Personality and Individual Differences: Theory, Assessment, and Application (Psychology Research Progress)
CULTURE AND PERSONALITY
Historically, theories of personality and individual differences research have generally emerged primarily out of western thinking and traditions. In fact, Dan Jones (2010) has recently pointed out that since psychology students tend to be the most accessible and ‗willing‘ participants for psychology research, such findings are mostly representative of WEIRDos—Western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic cultures. It has been further pointed out that such theories and findings have tended to emphasise the individual at the expense of understanding the person in relation (Edge, this volume; Hall, 2003). Consider, for instance, the significance of ‗self‘ in many approaches to personality, and the value placed on ‗self-development‘ and ‗self-actualisation‘, and so forth. While there may be value in such constructs, others have noted that this focus on the self reflects the values ofwestern, industrialised cultures (e.g., North America) and may actually ignore the vast majority of the world‘s cultures that place value on the social collective over and above the individual (Hall, 2004; Markus, 2004). Consequently, some have been critical of personality and individual research, claiming that it reflects (and imposes) a western bias and thus not reflecting the global state of affairs (e.g., Markus, 2004). Some have even claimed that we are each trapped in our own cultural cocoons and are thus prevented from even ever understanding other cultures (e.g., Gergen, 2001). However, the latter claim is itself too extreme since if it is true, then it is itself trapped in its cultural setting and so can make no claim to making any truth statement extending beyond itself. Furthermore, it ignores humanity‘s great capacity to learn and communicate, and while we may struggle to get into another‘s world we can still make the effort, just as someone brought up ‗bi- (or even tri- etc.) culturally‘ has the benefit of appreciating multiple cultural nuances (cf. Hall, 2001).
Consequently, while much research has emerged out of western thinking, this is, in itself, not necessarily problematic. Instead, acknowledging the potential for cultural bias raises very interesting questions—empirical questions—about whether findings generated in particular parts of the world generalise to other parts, and whether our theories are as universal as we may wish to believe. Subsequently, there is growing interest in cultural factors and increasing questioning of the universality of theories and findings generated in the predominantly English-speaking, western, industrialised countries. This makes for exciting times, and what is helping to break down cultural barriers is increasing accessibility to the internet. Since the internet‘s inception approximately two decades ago, global communication has become steadily more accessible and this global accessibility and communication has led to the internet being increasingly used in research (see Jackson, this volume; Kraut et al., 2004). More and more, then, we have the technology to help us become global researchers.
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