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CULTURE & SELF. The Cultural Construction of Self and Positive Self-Regard. Western concept of Self: Independent Self-Construal.

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culture self


The Cultural Construction of Self and Positive Self-Regard

western concept of self independent self construal
Western concept of Self: Independent Self-Construal
  • A view of the self that is characterized by a bounded and autonomous sense of self that is relatively distinct from others and the environment. Those with an independent self construal strive to assert their individuality and uniqueness and stress their separateness from the social world.
  • This view is best exemplified by North American and Western European cultures.
eastern concept of self interdependent self construal
Eastern concept of self: Interdependent Self-Construal
  • A view of the self that is characterized by an emphasis on the interrelatedness of the individual to others and to the environment. It is only within the contextual fabric of individuals’ social relationships, roles, and duties that the self has meaning.
  • This construal of self is most represented by Asian cultures.
a person with high self esteem is someone who
A person with high self-esteem is someone who

1. Is more “tuned in” to positive attributes about the self than to negative attributes (FUE)

2. Tends to explain positive behaviors and outcome more in terms of personality traits than in terms of situational factors(SSB/ fundamental attribution error; FAE).

3. Tends to think that something bad is less likely to happen to them than it is to similar others (UO)

  • Because high self-esteem is desirable, such self-enhancing biases are “normal” and “healthy” psychological processes.
    • This is a general psychological principle.
do japanese have depressive tendencies
Do Japanese have depressive tendencies?
  • How would a conventional social psychologist explain these differences
  • Culture is “noisy”; must filter the noise.
    • Japanese are “presenting” themselves to be modest (false modesty).
  • Once the experiment is “cleaned up” (controlling for false modesty) and the results still indicate that self-enhancement is absent among the Japanese, what would a conventional social psychologist conclude from the results?
perceptual illusions
Perceptual Illusions

Ponzo Illusion


lack of susceptibility to the m ller lyer illusion among native of torres strait rivers 1901
Lack of susceptibility to the Müller-Lyer illusion among native of Torres Strait (Rivers, 1901)
a cultural psychologist would first ask these questions
A cultural psychologist would first ask these questions:
  • What goals does self-enhancement accomplish for North Americans?
  • Are these goals related to North American self-view and world-view?
  • Are Japanese trying to accomplish the same goals?
  • If not, do they have a different self-view and world-view?
  • If so, what are the Japanese goals, and would self-enhancement still be useful?
  • If self-enhancement is not useful, what psychological processes are more constructive and beneficial to the Japanese?
  • Are conveitional social psychologists confusing desirable mental characteristics for the Japanese with undesirable mental characteristics for North Americans?
self relevant goals markus kitayama 1991
Self-relevant goals (Markus & Kitayama, 1991)
  • Independent goals:
      • Distinguishing oneself from others by realizing and actualizing one's positive inner attributes, preferences, and attitudes
      • Determining the "right" choices and actions by checking them against one's personal and utilitarian satisfaction as a criteria (Bellah, et. al., 1985)
      • Staying ahead of others (i.e., individual achievement)
      • Thinking of oneself as "unique" and feeling "special" about it.
      • Feeling "good" about oneself
what does self enhancement accomplish for this self view
What does self-enhancement accomplish for this self-view?
  • Given the underlying task of an independent self-construal to attend, elaborate and emphasize positive aspects of the self,
  • self-enhancement is conducive for the maintenance and nurturing of an independent self-view.
self relevant goals markus kitayama 19911
Self-Relevant Goals (Markus & Kitayama, 1991)
  • Interdependent goals:
      • Establish meaningful social relationships.
      • Fit in, maintain harmony, and not fall behind others
      • Meet consensual standards of excellence.
      • Secure a sense of belonging to social groups and ensure that others are satisfied with their contributions to those groups
      • Subordinate personal beliefs and needs to norms and relationships
what does self enhancement accomplish for this self view1
What does self-enhancement accomplish for this self-view?
  • Given that a major task of an interdependent self-construal is to “fit in” and “maintain harmony”
  • It is more difficult to see how self-enhancement might be relevant to the maintenance and nurturing of this self-view.
The cultural construction of the need for self-esteem enhancing motivations (Kitayama, Markus, Matsumoto, & Norasakkunkit (1997)
  • Study exploring relevance of self-esteem in Japan
  • Study
    • Sampling self-esteem relevant situations
    • Compile these situations into a questionnaire
    • Which situations are relevant to your self-esteem?
    • How does your self-esteem change in this situation?
    • Self-enhancing situations more relevant for NA; Self-critical situations more relevant for JPN
    • North Americans were more self-enhancing, Japanese were more self-critical
    • North American situations were self-enhancing and Japanese situations were self-critical