Japan and China, are characterized by interdependence. These cultures emphasize the fundamental interconnect-edness among those within the group. The self is meaningful, according to this view , only with reference to the lar ger group of which the person is a part. The major cultural tasks in these cultures are to fit in and to promote harmony and group unit . Personal desires are to be constrained, rather than expressed in a selfish manner (e.g. "Where do we want to eat tonight?"). Interdependence is fostered by various cultural practices and institutions. Conversational scripts emphasize sympathy , deference, and kindness. Pay is often determined by seniority , rather than by individual performance.

To illustrate the contrasting orientations of independence and interdependence, consider the following descriptions, the first from an American student and the second from a Japanese student, in response to the instruction "describe yourself briefly"

I like to live life with a lot of positive ener gy. I feel like ther e is so much to do and see and experience. However , I also know the value of r elaxation. I love the obscur e. I play ultimate Frisbee, juggle, unicycle, and dabble on the recorder and concertina. I have a taste for the unique. I am very friendly and in most situations very self-confident. I'm almost always happy and when am down, it is usually because of str ess. (Markus & Kitayama, 1998, p. 63)

I cannot decide quickly what I should do, and am often swayed by other people s opinions, and I cannot oppose the opinions of people who ar e supposed to be r espected because of age or status. Even if I have displeasur e, I compromise myself to the people ar ound me without getting rid of the displeasure. When I cannot make a decision I often do it accor ding to other people s opinions. Also, I am concerned about how other people think about me and often decide on that consideration. I try to have a harmless life. I calm down by being the same as others. (Markus & Kitayama, 1998, p. 64)

Notice the dif ferent themes that run through the self-descriptions of these two individuals. The American student tends to use global and lar gely context-free trait descriptions, such as friendly, self-confident and happy. The Japanese student tends to use self-descriptions that are embedded in a social context, such as responding to elders or those who are higher in status and even using the social group as a method of calming down. These illustrate the themes of independence and interdependence, which characterize the self-concepts of European Americans and Japanese, respectively. The independence theme is characterized by a self-view as autonomous, stable, coherent, and free from the influences of others. The interdependence theme is characterized by a self-view as connected, interpersonally flexible, and committed t being bound to others (Markus & Kitayama, 1998).

This fundamental distinction between independence and interdependence is similar to a distinction that many other cultural psychologists make. Triandis (1989, 1995), for example, coined the terms individualism (a sense of self as autonomous and independent, with priority given to personal goals) and collectivism (a sense of self as more connected to groups and interdependent, with priority given to group goals) to describe this distinction. According to Triandis (2001), in individualist societies, people tend to act independently of their groups, giving priority to personal goals rather than to group goals. They act according to their own attitudes and desires, rather than succumbing to the norms and attitudes of their in-group. In collectivist societies, in contrast, people are interdependent with others in the group, giving priority to the goals of their in-groups. People in collectivist societies tend to be especially concerned about social relationships. Finally, in collectivist societies, people tend to be more self-ef facing, less likely to boast about their own personal accomplishments. As you can see, there is a lot of overlap between the independent-interdependent conception of cultural dif fer-ences advanced by Markus and Kitayama and the individualistic-collectivistic conception of cultural dif ferences advanced by Triandis.

Is there empirical evidence that the way in which we define ourselves something so fundamental to personality—depends on the culture in which we reside? Using the Twenty Statements Test, researchers have discovered that North American participants tend to describe themselves using abstract internal characteristics, such as smart, stable, dependable, and open-minded (Rhee et al., 1995). Chinese participants, in contrast, more often describe themselves using social roles, such as "I am a daughter" or "I am Jane's friend" (Ip & Bond, 1995). Americans rarely describe themselves using social roles. These results support the suggestion that there are cultural dif fer-ences in self-concept. Americans are more likely to have an independent, individualistic view of themselves than are Chinese, who tend to have an interdependent, collectivist view of themselves.

Another study administered the Twenty Statements Test to samples of Asians in Seoul, Korea; to Asian Americans in New York City; and to European Americans in New York City (Rhee et al., 1995). The study was designed to examine cultural differences in self-concept, but with an interesting twist: do Asians living in New York who self-identify as Asian differ in self-concept from Asians living in the same place who do not self-identify as Asian? In other words, do some people shift their self-concepts and adopt self-concepts similar to those of the adopted culture? The process of adapting to the ways of life in one' s new culture is called acculturation.

