Chapter 13: Culture, Self, & Identity
Self Concept => The cognitive representations of one's own self, that is, the ideas or images that one
has about oneself and how and why one behaves. [cognitive generalization]
• The self is a psychological construct that people create in order to help them understand
themselves and their world better.
The concept of the self is a product of human cultures.
• Cultural Practices => Discrete, observable, objective, and behavioural aspects of human
activities in which people engage related to culture.
• Cultural Worldviews => Belief systems about one's culture. They are cognitive generalizations
about how the culture is or should be (regardless of whether true or not).
• Concept of the self is part of one's cultural worldviews because how one sees
oneself in relation to the rest of the world is an integral part of one's culture.
Individualistic construal of self:
Independent, separate entity with a composite construal of self more common in non-Western,
collectivistic cultures in which the individual is viewed as inherently connected or
interdependent with others,an inseparable from a social context.
Independent construal of the self:
Individuals focus on personal, internal attributes – individual ability, intelligence, personality
traits, goals or preferences – expressing them in public and verifying and confirming them in
private through social comparison. No overlap between self and others.
Interdependent construal of the self:
The self is unbounded, flexible, and contingent on context. Substantial overlap between self and
relevant others. Most salient aspects of the self are defined in relationships. Emphasizes the
fundamental connectedness of human beings.
Independent Construal => One's internal attributes, abilities, or personality traits are the most salient in
Collectivistic Construal => Information concerning one's social roles and relationships with others are
more salient and important.
Americans => More abstract traits thanAsians.
• EastAsians chose more majority pens than EuropeanAmericans [Airport survey study; pen as
reward for answering questions; majority of pens one colour, while the minority were another
When studies compare scores againstAmericans andAsians, they often do not find that
Americans are more individualistic and Japanese are more collectivistic. Over 70% of Japanese
respondents (University) were classified as individualists. EuropeanAmericans were more
individualistic than African Americans and not less collectivistic than Japanese or Koreans.
FMRI studies have shown that in EA, the self is represented in a specific area of the brain
(ventral medial prefrontal cortex) while significant others are represented elsewhere. [mixed results]
• Priming Chinese individuals with Western cues increase neural differentiation between self and
others, while priming with Chines Cues decreases differentiations. Methodological Issues
=> Most salient info forAsians is is context-specific.
• Designed a study to include context when asking for reactions. Once the context was
specified, Japanese respondents actually generated a greater number of abstract attributes than
• Americans qualified their descriptions. Specified that actions belonged to THAT context.
Pen choice situation; 2 conditions => First person to pick a pen vs last person to pick a pen.
First - rates for choosing a unique pen
dropped to Japanese levels
Last - rates for choosing a unique pen
increased to the level of
Argument: Incentive structures, rather than self construals influenced the unique pen choice.
=> Independent and interdependent self construals are not mutually exclusive dichotomies, but instead
coexist simultaneously within individuals.
Self contained individualism – Mainstream approaches (emphasize self development, autonomy,
Ensembled individualism – Boundary between self and others is less sharply drawn, and others are
part of oneself.
• Evidence supports idea that cooperation, altruism, and reciprocation are aspects of self-
development equally as important as autonomy and individual definition.
Niedenthal & Beike:
Proposed the existence of both interrelated and isolated self-concepts. This view focuses on the
level of representation. => Some concepts drive their meaning through mental links to concepts of
other people, whereas other concepts have an intrinsic or cognitively isolated characterization”
− Interrelated dualities
Triandis => 3 types of self; public, private, collective
• The self that is manifested depends on the context.
• These different self-construals exist in people of different cultures.
• Thus, the notion that cultures are associated with a single sense of self, or even primarily with
one sense of self, is not commensurate with the literature. Erroneous.
Challenges to the Dichotomous view of Self:
• Six dimension view of self construals (Harb, Smith)
• Hardin => Multidimensional analysis (vs just two D). Six dimensions
Self-esteem refers to the cognitive and affective evaluations we make about ourselves. Self-
enhancement refers to the collection of psychological processes by which we bolster our self esteem.
Terror Management Theory: Humans are aware of their inevitable death, and are terrified of
it. Thus, they create a psychological phenomena as a buffer against the terror of dying. We fabricate and give meaning to our being in order to raise our human existence above nature
so that meaning can be drawn from life. Provides us with the fortitude to carry on despite
awareness of mortal fate.
Self esteem, therefore, is “a culturally based construction that consists of viewing oneself as living up
to specific contingencies of value.. that are derived from the culture at large, but are integrated into a
unique individualized worldview by each person.”
=> Debate about whether self enhancement is universal or culture-specific.
• Early studies suggested that collectivisticAsians engaged in self effacement. This is the
tendency to downplay one's virtues. Others suggest that collectivisticAsians are more critical
about themselves and are more attuned to negative than positive self evaluations (private and
• Better than average effect => American adults typically consider themselves to be more
intelligent and more attractive than average. Effect is stronger for males than females (US data).
National Survey (US): 70% thought themselves to be above average, 0% below, and
60% thought they were in the top 10%.
Survey (Japan): Claimed that 50% of students would be better than they are. These
findings have been argued to support that self-enhancement leading to higher self esteem is a product
of individualistic culture and does not exist in collectivistic cultures, or is lower.
New Research: Self-enhancement occurs in all cultures, but just in different ways.
• Could be the case that individualism fosters a certain type of self-esteem – one that is often
measured in psych research – whereas c