Individualistic culture

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Individualistic culture is a society which is characterized by individualism, which is the prioritization or emphasis of the individual over the entire group.[1] Individualistic cultures are oriented around the self, being independent instead of identifying with a group mentality. They see each other as only loosely linked, and value personal goals over group interests.[1] Individualistic cultures tend to have a more diverse population and are characterized with emphasis on personal achievements, and a rational assessment of both the beneficial and detrimental aspects of relationships with others.[2] Individualistic cultures have such unique aspects of communication as being a low power-distance culture and having a low-context communication style. The United States, Australia, United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany and South Africa have been identified as highly individualistic cultures.[2] The term individualistic culture was founded by Geert Hofstede in 1980. According to Hofstede, Individualistic culture refers to a sociological and not a psychological dimension. In a detailed analysis of 40 national cultures, he stated that cultures can be identified as individualistic or collectivistic. Collectivistic cultures value the whole group or community rather than the individual.[3] This idea, however, just defines and characterizes different societies and is not a description of different personalities.[4] Knowing what cultures values are helps sociologist understand the human behavior of people from different cultures. There has been a global increase in individualism in the recent years and individualistic culture is on the raise in many countries around the world.[5]

Low power distance[edit]

Power distance is defined to be the degree to which unequal distribution of power is accepted in a culture.[1] Low power distance cultures challenge authority, encourage a reduction of power differences between management and employees, and encourage the use of power legitimately. Low power distance is more likely to occur in an individualistic culture, because in a collectivist culture, people protect the well being of the group and established order[1] so they would be less likely to challenge authority or people in power. Even though individualistic cultures are more likely to be low power distance, these cultures don't expect to completely eliminate power difference. People within this low power distance culture, however, are more likely to respond to such imbalances in power with more negative emotional responses than in the alternative, high power distance cultures. Low power distance cultures include Austria, Israel, Denmark, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, and Sweden. The U.S. ranks 38th on the scale.[2]

Low-context communication style[edit]

Communication among people of different cultural groups can sometimes be challenging, as they might have practices and social cues that maybe be different from your own. This can often lead to miscommunication.[6] The concept of low context communication was first introduced by anthropologist Edward T Hall. Hall's concepts of low context and high context communication explains differences in communication and culture in which context is needed to achieve understanding and avoid miscommunication.[7] Individualistic cultures are also more likely to have a low-context communication style. This means that communication is precise, direct, and specific.[8] Unlike in high-context communication, reading between the lines is not necessary in low-context communication. This explicit communication is used in order to prevent any form of misunderstanding between cultures.[8] The ability to articulate the thoughts and opinions one holds as well as to express them eloquently are encouraged, as is persuasive speaking. Low-context communication is all content and no relationship dimension.

Emotion display and display rules[edit]

Individualistic cultures tend to prioritize the individual person over the group,[1] and this can be seen in how the display rules vary from a collectivist culture compared to an individualistic culture. Display rules are the rules that exist in different cultures that determine how emotion should be displayed publicly.[9] In an individualistic culture, self-expression is highly valued, making the display rules less strict and allowing people to display intense emotion such as: happiness, anger, love, etc. While in a collectivist culture, moderation and self-control is highly valued for the well being of the group, and collectivist cultures therefore tend to restrain from showing emotion in public.[1]

Marriage and Family Dynamics[edit]

In 1994 Ruth K. Chao, argued that “parenting styles developed on North American samples cannot be simply translated to other cultures, but instead must reflect their sociocultural contexts”.[10] Many cultures have different styles of parenting and the dynamics those families are also different. People from individualistic cultures usually look out for themselves and their immediate family only.[11] While people from collectivistic cultures look out for their community or group, as well as their family. Harald Wallbott and Klaus Scherer suggest that in cultures that are collectivist and high in power parents use real shame in their parenting styles. Whereas in individualistic cultures that are low in power, and are uncertainty-avoidance, shame more closely resembles guilt in their parent style. For example, in Asian collectivistic cultures shame is a highly valued emotional response. So much so, that in Japan, which is considered to be a collectivistic culture, many people commit suicide after dishonoring or bringing shame to their family or community.

Work-Family Balance[edit]

One’s cultural style can also interfere with work-family relationship dynamics between different cultures. In Shan Xu research he found that, employees from more individualistic cultures are more sensitive to how their work interferes with their family life.[12] These employees are more concerned about their own individual family dynamics and structure. While people from more collectivistic cultures are more concerned about how their work provides material, social, and cognitive resources such as intelligence and experience which will help their families. These employees are more focused on the overall and harmony of all those little factors and how they affect their families.

