Both Individualism (independence) and collectivism (interdependence) are social constructs that describes societies (Cross et al., 2010). An individualist is a person who places their needs before others (Cross, Hardin & Gercek, 2010). They are unique, outspoken (Dion & Dion, 1993) and tend to originate from the Western world (Fiske & Taylor, 1984). While a collectivist, prioritises the groups needs before his or her own, connected to their social context and tend to come from the Eastern world (Fiske et al., 1984). Such social constructs are very useful in understanding behaviour and motives, as they do determine them (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). On the other hand, researchers have found social constructs to be too simplistic, as countries are categorised, as either independent or interdependent, and fail to acknowledge that there are within-cultural variations (Oyserman & Lee, 2008). This essay will analyse both sides of the argument and consider other factors that are more useful in understanding human behaviour and motives.
Supporting evidence for individualism and collectivism being essential in understanding behaviour, come from, Kityama, Markus, Matsumol and Norasakkunkit (1997) (in Fiske et al., 1984). They found behavioural differences between Americans and the Japanese. For instance, Kityama (1997) found that a game of volleyball between friends in America is fun and relaxing, where as in Japan, it is taken seriously and players are treated severely when they perform poorly. These behavioural differences, such as the Japanese being punitive can only be explained by the two social constructs, individualism and collectivism, as Japan is a collective society and America is an individualist society. However, a li...
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...lves e.g. I am female, I am caring and so on. This test is valuable in understanding culture and gender. The researchers reported that the results found came from culture and not gender differences. Thus, suggesting social constructs to be more useful than gender in understand and influencing behaviour.
In conclusion, based on the empirical evidence social constructs of individualism and collectivism are very useful in understanding human behaviour and motives. However, individualism and collectivism is somewhat flawed as they are used to generalised countries, and fail to realise within cultural variations. However, other factor such as gender also seems to be essential in understanding behaviour and motives. To further sum up, despite limitations within social constructs of individualism and collectivism, they are essential in understanding behaviour and motives.
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