Researchers Markus and Kitayama wrote an article, published in 1991, in Psychological Review about culture and the self. They explain that the conception of the self, of others and the relation between the two influence cognition, emotion and motivation.

  • For example, in many Asian cultures, it is expected from the individual that he or she takes care of other people’s needs, tries to fit in a group and develops a strong attachment to it, hence promoting harmonious interaction. 
  • On the other hand, American culture encourages individuals to maintain their independence, discover their own personal characteristics, express them and cherish their uniqueness.

This table presents a summary of the differences between the independent and interdependent constructs of the self.

This could explain, in part, the erroneous perception that some people have of others who come from a different cultural background. 

If we imagine a conversation between a typical Chinese and a typical American man, stemming from the independent and interdependent views of the self, we might hear something like this: 

views of self

Without any knowledge of these guidelines, it becomes easy to fall into reducing  judgment of individuals and cultural groups, by interpreting messages from our own frame of attitudes and behaviors. This way, the others’ actions seem that strange, illogical or incorrect. The illustration above gives us a good idea of what a person could think or say, coming from the model of the independent or the interdependent self : oh, how much the other is wrong, how doesn’t he know how to live!

For more on this topic, see the article Culture and the Self : Implications for Cognition, Emotion and Motivation by Hazel Rose Markus and Shinobu Kitayama, by clicking on this link: Conceptions of self Markus and Kitayama.