Conflict strategies[edit]

Conflict strategies are methods used to resolve different problems. There are different approaches to resolving conflict, and depending the culture a person is brought up in, the more likely it is for them to use a certain approach. Since individualistic culture sets greater value to personal achievement, contrary to collectivist cultures who value harmony,[13] it is more likely for a person from an individualistic culture to use competition as their method of resolving conflict. When using competition as an approach to resolving conflict, a person is more confrontational and seeks to achieve his or her own goals with no regard of the goals of others.[14] Using this approach a person seeks domination, which means to get others to do what the person wants instead of what they initially wanted.[14] On the contrary, a collectivist culture would more likely use a less confrontational approach such as accommodation to end the conflict with compromise so that each party is benefited.


Individualistic cultures focus on “I” consciousness while collectivist cultures have a greater emphasis on “We” consciousness.[15] According to the Key Concepts in Developmental Psychology individualism and collectivism have multiple factors which contribute to whether a culture is considered individualistic or collectivist.[16] Things such as the national wealth of the country, indices of modernity, the freedom of press, and even the frequency of traffic deaths. All of these play a roll in whether a country identifies as individualistic or collectivistic.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Hofstede, Geert (2001). Culture's Consequences. SAGE. ISBN 0803973241.
  2. ^ a b c Rothwell, J. (2010). In the Company of Others: An Introduction to Communication. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 65–84.
  3. ^ Emler, Nick (2006). "Collectivism". Encyclopedic Dictionary of Psychology, Graham Davey. 1st edition – via Credo Reference.
  4. ^ Rudolph H., Schaffer (2006). "Individualism Collectivism". Key Concepts in Developmental Psychology. 1st edition – via Sage UK.
  5. ^ Santos, Henri C.; Varnum, Michael E. W.; Grossmann, Igor (2017). "Global Increases in Individualism". Psychological Science. 28 (9): 1228–1239. doi:10.1177/0956797617700622. ISSN 0956-7976. PMID 28703638. S2CID 206588771 – via Google Scholar.
  6. ^ Swann, Joan (2004). "Intercultural Communication". A Dictionary of Sociolinguistics. Edinburgh University Press. 1st edition – via Credo Reference.
  7. ^ Romaos, D. Carolina (2014). Thompson, Sherwood (ed.). "Low Context". Encyclopedia of Diversity and Social Justice. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 1st edition – via Credo Reference.
  8. ^ a b Hall, Edward (1987). Hidden Differences: Doing Business with the Japanese. University of California: Anchor Press/Doubleday. ISBN 0385238835.
  9. ^ Ekman, Paul (1975). "Facial Areas and Emotional Information". Journal of Communication. 25 (2): 21–29. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1975.tb00577.x. PMID 1127138.
  10. ^ Semtana, Judith G. (2003). "Parenting Styles". International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. 2nd edition – via Gale.
  11. ^ Wilmot, William W. (2003). "Relationship Theories Self Other Relationships". International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family. 2nd edition – via Gale.
  12. ^ Xu, Shan; Wang, Yanling; Mu, Ren; Jin, Jiafei; Gao, Feiyi (2018). "The effects of work-family interface on domain-specific satisfaction and well-being across nations: The moderating effects of individualistic culture and economic development: National differences in work-family spillover". PsyCh Journal. 7 (4): 248–267. doi:10.1002/pchj.226. PMID 30113133. S2CID 52009916.
  13. ^ Park, H.S (2006). "The effects of national culture and face concerns on intention to apologize". Journal of Intercultural Communication Research. 3: 183–204. doi:10.1080/17475750601026933. S2CID 143573807.
  14. ^ a b Sillars, A. (1980). "Attributions and communication in roommate conflicts". Communication Monographs. 47 (3): 180–200. doi:10.1080/03637758009376031.
  15. ^ Edara, Inna Reddy (2016). "Relation of Individualism-Collectivism and Ethnic Identity to Spiritual Transcendence Among European Americans, Asian Indian Americans, and Chinese Americans". Counseling and Values. 61 (1): 44–63. doi:10.1002/cvj.12025.
  16. ^ Rudolph H., Schaffer (2006). "Individualism Collectivism". Key Concepts in Developmental Psychology. 1st edition – via Sage UK.