Deconstructing the “cultural binary”: Multidimensional models of selfhood and the importance of exploratory research
Reflecting a human tendency to structure thought and language in terms of binary oppositions, much social psychological theorising rests on an assumed binary contrast between “personal” and “social”. For example, a binary opposition between Western individualism/independence and Eastern collectivism/interdependence underlies much theorising in cross-cultural social psychology. This risks oversimplifying cultural differences, as well as marginalising in the literature those cultural groups that are not prototypically “Western” or “Eastern”. Recent findings indicate that a simple bipolar contrast does not capture adequately the diverse models of selfhood that prevail in different world regions. Societies promote—and individuals adopt—different ways of being both independent and interdependent, according to prevailing values, beliefs, economic circumstances and religious heritage. I will argue that exploratory research and inductive theorising can help social psychologists to overcome our cultural preconceptions and biases, in order to build more valid, representative and useful theories.
Session Category : Keynote