Culture and the distinctiveness motive: constructing identity in individualistic and collectivistic contexts
The motive to attain a distinctive identity is sometimes thought to be stronger in, or even specific to, those socialized into individualistic cultures. Using data from 4,751 participants in 21 cultural groups (18 nations and 3 regions), we tested this prediction against our alternative view that culture would moderate the ways in which people achieve feelings of distinctiveness, rather than influence the strength of their motivation to do so. We measured the distinctiveness motive using an indirect technique to avoid cultural response biases. Analyses showed that the distinctiveness motive was not weaker-and, if anything, was stronger-in more collectivistic nations. However, individualism-collectivism was found to moderate the ways in which feelings of distinctiveness were constructed: Distinctiveness was associated more closely with difference and separateness in more individualistic cultures and was associated more closely with social position in more collectivistic cultures. Multilevel analysis confirmed that it is the prevailing beliefs and values in an individual's context, rather than the individual's own beliefs and values, that account for these differences.