Cultural Differences : Individualism and Collectivism
The many cultures of the world differ in a great variety of ways. One of the most
interesting ways in which cultures vary is in the extent to which they are "individualistic"
or "collectivistic." An individualist society and a collectivist society are different in many
In an individualistic culture, each person tends to think of himself or herself in terms of
his or her own characteristics and preferences-the things that make the person unique or
different from others. In a collectivistic culture, each person tends to think of himself or
herself in terms of his or her social relationships and roles-the things that make the
person a part of a larger group, such as an extended family or an ethnic group.
Another difference between individualist and collectivist cultures involves the tendency
to help others. In an individualist society, people feel some obligation to help persons
who share some group identity-such as their distant relatives, or persons from the same
town-but this obligation is not nearly as strong as in collectivist cultures. On the other
hand, people in collectivist cultures tend to feel very little inclination to help other people
who do not belong to their groups, whereas people in individualist cultures are more
often willing to help others even if they do not belong to the same group.
Another difference between individualist and collectivist cultures involves the
relationship between people and the groups to which they belong. In an individualist
culture, people usually join or leave groups when it is in their personal interest to do so.
In a collectivist culture, people usually stay with one group for a long time. For example,
people in individualist societies are more willing to quit their job, and take a new job at
another company. People in collectivist societies usually prefer to stay with one company
throughout their career. Similarly, people in...
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