One of the most important and widely studied areas in cultural psychology is personality. Indeed, the search for the underlying bases of individual differences, which serve as the backbone of understanding personality, shares a close conceptual and empirical connection with culture in any cultural milieu. We begin this chapter by first defining personality, discussing briefly the major perspectives that have been used to study it, and the measurement of personality across cultures. Then we review cross-cultural research on a view of personality known as the Five-Factor Model (FFM), which suggests that five personality dimensions are universal to all humans. We discuss two theories that account for such universality in personality structure and research that goes beyond the FFM. We also discuss indigenous and culture-specific approaches to personality and some of the research that has been conducted in this area. Although culture-specific aspects of personality and universal notions of personality may seem contradictory, we present a way of understanding their mutual coexistence and conceptualizing and studying their duality.
Personality is a broad concept that refers to many aspects of an individual’s unique characteristics, and is generally considered to be a set of relatively enduring behavioral and cognitive characteristics, traits, or predispositions that people take with them to different situations, contexts, and interactions with others, and that contribute to differences among individuals. They are the qualities or collection of qualities that make a person a distinctive individual, or the collective aggregate of behavioral and mental characteristics that are distinctive of an individual. Personality is generally believed to be relatively stable across time and consistent across contexts, situations, and interactions (Allport, 1936 ; Funder, 2001 ).
Over the years, scientists have identified and studied many specific aspects of personality within this broad definition, and we believe that it’s helpful to understand the broad concept of personality along multiple levels of analysis. In this chapter, we broadly define personality along two broad levels of analysis, which allows us to understand potentially disparate approaches to the study and understanding of personality across cultures. One level includes what are known as dispositional traits, or just traits for short. A trait is a characteristic or quality distinguishing a person. It refers to a consistent pattern of behavior, feelings, and thoughts that a person would usually display in relevant circumstances. For example, if we describe someone as “outgoing,” that would generally refer to a specific pattern of behavior in which this person is likely to engage. A person who is outgoing will likely strike up conversations, meet comfortably with strangers, and be expressive. A person who is “shy” would not. The trait approach in psychology has a long and rich history, dating to the work of Allport ( 1936 ). Theories and research on this area of personality are known as trait psychology.
Another level of personality can be broadly construed as identity , which would include our perceived roles in life, aggregate role and life experiences, narratives, values, and motives (Markus & Kitayama, 1998 ; Wood & Roberts, 2006 ). These aspects of our personalities are created by performing repeated roles—thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that occur in real life across single role experiences—producing a history that comprises aggregate role experiences. These experiences, in turn, form the basis of other important aspects of personality, including narratives, values, and general motives (Roberts, 2006 ).
Some of the earliest contributions to our understanding of the relationship between personality and culture came from anthropologists who were interested in psychology. Through mostly ethnographic fieldwork, anthropologists such as Margaret Mead, Edward Sapir, Weston Labarre, Ruth Benedict, Ralph Linton, Cora DuBois, and Abraham Kardiner developed theories about culture and personality that served as a basis for cross-cultural comparison of personalities and today’s cultural psychology (see review in Piker, 1998 ). Many of these works formed the basis for the notion of “national character,” which is still popular today. A national character refers to the perception that each culture has a modal personality type, and that most persons in that culture share aspects of it. Although many cultural and psychological anthropologists recognize the important contributions of biologically innate factors to personality and psychology, the main thrust of the anthropological contribution is its view of personality as culturally specific, formed by the unique forces each culture deals with in its milieu. The anthropological view of personality, therefore, attributes more importance to the learning of psychological mechanisms and personality in the environment through cultural practices than to biological and evolutionary factors. It was believed that foundations of personality development were set in early childhood according to each culture’s unique cultural traits.
Whereas psychological anthropology made major contributions to the study of culture and personality in the first half of the 20th century, the second half was dominated by cross-cultural psychological research, which focused on traits (see review by Church & Lonner, 1998 ). This approach generally views personality as something discrete and separate from culture, and as a dependent variable in research. Thus, two or more cultures are treated as independent variables, and they are compared on some personality traits or dimensions. In contrast to the cultural or psychological anthropological approach, the cross-cultural approach tends to see personality as an etic or universal phenomenon that is equivalently relevant and meaningful in the cultures being compared. To the extent that personality does exhibit universal aspects, how did they originate?