The results were conclusive. The Asian Americans living in New York who did not self-identify as Asian described themselves using highly abstract and autonomous self-statements, similar to the responses of European Americans residing in New York. Interestingly, these Asian Americans used even more trait terms in their self-descriptions

A refugee family from Somalia experiences the Arizona State Fair. After entering a new culture, acculturation is the process of adopting the ways of life and beliefs common in that culture.

(45 percent) than did the European Americans (35 percent). Markus, Kitayama, and Heiman (1996) suggest that these "unidentified Asian Americans may have been trying to achieve a culturally appropriate self-concept but overshot the mark.

In contrast, in the study , the New York-dwelling Asians who identified them selves as Asian used more socially embedded self-descriptions, much as the Chinese respondents did. They often referred to themselves by describing their role status (e.g., student) and their family status (e.g., son). Moreover , they were more likely to qualify their self-concepts with contextual information. In other words, rather than describing themselves as reliable, as a European American might, they described themselves as "reliable when I'm at home."

Another study asked Japanese and American college students to complete the Twenty Statements Test in four social contexts: alone, with a friend, in a classroom with other students, and in a professor's office (Cross et al., 1995). The Japanese college students tended to describe themselves in all four conditions using preferences (e.g., "I like frozen yogurt") and context-dependent activities (e.g., "I like to listen to rock music on the weekends"). The American students, as in previous studies, more often used abstract, context-independent trait terms, such as friendly and assertive. Furthermore, the Japanese students, but not the American students, tended to characterize themselves differently in different contexts. In the professor's office, for exam ple, Japanese students described themselves as "good students," but they did not mention this role in the other three contexts. The American students' responses tended to be more constant across the four testing conditions.

Another study examined the frequency with which Japanese and European American students endorsed a variety of attributes as descriptive of themselves (Markus & Kitayama, 1998). A full 84 percent of the Japanese students described themselves as ordinary, whereas only 18 percent of the American students used this self-description. Conversely, 96 percent of the Americans described themselves as special, whereas only 55 percent of the Japanese described themselves with this term (see Table 17.1).

Table 17.1 Most Frequently Endorsed Attributes "I am"

E U R O P E A

N AMERICANS

J A

P A N E S E

Attribute

Percentage of Responses

Attribute

Percentage of Responses

Responsible

100%

Happy

94%

Respectful

100

Fun-loving

94

Persistent

100

Relaxed

92

Cooperative

98

Direct

92

Special

96

Assertive

90

Happy

95

Laid-back

86

Unique

95

Calm

86

Reflective

95

Free-spirited

86

Fun-loving

93

Undisciplined

84

Sympathetic

93

Ordinary

84

Hardworking

93

Ambitious

93

Reliable

93

Independent

93

Source: Markus & Kitayama (1998), p. 79, Table 1.

Source: Markus & Kitayama (1998), p. 79, Table 1.

This theme of standing out and being unique versus fitting in and going alon with the group is seen in the folk sayings of American and Japanese cultures. In American culture, people sometimes say , "The squeaky wheel gets the grease," signifying that standing out and asserting oneself as an individual is the way to pursue one' s interests. In Japan, it is sometimes said that "the nail that stands out gets pounded down," which suggests that the American social strategy would fail in Japan.

These cultural dif ferences may be linked to the ways in which people process information. Japanese, compared with Americans, tend to explain events holistically— with attention to relationships, context, and the links between the focal object and the field as a whole (Nisbett et al., 2001). Americans, in contrast, tend to explain events analytically—with the object detached from its context, attributes of objects or people assigned to categories, and a reliance on rules about the categories to explain behavior. When watching animated scenes of fish swimming around, for example, th Japanese made more statements than did Americans about contextual information, linking the fish s behavior to their surroundings (Masuda & Nisbett, 2001). Thus, the cultural dif ferences in the personality attributes of individualism-collectivism or independence-interdependence may be linked to underlying cognitive proclivities in the ways in which individuals attend to, and explain, events in their world.

In sum, there is empirical support for the claim that people in dif ferent cultures have different self-concepts. Presumably , these dif ferent self-concepts are transmitted through parents and teachers to children. The finding that Asian Americans who identify themselves as Americans show self-concepts more like those of European Americans than like native Asians suggests that differences in self-concept are transmitted by people in the social environment and do not represent genetic group dif ferences.

