Cross cultural differences in personality

Cross cultural differences in personality The aim of the work is to critically evaluate the evidence of cross cultural differences in personality and to come to the relevant conclusion, whether such differences exist and what impact they create on various sides of the personality life activity.
Numerous studies have been conducted to research the cross cultural differences of various aspects in personality behavior – starting from psychological side, and ending with the difference in business leadership and online and computer attitudes; however there is still a question – whether these the results of these studies are relevant and is it possible to assume that cross cultural differences exist – or based on the older economic theories, all personalities have similar behavioral patterns which are not different across cultures? Cross cultural personality studies


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The experimental researches conducted in the area of cross cultural differences in personality have found that people behave in different and various ways, in distinction from the basic economic theory that the phenomenon of personality is traditionally common across different ethnic groups. When one endeavors to discover the reasons and cores of this controversy, it appears that the great extent of impact is created by the social environment people live in. this is why cultural element in defining the reasons of cross cultural differences is essential in this study and in personality differences as such.
If one takes two different regions of the globe and considers the differences between these two regions as well as the changes in the personality which occur under these two different environments, as well as the differences between the personalities traditionally found in both societies, they will not only be geographically distant, but also culturally which will ultimately define these or those behavioral patterns accepted in this or that society under research. (Brandts, Saijo & Schram, 2004) Researches show that there are significant differences in traits between different ethnic groups and between the countries.
It will be interesting to take New Zealand and international sample as an example and critically evaluate the methods and evidences of the cross cultural differences found in this study; it is also essential to critically evaluate the evidence acquired in laboratory tests of cross cultural differences. In order to make the New Zealand study relevant, the three different groups of respondents were taken – New Zealand respondents were divided into Europeans, Maori and Pacific Islanders, with the addition of the absolutely different ethnic groups from South Africa and Australia.
It is stated that there have been revealed significant differences in the personality traits both on the New Zealand and on the international level. The largest differences at the international level were notices in the aspects of agreeableness, neuroticism and extraversion. In terms of the inner New Zealand groups the principal cross cultural personality differences were discovered in those traits which are usually determining for job performance – conscientiousness and neuroticism. (Allen, 2001) Evaluation of the theories
In the cultural dimension several theories have been created to explain the differences between the personalities in the cross cultural aspect. Considering these theories critically, it should be assumed that they have not been created without any reason, and there have existed solid grounds to assume that depending on what culture of origin is the source of social patterns for the personality, it is possible to define the basic criteria of personality characteristics. For example, the theory created by Markus & Kitayama (1991) states that ‘the cultures endow individuals with different principles that influence behavior.
‘ The author of this theory argued that one of the cultural dimensions is always measured through the line of individualism versus collectivism, and these traits should be included into the set of basic characteristics peculiar of the personality in the cross cultural perspective. one dimension of national culture is measured along a continuum from ‘collectivism’ to ‘individualism,’ defining societies in which the interest of the group prevails over the interest of the individual as ‘collectivistic’, and those in which the interest of the individual prevails over the interest of the group as individualistic”. (Allen, 2001)
While the traditions and the history of this or that country or ethnic group may be characterized by being either individualistic or collectivist, it is possible to reasonably assume that cross cultural personality differences exist (if one takes an example of the US being an individualistic country and promoting individual values versus collectivist ones, while the countries of Eastern Asia for example, promote opposite values, it becomes clear that even it were the only feature of differences between personalities, it would prove the assumption that these differences exist and would also lead to the discovery of the new ones).
Critical evaluation of the methodologies There is a five factor model which is used for the evaluation of the cross cultural personality differences, and it has also been objectively created on the basis of the knowledge about the basic personal characteristics which define personal behavior and reaction. the five-factor model comprised of five global personality traits, commonly referred to as the Big Five, now enjoys wide acceptance as the most comprehensive and parsimonious model of the structure of personality.
The Big Five traits are most commonly referred to as: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. Evaluating the evidence of cross cultural personality differences, one may find in literary sources that just described Big Five Model has also been based on the reasonable assumptions as for the existence of these differences. It was based on the English lexicon and Western culture, and this was the first theory to raise the concern as for the cross cultural generalisability.
