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The essence of Chang’s argument is that we cannot rely on single metaphorical distinc-tions such as individualism–collectivism if we really want to accurately describe and ulti-mately understand other cultures.THE PANCULTURAL SELFAs mentioned above, in individualistic cultures, emphasis is placed on individual goals over group goals, values that benefit the self are championed, the self is promoted, and individuals are encouraged to pursue and develop their individual abilities and aptitudes. In these cultures, people are taught to be creative, self-reliant, competitive, and assertive. The individual self is the most fundamental basis for self-definition. In contrast, in collectivistic cultures, group goals take precedence over individual goals, values that serve the in-group are stressed, and people are not seen as isolated individuals but as interdependent with others. In these cultures, the collective self is the most fundamental basis of self-definition.Yet there is a growing body of literature that suggests that the individual self is pancultural—that is, that the individual self is more fundamental to self-definition across all cultures than is the collective self. In other words, people in all cultures strive to maintain and achieve positive self-regard as a primary motivation. Current research suggests that both individualis-tic and collectivistic cultures sanction and even endorse self-enhancement, but via different means. Collectivism is just another way to promote the self. For example, in individualistic cultures of the West (i.e., the United States, Canada, Great Britain), it is accepted and tolerated to show off one’s success. In Eastern cultures (e.g., Japan, Korea, China), it is accepted and tolerated to expect reciprocity based on seniority. In other words, in both types of cultures,
CHAPTER 2The Cultural Context61a person’s motivations for behavior and self-definition stem primarily from one’s personal identity and an independent sense of self. Moreover, research demonstrates that on self-description tasks, people generate more aspects of their individual self than of their collective self, regardless of their cultural individualism or collectivism. Some researchers have even suggested that social harmony, a primary value among collectivists, often serves as a means through which to accomplish individual goals. Other researchers have argued that collectivism is explainable not in terms of a fundamentally different cognitive organization of the self but because it is advantageous to the self in the long run. Still others maintain that in collectivistic cultures individuals may temporarily sacrifice their self-interest for the group as long as they expect to receive rewards from the group eventually. Finally, in both individualistic and col-lectivistic cultures, self-enhancement is sanctioned through upward mobility, status seeking, and general promotions of the self. In both types of cultures, people engage in strategic efforts to self-enhance.