Criticisms of the Interdependence-Independence and Collectivist-Individualist Concepts

Several authors have criticized the Markus-Kitayama theory that Western views of self are independent, whereas Asian views of self are interdependent, both on theoretical and evidentiary grounds. Matsumoto (1999) contends that the evidence for the theory comes almost exclusively from North America and East Asia (notably, Japan) and may not generalize to other cultures. Furthermore, there is far more overlap in the self-concepts of people from dif ferent cultures than Markus and Kitayama imply . Many individuals in collectivist cultures, for example, do use global traits (e.g., agreeable, fun-loving) when describing themselves, and many in individualist cultures use relational concepts (e.g., "I am the daughter of . . .") when describing themselves. The cultural dif ferences may be more a matter of degree.

On theoretical grounds, Church (2000) notes that "attempts to characterize cultures of individuals in terms of such broad cultural dichotomies may be overly simplistic" (p. 688) in the sense that views of the self in all cultures appear to incorporate both independent and interdependent self-construals, and self-concepts in all cultures vary somewhat across social contexts. The differences between Japanese and American participants, in short, may reflect quantitative di ferences in degree, not qualitative differences of kind.

A recent meta-analysis of dozens of studies suggests even more caution in generalizing about cultural differences in individualism and collectivism (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002a). It found that although European Americans tended to be somewhat more individualistic (valuing independence) and less collectivistic (valuing interdependence) than those from some other cultures, the effect sizes proved to be small and qualified by important exceptions. European Americans were not more individualistic than either African Americans or Latinos, for example. Nor were European Americans less collectivistic than Japanese or Koreans—two cultures presumed to anchor one end of the interdependence continuum. Indeed, the Chinese, rather than the Japanese or Koreans, stood out as being unusually collectivistic and nonindividualistic in self-concept.

Furthermore, characterizations such as independent-interdependent and individ-ualistic-collectivistic have been criticized on the grounds that they are too general, conflating di ferent kinds of social relationships and ignoring the context-specificity in whic they are expressed (Fiske, 2002). Americans, for example, may be individualistic and independent at work and while playing computer games, but highly collectivistic and interdependent while with their families or in church. Future research must identify the specific contexts in which these cultural di ferences are, and are not, expressed.

Despite these criticisms, it's clear that there are real dif ferences across cultures, albeit with important qualifications, and these must be explained. Most researchers hav assumed that cultural dif ferences in dimensions such as individualism-collectivism and independence-interdependence are instances of transmitted culture—ideas, attitudes, and self-concepts that are passed from one mind to another within a culture, down through the generations. Recently , a group of researchers has proposed a dif ferent explanation involving evolutionary psychology and evoked culture (Oyserman, Kemmelmeier, & Coon, 2003b). They hypothesize that humans have evolved psychological mechanisms for both types of self-concepts and that humans can switch from one mode to another depending on fitness advantages. Specifical , when one's group is low in mobility , limited in resources, and has many relatives in close proximity , it has paid fitness dividends to be highly collectivistic and interdependent. One s genetic relatives, often the recipients of these collectivist proclivities, tend to benefit. On th other hand, when mobility is high and people move frequently from place to place, when resources are relatively abundant, and when few genetic relatives live close by , it has paid fitness dividends to adopt a mor individualistic and independent proclivity . This hypothesis is best summed up by its authors: "Thus, an evolutionary perspective suggests both the 'basicness' of independent and interdependent processing as well as the likelihood that all social systems are inhabited by individuals who can do both and draw on one or the other depending on their immediate contexts" (Oyserman et al., 2002b, p. 116). Future research will be needed to explore this fascinating fusion of evolutionary psychology and cultural psychology .

Cultural Differences in Self-Enhancement Self-enhancement is the tendency to describe and present oneself using positive or socially valued attributes, such as kind, understanding, intelligent, and industrious. Tendencies toward self-enhancement tend to be stable over time and, hence, are enduring features of personality (Baumeister, 1997). Many studies have documented that North Americans tend to maintain a generally positive evaluation of themselves (Fiske et al., 1997). One study , for example, shows that the self-concepts of American adults contain more than four times as many positive attributes as negative ones (Herzog et al., 1995). In comparison with Americans, the Japanese tend to make far fewer spontaneous positive statements about themselves. The Japanese score lower than Americans on translations of self-esteem scales (Fiske et al., 1997). Furthermore, Japanese respondents tend to give more negative descriptions of themselves, such as "I think too much" and "I'm a somewhat selfish person (Yeh, 1995). Even the positive self-descriptions of the Japanese respondents tend to be in the form of negations, such as "I'm not lazy ." American respondents would express a similar sentiment with the phrase "I'm a hard worker ."

