1.3.4 - Individualist or Collectivist


Individualist or Collectivist


The way you responded to the Sharing the Rewards exercise tells you something about how you feel regarding individual achievement and reward. Most Americans choose to divide the available pool in a disproportionate way; they do not generally divide the money equally. This tendency to stress either individuality or a more collective response is one of the most widely distributed traits around the world. Not every culture is at one end or the other of the spectrum, but the majority tend to favor one over the other in everyday life. Knowing about the basis of this Collectivism versus Individualism construct will help you to recognize, understand, and anticipate attitudes in different types of cultures.


The individual identifies primarily with self, with the needs of the individual being satisfied before those of the group. Looking after and taking care of oneself, being self-sufficient, guarantees the well-being of the group. Independence and self-reliance are greatly stressed and valued. In general, people tend to distance themselves psychologically and emotionally from each other. One may choose to join groups, but group membership is not essential to oneís identity or success. Individualist characteristics are often associated with men and people in urban settings.


Oneís identity is, in large part, a function of oneís membership and role in a group, e.g., the family or work team. The survival and success of the group ensures the well-being of the individual, so that by considering the needs and feelings of others, one protects oneself. Harmony and the interdependence of group members are stressed and valued. Group members are relatively close psychologically and emotionally, but distant toward nongroup members. Collectivist characteristics are often associated with women and people in rural settings.  




Tales from the...



Learning from Cultural Encounters !!



Concept of Self Exercise


Look at the list of characteristics and behaviors given below. If you decide the statement is more likely to apply to people living in an individualist culture, write "I" in the underlined blank space; if you think it is characteristic of a collectivist culture, write "C."


Characteristics and Behaviors

People answer the phone by giving the name of the organization.
People give cocktail parties.
Inter-group rivalry is strong.
Employee-of-the-year awards are offered.
People adhere to tradition.
People are promoted based on production and results.
Contracts in business are used frequently.
There is a need for autonomy.
People change jobs frequently.
People believe that conflict clears the air.
There is a need for affiliation.
Short-term relationships are common.
Itís okay to stand out.
Face-saving is important.
Itís common for mothers to ask their preschoolers what they want to wear each day.
Self-help books are popular.
Decisions are made by consensus.
The language has one word for motherís brother, another for fatherís brother.
Marriages are arranged.
People have potluck dinners.

Suggested answers