Cross-cultural research on personality, however, has also been concerned with the discovery of culture-specific personality traits. Cross-cultural psychologists describe culture-specific indigenous personalities as constellations of personality traits and characteristics found only in a specific culture (for more information, see reviews by Ho, 1998 ; Diaz-Loving, 1998 ). These types of studies, though psychological in nature, are heavily influenced in approach and understanding by the anthropological view of culture and personality.
Work on indigenous personalities has led to what is known as the cultural perspective to personality (for example, Shweder, 1979a , 1979b , 1980 , 1991 ; Markus & Kitayama, 1998 ). This approach sees culture and personality not as separate entities, but as a mutually constituted system in which each creates and maintains the other.
· The cultural perspective assumes that psychological processes, in this case the nature of functioning of personality, are not just influenced by culture but are thoroughly culturally constituted. In turn, the cultural perspective assumes that personalities behaving in concert create the culture. Culture and personality are most productively analyzed together as a dynamic of mutual constitution …; one cannot be reduced to the other.… A cultural psychological approach does not automatically assume that all behavior can be explained with the same set of categories and dimensions and first asks whether a given dimension, concept, or category is meaningful and how it is used in a given cultural context. (Markus & Kitayama, 1998 , p. 66)
The cultural perspective has been heavily influenced by the cultural anthropologists, as well as by the cross-cultural work on indigenous psychologies (see Kim, 2001 ) and personalities. On its face, it is somewhat antithetical to the crosscultural search for universals and rejects the possibility of biological and genetic mechanisms underlying universality. Instead, it suggests that just as no two cultures are alike, the personalities that comprise those cultures should be fundamentally different because of the mutual constitution of culture and personality within each cultural milieu.
Thus today, there are two major perspectives in cultural psychology with regard to understanding personality. One perspective, rooted in the study of traits, suggests that personality organization and dimensions are universal (and somewhat biologically innate, as we will see below). The other perspective, rooted in indigenous, cultural perspectives of personality as identities, suggests that personalities are dependent on the cultures in which they exist, and rejects notions of universality. How to make sense of this all is perhaps the greatest challenge facing this area of cultural psychology in the near future. Below we will review some of the major research evidence for both perspectives, and describe an integrated perspective that suggests that the universal and indigenous approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive to each other. This later analysis will also make use of the understanding of different levels of personality that we described earlier.
Measuring Personality across Cultures
Before delving into what we know in this area, we need to contend with one of the most serious issues in all cross-cultural research on personality: whether personality can be measured reliably and validly across different cultures. If methods of assessing personality are not reliable or valid across cultures, then the results of research using these methods cannot be trusted to give accurate portrayals of personality similarities or differences across cultures.
This issue is directly related to the differences in perspectives discussed immediately above. The etic, universal perspective to personality assumes, for instance, that there are aspects of personality that exist across cultures, that they can be measured in similar ways across cultures, and that the results of those measurements can be compared across cultures. The emic, indigenous perspective, however, would suggest that because aspects of personality are likely to be culture-specific, it is difficult if not impossible to create measures of personality that have the same meaning (and validity) across cultures. Thus, when considering the measurement of personality across cultures, we need to first consider the aspect of personality that is being measured and the theoretical perspective of the researcher measuring it.
If one assumes that there are aspects of personality that can be measured and compared across cultures, then important questions arise concerning its measurement. Most personality measures used in cross-cultural research were originally developed in a single language and single culture and validated in that language and culture. The psychometric evidence typically used to demonstrate a measure’s reliability and validity in a single culture involves examination of internal, testretest, and parallel forms reliabilities, convergent and predictive validities, and replicability of the factor structures that comprise the various scales of the test. To obtain all these types of psychometric evidence for the reliability and validity of a test, researchers must literally spend years conducting countless studies addressing each of these specific concerns. The best measures of personality—as well as all other psychological constructs—have this degree of psychometric evidence backing them.