It was noted that if the environment is capable of impacting personality, these five model structures would not be found in all cultures. The presence of different aspects of the Big Five model would depend on the culture under research. Personality assessments are culturally generalisable to enable cross-cultural comparisons, and also to ensure their fairness in the multicultural societies. (Barrick & Mount, 1991)
However many questions in relation to these study and the relevance and reliability of these results arise – for example, whether the group respondents were of the same social group (age, profession, interests, career, family status etc), and were the researches conducted in the similar surroundings and situations. On the other hand, if we assume that in order to create such perfect ideal surrounding laboratory tests would be the most appropriate ones, there are stil doubts whether these tests are reliable and can roduce rleevant results.
(Ones & Andersen, 2002) For example, if we take the case with the research of the cross cultural personality differences in New Zealand, Research into the cross-cultural generalisability of personality structure has been conducted through factor analytic studies of personality descriptors in foreign languages. It has also been studied through the translation of personality assessments and comparison of the resulting factor structure with the United States normative structure.
Analyses of personality descriptors in foreign languages have typically identified five factors. However, the five personality factors rarely correspond with the original five factors based on United States samples. This lack of correspondence is likely to arise because personality trait descriptors rarely translate directly between languages. However, the finding that lexical studies typically identify five, or close to five, personality factors is considered as evidence for the cross-cultural generalisability of personality structure.
(Barrick & Mount, 1991) The translation of questionnaire items can, however, present problems as some trait adjectives do not have direct translations. Despite this limitation, research has attempted to gauge the cross-cultural replicability of personality structure through the translation of personality assessments. Sometimes the cross cultural variability was viewed thrugh the six different assessments, but the five assessment model was still found the most appropriate as letting to find the bigger number of similarities in languages.
Despite the already described limitations, it has still be found that Big Five model of personality structure was replicated through the diverse cultures through both lexical and questionnaire methods. The existence of such model is not necessarily translated into the endorsement or rejection of various traits and behavioral patterns, and is equivalent across the cultures. This critical evaluation of the methods gives certain doubts as for the reliability of the existing evidence of cross cultural diversity across various ethnic groups.
Yet these methods are widely used for the research of these differences. The disadvantages of the international research in cross cultural personality difference are numerous, and this is why they should be always looked at critically. For example, with the facet personality trait level, it is difficult to generalise the findings across previous studies, because ‘different personality assessments vary according to the number of and names given to the lower level traits’.
(McAdams, 1992) As far as the United States is the leader of conducting these researches, the bigger part of them is devoted to the personality differences within the ethnic groups living in the US, but does it give solid grounds to assume that this cultural difference is similar in other ethnic groups all over the world? :Probably in order to receive reliable results in cross cultural studies it is essential to determine whether ethnic groups (even in the present study of New Zealand) are differentiated through commonly used personality asessments.
It is also interesting to note, that in order to eliminate these language problems and to check the reliability of the tests and methods, it is appropriate to conduct a research across English-speaking countries, which will give the basis for assuming, whether these test methodologies are workable within the frames of the similar language between the ethnic groups under research. Speaking about laboratory tests, there is a number of certain limitations which can prevent the reader and the researcher from normal judging and evaluation of the results.
While the results of any recent studies in cross cultural personality differences are held as being sensational and are represented without any account of the limitations, thus making the public consider cross cultural identity differences be crucial in the determining of the behavioral patterns, and letting other importantr factors remain unnoticed, there are the measurements which should be performed or taken into account while reading any such evidence and study, which will ultimately lead to the conclusion of the importance of the given results and their reliability.
These are the partner and the stranger condition, and the number of games played through the study in the laboratory conditions. In some studies, authors found that under partner condition, the contribution rate was lower, whereas others found the opposite results. These conditions had an effect on the contribution rate based on their research, this is why it is often necessary not to differentiate these two conditions and to evaluate the evidence of any cross cultural research without this differentiation.
(Goldberg, Sweeney & Hughes, 1998) In some studies, participants only played the game once, and in other studies they played the game following an infinitely repeated fashion, typically with 10 rounds. Theoretically speaking, the contribution rate of the last round of the infinitely repeated games is equivalent to the one in the one-shot game, given the same strategy the participants could apply. Thus, these data from respective condition is comparable.
Reading the study conducted in New Zealand, the first question arises in connection with the choice of participants; it was the correct step to define the gender, age and country of residence for each respondent; however, in this case the identification of the ethnic group is only available for the New Zealand inner groups, and is not specified for the international groups participated in the study.
On the one hand, it may decrease the reliability of the acquired results; on the other hand, at the international level the results of the research do not need to be specified in terms of the specific ethnic group and give only general definitions as for the cross cultural personality difference; but again – without this specification is there any guarantee that the international group has been chosen correctly and carried the general characteristics of the wide ethnic group and is not narrowed by some small ethnic grouping, thus making the cultural difference too significant?
