LINKAGES Personality Culture and Human Development

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LINKAGES Personality Culture and Human Development
Chapter 11 Personality
because each approach emphasizes different aspects of personality. Accordingly, it
has been suggested that a full understanding of the origins and development of personality will come only by recognizing the roles of all the factors that various
approaches have shown to be important. Some psychologists are now working on
theoretical models that take this promising integrative approach (Mayer, 2005;
McAdams & Pals, 2006).
Does culture determine
personality? (a link to
Human Development)
n many Western cultures, people encourage
others to “stand up for yourself ” or to
Personality, Culture, and
“blow your own horn” in order to “get
what you have coming to you.” In middleHuman Development
class North America, the values of achievement and personal distinction are taught to
children, particularly male children, very early in life (Kitayama, Duffy, & Uchida, in
press). North American children are encouraged to feel special, to have self-esteem,
and to feel good about themselves, partly because these characteristics are associated
with happiness, popularity, and superior performance in school. Whether self-esteem
is the cause or the result of these good outcomes (Baumeister et al., 2003), children
who learn and display these values nevertheless tend to receive praise for doing so.
(The goal of esteem building is clear in day-care centers, summer camps, and children’s clothing stores with names such as Starkids, Little Wonders, Incredible Me!,
Superkids, and Precious Jewels.)
As a result of this cultural training, many people in North America and Europe
develop personalities that are largely based on a sense of high self-worth. In a study by
Hazel Markus and Shinobu Kitayama (1991), for example, 70 percent of a sample of
U.S. students believed that they were superior to their peers. In addition, 60 percent
believed that they were in the top 10 percent on a wide variety of personal attributes!
This tendency toward self-enhancement is evident as early as age four.
It is no wonder that many Western personality theorists see a sense of independence, uniqueness, and self-esteem as fundamental to mental health. As noted in the
chapter on human development, for example, Erik Erikson included the appearance of
personal identity and self-esteem as part of normal psychosocial development. Middleclass North Americans who fail to value and strive for independence, self-promotion,
and unique personal achievement may be seen as having a personality disorder, some
form of depression, or other psychological problems.
Do these ideas reflect universal truths about personality development or, rather, the
influence of the cultures that generated them? It is certainly clear that people in many
non-Western cultures develop personal orientations that are quite different from those
of North Americans and Europeans (Lehman, Chiu, & Schaller, 2004). In China and
Japan, for example, an independent, unique self is not emphasized (Ho & Chiu, 1998).
In fact, children there are encouraged to develop and maintain pleasant, respectful
relations with others and not to stand out from the crowd, because doing so might
make others seem inferior by comparison. In fact, the Japanese word for “different”
(tigau) also means “wrong” (Kitayama & Markus, 1992). So whereas children in the
United States hear that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” (meaning that you don’t
get what you want unless you ask for it), Japanese children are warned that “the nail
that stands up gets pounded down” (meaning that it is not a good idea to draw
attention to yourself). From a very young age, they are taught to be modest, to play
down the value of personal contributions, and to appreciate the joy and value of group
work (Kitayama & Uchida, 2003).
In contrast to the independent self-system common in individualist cultures such
as Great Britain, Switzerland, and the United States, cultures with a more collectivist
orientation (such as Brazil, China, Japan, and Nigeria) promote an interdependent selfsystem through which people see themselves as a fraction of the social whole. Each
person has little or no meaningful definition without reference to the group. These
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