A common practice in many of the early cross-cultural studies on personality was to take a personality scale that had been developed in one country or culture—most often the United States—and simply translate it and use it in another culture. In effect, the researchers simply assumed that the personality dimension measured by that scale was equivalent between the two cultures, and that the method of measuring that dimension was psychometrically valid and reliable. Thus, many studies imposed an assumed etic construct upon the cultures studied (Church & Lonner, 1998 ). Realistically, however, one cannot safely conclude that the personality dimensions represented by an imposed etic are equivalently and meaningfully represented in all cultures included in a study.
The mere fact that personality scales have been translated and used in crosscultural research is not sufficient evidence that the personality domains they measure are indeed equivalent in those cultures. In fact, when this type of research is conducted, one of the researchers’ primary concerns is whether the personality scales used in the study can validly and reliably measure meaningful dimensions of personality in all the cultures studied. As discussed in Chapter 2 , the equivalence of a measure in terms of its meaning to all cultures concerned, as well as its psychometric validity and reliability, is of prime concern in cross-cultural research if the results are to be considered valid, meaningful, and useful.
The cross-cultural validation of personality measures requires psychometric evidence from all cultures in which the test is to be used. In the strictest sense, therefore, researchers interested in cross-cultural studies on personality should select instruments that have been demonstrated to have acceptable psychometric properties in cultures of interest. This is a far cry from merely selecting a test that seems to be interesting and translating it for use in another culture. At the very least, equivalence of its psychometric properties should be established empirically, not assumed or ignored (Matsumoto & Van de Vijver, 2011 ).
Data addressing the psychometric evidence necessary to validate a test in a target culture would provide the safest avenue by which such equivalence can be demonstrated. If such data exist, they can be used to support contentions concerning psychometric equivalence. Even if those data do not offer a high degree of support (reliability coefficients are lower, or factor structures are not exactly equivalent), that does not necessarily mean that the test as a whole is not equivalent. There are, in fact, multiple alternative explanations of why such data may not be as strong in the target culture as in the culture in which the test was originally developed. Paunonen and Ashton ( 1998 ) outline and describe ten such possible interpretations, ranging from poor test translation and response style issues to different analytic methods. Thus, if a test is examined in another culture for its psychometric properties and the data are not as strong as they were in the original culture, each of these possibilities should be examined before concluding that the test is not psychometrically valid or reliable. In many cases, the problem may be minor and fixable.
Fortunately, many of the more recent studies in this area have been sensitive to this issue, and researchers have taken steps to ensure some degree of psychometric equivalence across cultures in their measures of personality. Tests assessing traits have a long history in cross-cultural research, and researchers have addressed issues of cross-cultural equivalence and validity of their measures for years. The NEO PI-R, for example, and its subsequent NEO PI3, which was used in many of the studies described below on traits, has undergone extensive cross-cultural reliability, validity, and equivalence testing (Costa & McCrae, 1992 ; McCrae, Costa, & Martin, 2005 ). Similar findings have been obtained using other tests of traits, such as the California Psychological Inventory, the Comrey Personality Scales, the 16 Personality Factors Questionnaire, the Pavlovian Temperament Survey, the Personality Research Form, and the Nonverbal Personality Questionnaire (Paunonen & Ashton, 1998 ). Studies demonstrating the relationship between traits and adjustment, and the possible biological sources of traits (reviewed below), also lend support to the cross-cultural validity of the measures. Thus, the research findings we report below concerning traits and other personality dimensions have used measures that appear to be equivalent and valid across cultures.
CROSS-CULTURAL STUDIES ON PERSONALITY TRAITS: THE FIVE-FACTOR MODEL
Evidence for the Five-Factor Model
In the past two decades, trait approaches to personality have become extremely important in understanding the relationship between culture and personality, and it is the dominant view today. This work has culminated in what is known today as the Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality, which we now describe.