Similar cultural dif ferences have been discovered between Korean and American respondents (Ryff, Lee, & Na, 1995). Korean respondents are more likely to endorse negative statements about themselves, whereas American respondents are more likely to endorse positive statements. These differences in self-enhancement also show up in parents' self-descriptions of the quality of their parenting practices (Schmutte, Lee, & Ryff, 1995). Whereas American parents describe their parenting practices in generally glowing terms, Korean parents give mostly negative self-evaluations.

These cultural dif ferences in self-enhancement also extend to evaluations of one's group, compared with evaluations of other groups. In one study , Heine and Lehman (1995) asked Japanese and Canadian students to compare their own university with a rival university within their own culture. The two pairs of universities used for the study were well matched in reputation—The University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University in Canada, as well as Ritsumeikan and Doshisya in Japan. Among the Canadian respondents, there was a strong tendency toward in-group enhancement, with the rival university evaluated negatively by comparison. Among the Japanese respondents, there was no favoritism in the evaluation of one' s own university in comparison with the rival university .

Psychologists have advanced two explanations for these cultural dif ferences in self-enhancement. One explanation is that the Asians are engaging in impression

Toshiyuki Tanaka, an umpire in the Japanese baseball league, during an interview. In his culture, harmony is valued over conflict. To keep the peace during a heated game, Tanaka often plays the role of diplomat. He rarely penalizes a team or ejects a player or coach from the game, events that are fairly common in American baseball. Moreover, Tanaka sometimes admits it when he makes a mistake, which is practically unheard of among American umpires.

Toshiyuki Tanaka, an umpire in the Japanese baseball league, during an interview. In his culture, harmony is valued over conflict. To keep the peace during a heated game, Tanaka often plays the role of diplomat. He rarely penalizes a team or ejects a player or coach from the game, events that are fairly common in American baseball. Moreover, Tanaka sometimes admits it when he makes a mistake, which is practically unheard of among American umpires.

management (see Chapter 4)—deep in their hearts, perhaps, they truly evaluate themselves positively, but to express these views publicly would damage their reputations. A second explanation is that these cultural dif ferences accurately reflect the subjects deep experiences. Asians, according to this view, due to profound cultural dif ferences in values, truly evaluate themselves more negatively than do North Americans. There has been only one empirical test of these competing explanations (Fiske et al., 1997). When self-evaluations are made in conditions of total anonymity, where no one would be able to identify the respondent, researchers still found that the self-enhancement commonly seen among Americans does not occur among Asian respondents. This study supports the theory that these cultural dif ferences reflect the actual subjectiv experiences of the respondent and are not merely surface dif ferences due to impression management by the Asians.

It is important to recognize that these cultural dif ferences are matters of degree, since people in all cultures appear to display a self-enhancement bias to some extent (Kurman, 2001). In a study of three cultures—Singaporeans, Druze Israelis, and Jewish Israelis—Kurman (2001) asked participants whether they considered themselves to be below average or above average for the sex and age group on six traits: intelligence, health, and sociability (agentic traits) and cooperation, honesty , and generosity (communal traits). Although the Singaporeans showed slightly more self-enhancement than the other two cultures, it only applied to the agentic traits, and people in all cultures showed a self-enhancement bias. On the communal traits, 85 percent of the participants in all three cultures viewed themselves as "above average" for their age and sex group. On the agentic traits, although the Druze and Jewish Israeli samples showed a self-enhancement level of 90 percent and 87 percent, respectively , the Singaporeans showed a self-enhancement level of nearly 80 percent. Thus, people across cultures show a self-enhancement bias, so the cultural dif ferences must be interpreted within the context of this overall similarity. We must also recognize that there are tremendous individual differences within each culture—some individuals tend to be more individualistic and independent in self-concept, others more collectivistic and interdependent.

In sum, there appears to be a pervasive cultural difference in the degree to which people experience themselves. North Americans tend to experience themselves positively, expressing generally high levels of self-evaluation. Asians, in contrast, tend to self-enhance less and, instead, express negative or critical views of themselves. These views of self are core components of personality—they define the stable ways i which we think of ourselves, the ways in which we present ourselves to others, and the ways in which we behave in a variety of social settings.

Do Cultures Have Distinctive Personality Profiles?

