Half of what I write here is irrelevant. Oh, it's probably relevant to you, but you probably only represent roughly 30% of the world. The audience of this site is predominantly from societies dominated by so-called 'Western' culture. That means Australia, the U.S., the U.K. and Europe and so on. Western culture is very much an individualistic culture, a type of culture that represents less than a third of the world's population. Unfortunately, until recently, almost all of the psychological research has come from these countries and now we're finding that some of what we've found doesn't apply to every culture, just ours. In fact, it's the reason that to get published in a major journal these days, you normally have to include a certain number of ethnicities.
Individualistic cultures are those that emphasise the needs of the (duh) individuals. About 70% of the world come from collectivistic cultures, in which the needs of the group triumph. This differing emphasis has enormous implications for our conceptualisation of the self, our personalities and our behaviour.
- The cultural goal is independence.
- Our behaviour is given meaning by attributing it to our own thoughts, feelings and attitudes
- We avoid, where possible, attributing (positive) behaviours to others and avoid referring to them in terms of others.
- The cultural goal is interdependence (which is, if I'm honest, entirely the way we're built)
- We see ourselves as part of a social relationship
- Our behaviour is given meaning by referring to it, and recognising that it is contingent on the thoughts, feelings and actions of the other people in that relationship
- we rely on our friends, seriously; our friendships and relationships are crucial to our health and wellbeing. If we don't recognise the importance, we're essentially killing ourselves.
- we are built to be social. By ignoring (or placing less importance on) our social influences, we are simply unable to master our relationships
- we also learn through others. By ignoring their role in our development, we can never fully take control of our direction
Like Chuck says in Invisible Monsters,
Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I've ever known.”
A bit worried now? Want to focus on your friends? Well, start with the friendship checklist. Or, maybe you'd like to see what it looks like when relationships form (and see how close you and your friends really are)? Giving you the dirt on your search for understanding, psychological freedom and 'the good life' at The Dirt Psychology.