University of Sussex
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Unpacking cultural orientations: representations of the person and the self

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posted on 2023-06-08, 15:03 authored by Ellinor Owe
This thesis aims to disentangle the concept of culture; more specifically it identifies different facets of cultural orientations. It looks at how cultural and national groups differ on these dimensions and their impact on individuals and societies. It is argued that we need a more nuanced and multifaceted understanding of culture that goes beyond focusing on values. Chapter 1 discusses definitions of culture and identifies three significant facets of culture—values, beliefs and constructions of the self. It is noted that research into the latter two facets is far less developed. Chapter 2 outlines research into cross-cultural variation in beliefs, more specifically beliefs about personhood, and notes that little is known about beliefs that define individualism-collectivism (I-C). Chapter 3 reviews self-construal theory and highlights a range of remaining issues which point to the need to explore self-construals further. Chapter 4 provides a methodological overview of the research. Chapter 5 reports results from two large-scale cross-cultural questionnaire studies and presents the construct, and a measure, of contextualism, referring to beliefs about the importance of the context in understanding people. Contextualism is shown to be a facet of cultural collectivism and a predictor of national variation in ingroup favouritism, trust and corruption. Chapter 6 presents a new seven-dimensional model of self-construals, which can be organised into three higher-order dimensions at the cultural level of analysis: self-differentiation, other-focus and self-containment. Variation in self-differentiation is shown to be best explained by differences in I-C, other-focus by differences in national wealth and self-containment by religious heritage. Based on a smaller study in four nations, Chapter 7 investigates the seven self-construal dimensions at the individual level and tests how they differentially predict outcomes related to socio-emotional adjustment. Chapter 8 summarises the findings and discusses implications and directions for future research.


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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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