People have long been fascinated with the question of whether cultures have distinctive personality profiles. Are people from the Mediterranean region of Europe really more emotionally expressive, or is this merely an incorrect stereotype? Are people from Scandinavia really more calm and stoic, or is this merely an incorrect stereotype?

Robert McCrae and 80 colleagues from around the world studied the personality profiles of 51 di ferent cultures, using 12,156 participants (McCrae, Terracciano, et al., 2005a). They translated the Revised NEO Personality Inventory into the appropriate language for each culture, and then examined the aggregate Big Five personality scores for each culture. The largest difference they found across cultures centered on extraversion. As a general rule, Americans and Europeans scored higher than Asians and Africans. A few examples will illustrate these dif ferences. With the cross-cultural average set to 50, the average extraversion score was 52.3 for Americans, 53.8 for Australians, 53.7 for the English, and 52.2 for Belgians. In contrast, the average extraversion scores were 46.5 for Ugandans, 47.0 for Ethiopians, and 46.6 for People' s Republic Chinese.

It is important to bear in mind that these dif ferences in average personalities are relatively small. Most of the dif ferences in personality occur within cultures, not between cultures. Indeed, in examining the overall results, the most striking findin from this study is how similar the 51 cultures actually are in their overall scores on the five-factor model

Personality Variations within Culture

Another dimension of transmitted culture pertains to within-culture variations, although these have not received the same degree of attention as cross-cultural variations. Within-culture variations can arise from several sources, including dif ferences in growing up in various socioeconomic classes, dif ferences in historical era, or differences in the racial context in which one grows up.

There is some evidence, for example, that social class within a culture can have an effect on personality (Kohn et al., 1990). Lower -class parents tend to emphasize the importance of obedience to authority, whereas higher-status parents tend to emphasize the importance of self-direction and nonconformity to the dictates of others. According to Kohn, these socialization practices stem from the sorts of occupations that parents expect their children to enter . Higher-status jobs (e.g., manager , start-up company founder, doctor, lawyer) often require greater self-direction, whereas lower -status jobs (e.g., factory worker , gas station employee) more often require the need to follow rules and permit less latitude for innovation. In studies of American, Japanese, and Polish men, Kohn and colleagues found that men from higher social classes in all cultures tended to be more self-directed, showed lower levels of conformity, and had greater intellectual flexibility than men from lower social classes

These findings are correlational, so, of course, direction of e fects cannot be unambiguously assumed. Perhaps people with personalities marked by self-direction and intellectual flexibility tend to gravitate toward the higher social classes. Or per haps the socialization practices of higher -social-class parents tend to produce children with personalities that are dif ferent from the personalities of lower -social-class children. In either case, this example highlights the importance of intracultural differences. Not all people within a culture are alike in personality . Indeed, there is typically more variation among individuals within a culture than there is between cultures. This concept is illustrated in Figure 17.1, which shows the distribution of individualism-collectivism in two cultures. The shaded part shows the overlap between cultures. Consequently, even though cultures can dif fer in their average level on a particular trait, many individuals within the one culture can be higher (or lower) than many individuals in the other culture. This is why it is wise to treat individuals as individuals first, rather than members of some cultural group, because an individual may be far from his or her own group average.

Another type of intracultural variation pertains to the ef fects of historical era on personality. People who grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930s, for example, might be more anxious about job security , adopting a more conservative spending style. Those who came of age during the sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, might show a greater openness to experimentation. Those growing up in the age of the Internet may spend more time interacting with others in distant places, expanding social horizons in ways that might influence personality development. Unfortunatel , disentangling the ef fects of historical era on personality is an extremely dif ficult endeavo , since most currently used personality measures were not in use in earlier eras.

Figure 17.1

Individualism versus collectivism in American and Asian cultures. The distribution of two groups may be significantly di ferent from each other in terms of the group mean yet have a high proportion of overlap. This means that many individuals from one group are higher (or lower) than many members of the other group, in a pattern opposite that of the mean difference. Asians score higher on collectivism than Americans do, yet there will always be some Americans who score higher than some Asians (those in the shaded area) on this measure.

Figure 17.1

Individualism versus collectivism in American and Asian cultures. The distribution of two groups may be significantly di ferent from each other in terms of the group mean yet have a high proportion of overlap. This means that many individuals from one group are higher (or lower) than many members of the other group, in a pattern opposite that of the mean difference. Asians score higher on collectivism than Americans do, yet there will always be some Americans who score higher than some Asians (those in the shaded area) on this measure.

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