How do you see yourself?
Can you accurately self-reflect on your traits, behaviors, and ideology and use that knowledge to predict how you might behave in the future?
Do you see yourself clearly? Do you understand why you do the things you do?
And how does your culture influence that self-insight?
Over the next several weeks, we will dive headfirst into the six cultural constructs discussed in last week’s post, the first of which is individualism versus collectivism.
Individualism vs. Collectivism
Individualists and collectivists often have different motivations.
Because the societies and cultures that form these us provide us with different values, norms, dreams, desires, etc.
Individualist cultures generally prioritize personal achievement and independence.
Collectivist cultures, on the other hand, prioritize cooperation and group harmony.
These diverging priorities lead to diverging motivations.
And, according to the following study, a differing degree of self-insight.
Self-Knowledge & Culture
Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, this study by Balcetis, Dunning, and Miller examines how cultural differences influence people’s ability to predict their own behavior in situations with moral or altruistic overtones.
The researchers found that collectivists were more accurate in their self-predictions compared to individualists.
In three different studies, individualists overestimated their likelihood to act generously in situations involving redistributing rewards, donating money, or avoiding rude behavior, while collectivists were generally more accurate in their self-predictions.
Both groups predicted peer behavior with similar accuracy, but even when samples were taken from the same cultural group, collectivists still demonstrated more precise self-predictions than individualists.
This suggests that the accuracy of social insight and self-insight can be biased by culturally bound motivations.
Why do individualists have a harder time predicting their own behavior?
One theory is that they focus on themselves too much and assume their behavior will be consistent with their personal traits, leading to inaccurate predictions.
Individualists who are motivated to emphasize personal uniqueness tend to strive to be better than the group, and thus the best strategy for self-prediction is an internal one based on one’s dispositional nature.
On the other hand, collectivists who prioritize fitting in with the group may be better at predicting their own behavior because they consider external factors and group behavior.
Collectivists are not motivated to emphasize personal uniqueness and instead strive to fit in with a comparison group, so the best approach to take when making predictions about the self is an external one based on distributional, group-level base rates.
Factors such as face-saving may also moderate these patterns of accuracy.
This highlights how understanding what constitutes normative social behavior can inform personal self-understanding, but cultural differences may prevent people from knowing themselves precisely because they strive to be different from the norm or typical group member.