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Research explodes the myth of a 'West vs. Rest' cultural divide

New evidence that the common belief in a cultural divide between the West and the rest of the world is little more than a myth

Date:
August 3, 2016
Source:
University of Sussex
Summary:
The research into global concepts of selfhood, involving 73 researchers working in 35 nations, reveals that the self-beliefs of members of Western cultural groups have much more in common with the rest of the world than was previously suggested, contradicting the generally accepted view of a 'West vs. the rest' divide.
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This research reveals much more diversity among cultural groups from different "non-Western" parts of the world than was previously acknowledged.
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A major international research project led by a University of Sussex academic provides new evidence that the common belief in a cultural divide between the West and the rest of the world is little more than a myth.

Cultural psychologists have long argued that people living in Western cultures show a rather distinctive pattern of self-beliefs, compared to those who live in other parts of the world. Westerners, it is claimed, are unusual in that they tend to see themselves as independent from others. A sharp contrast between Western "independence" and non-Western "interdependence" has been at the heart of psychologists' thinking about cultural diversity for the last 25 years.

The new research, involving 73 researchers working in 35 nations and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK), explored how people of different cultures see themselves and their relationships with others. The research involved 10,000 participants from over 50 cultural groups spanning all inhabited continents.

The findings, just published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, reveal that the self-beliefs of members of Western cultural groups have much more in common with the rest of the world than was previously suggested, contradicting the generally accepted view of a "West versus the rest" divide in concepts of selfhood.

Simultaneously, the research reveals much more diversity among cultural groups from different "non-Western" parts of the world than was previously acknowledged.

Dr Vivian Vignoles, Reader in Social Psychology at the University of Sussex, Principal Investigator of the Culture and Identity Research Network, and lead author on the project, explains:

"Self-perceptions influence our social relationships, health and lifestyle choices, community engagement, political actions, and ultimately our own and others' well-being.

"Our new research provides a much richer and more accurate picture of cultural diversity in self-perceptions than was previously available. It shows that when we label a cultural group as 'individualist' or 'collectivist', this can lead us to make a lot of false assumptions about how people in that group will see themselves, and so we may wrongly predict how they might respond to our communications or interventions.

"Our findings suggest that members of Western cultures tend to view themselves as more self-directed, unique and self-expressive than those from some, but not all other parts of the non-western world, and they do not typically view themselves as more self-interested or self-reliant. Western cultural groups are not an 'exception' but form part of the kaleidoscope of cultural diversity.

"Cultural groups in other parts of the world have distinct models of selfhood that are poorly reflected by previous models of culture and self-perceptions. In fact, the prevailing cultural models of selfhood in Middle Eastern, East Asian, Sub-Saharan African or Latin American world regions are at least as different from each other as they each are from the Western model."

The new findings will help researchers to understand better how psychological processes vary in different parts of the world. In future they could help practitioners to engage more effectively with members of diverse cultural communities; whether in business and trade, health promotion, international conflict resolution or development.


Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Sussex. Original written by Lynsey Ford. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Vivian L. Vignoles, Ellinor Owe, Maja Becker, Peter B. Smith, Matthew J. Easterbrook, Rupert Brown, Roberto González, Nicolas Didier, Diego Carrasco, Maria Paz Cadena, Siugmin Lay, Seth J. Schwartz, Sabrina E. Des Rosiers, Juan A. Villamar, Alin Gavreliuc, Martina Zinkeng, Robert Kreuzbauer, Peter Baguma, Mariana Martin, Alexander Tatarko, Ginette Herman, Isabelle de Sauvage, Marie Courtois, Ragna B. Garðarsdóttir, Charles Harb, Inge Schweiger Gallo, Paula Prieto Gil, Raquel Lorente Clemares, Gabriella Campara, George Nizharadze, Ma. Elizabeth J. Macapagal, Baland Jalal, David Bourguignon, Jianxin Zhang, Shaobo Lv, Aneta Chybicka, Masaki Yuki, Xiao Zhang, Agustín Espinosa, Aune Valk, Sami Abuhamdeh, Benjamin Amponsah, Emre Özgen, E. Ülkü Güner, Nil Yamakoğlu, Phatthanakit Chobthamkit, Tom Pyszczynski, Pelin Kesebir, Elvia Vargas Trujillo, Paola Balanta, Boris Cendales Ayala, Silvia H. Koller, Jas Laile Jaafar, Nicolay Gausel, Ronald Fischer, Taciano L. Milfont, Ersin Kusdil, Selinay Çağlar, Said Aldhafri, M. Cristina Ferreira, Kassahun Habtamu Mekonnen, Qian Wang, Márta Fülöp, Ana Torres, Leoncio Camino, Flávia Cristina Silveira Lemos, Immo Fritsche, Bettina Möller, Camillo Regalia, Claudia Manzi, Maria Brambilla, Michael Harris Bond. Beyond the ‘east–west’ dichotomy: Global variation in cultural models of selfhood.. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 2016; 145 (8): 966 DOI: 10.1037/xge0000175

Cite This Page:

University of Sussex. "Research explodes the myth of a 'West vs. Rest' cultural divide: New evidence that the common belief in a cultural divide between the West and the rest of the world is little more than a myth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 August 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160803072822.htm>.
University of Sussex. (2016, August 3). Research explodes the myth of a 'West vs. Rest' cultural divide: New evidence that the common belief in a cultural divide between the West and the rest of the world is little more than a myth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 23, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160803072822.htm
University of Sussex. "Research explodes the myth of a 'West vs. Rest' cultural divide: New evidence that the common belief in a cultural divide between the West and the rest of the world is little more than a myth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160803072822.htm (accessed May 23, 2017).

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