The five traits model is also used in other cross cultural studies, and it is stated that ‘The Five Factor Model of personality is a universally valid taxonomy of traits. ‘ (McAdams, 1992) The analysis of the 33 countries and the studies of the cross cultural personality difference among these countries have allowed the researchers to come to the conclusion that this model is the most appropriate through the similar studies, and even with the account of the criticism given earlier in this work, it appears that many studies use it as the basic method for research.
This also gives the basis for doubts and critical evaluation of the reliability of the results provided by these studies; if the method used in most of them is the same and it presupposes certain limitations and even bias, thus the question is also whether these studies can be considered to be reliable. (Ones & Andersen, 2002 The beneficial side of the New Zealand approach is in the fact that it actually uses two different methods of evaluation which may potentially increase the reliability of the acquired results.
Personality traits were measured using the 15 Factor Questionnaire Plus (15FQ+), a self-report personality assessment. This assessment is widely used within New Zealand, as well as internationally, and was designed specifically for personnel assessment and selection purposes. The 15FQ+ was completed by the respondents in either a pencil-and-paper format or in a computerised format. Qualified test administrators conducted the assessments following a standardised procedure and testing conditions.
The assessment had no time limit, but respondents were provided with a guide of how long the assessment should take. In distinction from other studies, which mostly use one method, and which is mostly the Big Five Model (Triandis, 2002; Markus & Kitayama, 1991), the use of the two different methods certainly increases reliability and relevance of the research results. Another study (Allen, 2001) suggested that the use of the 15FQ+ tests was within the range of the reasonable validity and thus had good internal consistency.
The reliability coefficients of this method were ranging from . 77 to . 89 which is essential for the tests of such kind. No information has been found as for the Five Model tests, and it should be suggested that the wide use of this method does not give any reliable basis to assume that this methodology is the best for the evaluation of these cross cultural personality differences.
The results which were acquired through the research, tell the reader that out of the five basic traits, suspiciousness was the one which displayed the highest difference across the three international group of respondents, with South Africa showing the highest scores; however with the accounting of the previous criticism of the Big Five Model it is possible to assume that these results should be re-checked with the use of other methodologies, as well as with the specification of the exact ethnic group at the international level.
(Barrick & Mount, 1991) Conclusion Based on the previous assumptions the following conclusions may be derived out of the information available: 1. The Laboratory tests of the cross cultural personality differences are deprived of real life connection and the participants of these studies are already assimilated thus the results of these studies cannot be supposed to be reliable. 2. The use of the Big Five model should be combined with the use of other methodologies to produce relevant results.
It is suggested, that further research is conducted within the framework of several different methodologies, and it is assumed that the results acquired through the similar studies but with the use of different methods will produce the results which are different from those in previous researches. It is suggested that the most important studies are carried out again but with different respondents and different surroundings with the account of the criticism in the present paper.
The studies which exist at present, especially those using only one Big Five model of research, should be re-visited and re-considered in the light of the modern realia and the requirements towards such experiments. It is suggested that laboratory studies are excluded from the sphere of cross cultural personality studies. Works cited Allen, J. Review of Measurement of Ethnicity – Classification and Issues. Classifications and Standards Section, New Zealand, 2001. Barrick, M. R. & Mount, M. K.
‘The Big Five Personality Dimensions: A Meta-Analysis’. Personnel Psychology, 44 (1991): 1-26 Brandts, J. , Saijo, T. & Schram, A. ‘How Universal is Behavior? A Four Country Comparison. ‘ Public Choice 119 (2004): 381-424 Goldberg, L. R. , Sweeney, D. & Hughes, J. E. ‘Demographic Variables and Personality: The Effects of Gender, Age, Education, and Ethnic/ Racial Status on Self-Descriptions of Personality Attributes’. Personality and Individual Difference 24 (1998): 393-403 Markus. H. R. & Kitayama, S. ‘Culture and the Self: Implications for Cognition, Emotion and Motivation’.
Psychological Review 98 (1991): 224-253 McAdams, D. P. ‘The Five-Factor Model in Personality: A Critical Appraisal’. Journal of Personality 60 (1992): 329-361 Ones, D. S. & Andersen, N. ‘Gender and Ethnic Group Differences in Personality Scales in Selection: Some British Data. ‘ Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 75 (2002): 255-276 Triandis, H. C. ‘The Self and Social Behavior in Differing Cultural Contexts’. Psychological Review 96 (1989): 506-520

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