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Self as Cultural Product: An Examination of East Asian and North ...

Self as Cultural Product: An Examination of East Asian and North ...

Self as Cultural Product: An Examination of East Asian and North

Self as Cultural Product: An Examination of East Asian and North American Selves Steven J. Heine University of British Columbia ABSTRACT In the past decade a wealth of research has been conducted on the cultural foundation of the self-concept, particularly with respect to East Asian and North American selves. The present paper discusses how the self differs across these two cultural contexts, particularly with respect to an emphasis on consistency versus flexibility, an intraindividual versus an extraindividual focus, the malleability of the self versus world, the relation of self to others, and self-enhancing versus self-critical motivations. These differences reveal the manifold ways that culture shapes the self. The study of the self has been an irresistible preoccupation of personality and social psychologists. Questions such as “How do people view themselves?” “How do people evaluate themselves?” and “How do people explain their behavior?” have traditionally been significant concerns. About a decade ago, when Triandis (1989) and Markus and Kitayama (1991) called the attention of personality and social psychologists to the cultural variation between East Asian and North American views of self, renewed interest emerged for the concern: “How does the self come to be?” A growing body of theory and research, particularly with respect to comparisons of East Asians and North Americans, has This research was funded by start-up funds from the University of Pennsylvania and a Japan Foundation Fellowship. Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Steven J. Heine at the Department of Psychology, 2136 West Mall, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V6T 124 Canada. E-mail can be sent to heine@psych.ubc.ca. Journal of Personality 69:6, December 2001. Copyright © 2001 by Blackwell Publishers, 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 108 Cowley Road, Oxford, OX4 1JF, UK.

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