The FFM is a conceptual model built around five distinct and basic personality dimensions that appear to be universal for all humans. The five dimensions are neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. The FFM was conceived after a number of researchers noticed the similarities in the personality dimensions that had emerged across many studies, both within and between cultures. Most notably, support for the FFM arose out of factor analyses of trait adjectives from the English lexicon that were descriptive of self and others (Juni, 1996 ). The factors that emerged from these types of analyses were similar to dimensions found in the analysis of questionnaire scales operationalizing personality. Further inquiry across cultures, using both factor analysis of descriptive trait adjectives in different languages and personality dimensions measured by different personality questionnaires, lent further credence to the FFM.
Many early (e.g., Eysenck’s, 1983 ) and contemporary studies have provided support for the cross-cultural validity of the FFM, spanning different countries and cultures in Europe, East and South Asia, North America, Africa, and Australia. One of the leading researchers on personality and culture in the tradition of the FFM is Robert R. McCrae, who published self-report data for 26 countries in 2001 (McCrae, 2001 ). In 2002, the database was expanded to 36 cultures (Allik & McCrae, 2004 ; McCrae, 2002 ). In one of the latest studies in this line of work, McCrae and his colleagues in 51 cultures of the world replicated the FFM in all cultures studied (McCrae, Terracciano, Khoury, et al., 2005 ; McCrae, Terracciano, Leibovich, et al., 2005 ). Collectively, these studies provide convincing and substantial evidence to support the claim that the FFM—consisting of neuroticism, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness—represents a universal taxonomy of personality that is applicable to all humans.
One of the most widely used measures of the FFM in previous research was the Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO PI-R) (Costa & McCrae, 1992 ), which has been revised as the NEO PI-3 (McCrae, Costa, & Martin, 2005 ). It is a 240-item instrument in which respondents rate the degree to which they agree or disagree that the item is characteristic of them. These instruments have been used in many studies across many different cultures. It produces scores on the five major personality traits, as well as six subscores for each major trait ( Table 10.1 ).
Two of the most important traits for describing behavioral differences are extraversion and neuroticism. The former refers to the degree to which an individual experiences positive emotions, and is outgoing, expressive, and sociable or shy, introverted, and avoids contact; the latter refers to the degree of emotional stability in an individual. McCrae, Terracciano, Khoury et al. ( 2005 ) graphed the cultural groups they studied along these two dimensions in order to create a useful visual aid in distinguishing among the cultures in terms of their personality ( Figure 10.1 ). Examining this graph provides some ideas about the average personality traits of individuals in these cultural groups. Americans, New Zealanders, and Australians, for instance, tend to be high on extraversion and in the middle of the scale for neuroticism.
One of the concerns with findings generated with scales like the NEO PI-R is that the findings may reflect bias on the part of the respondent to answer in a socially desirable way (see Chapter 2 to review response biases). These concerns are especially noted in cross-cultural work. McCrae, Terracciano, Leibovich, and colleagues ( 2005 ), therefore, conducted a follow-up study in which they asked samples of adults and college students in 50 cultural groups to rate someone they know well on the NEO PI-R. The questionnaire was modified so that the ratings were done in the third person. Analyses revealed that the same five-factor model emerged, indicating that the previous results were not dependent on ratings of oneself. In another interesting study, Allik and McCrae ( 2004 ) showed that the personality traits were not related to geographic location (defined as distance from the equator or mean temperature); but, geographically or historically close cultures had more similar personality profiles. Collectively, the results to date provide strong evidence that the FFM is a universal model of personality structure.
Table 10.1 Traits Associated with the Five-Factor Model
Figure 10.1 Graphic Display of Cultures from McCrae et al. ( 2005 )
The vertical axis refers to Neuroticism, while the horizontal axis refers to Extroversion. HK Chinese = Hong Kong Chinese; N. Irish = Northern Irish; S. Koreans = South Koreans.
Source: McCrae, R. R., Terracciano, A., Leibovich, N. B., Schmidt, V., Shakespeare-Finch, J., Neubauer, A., et al., “Personality profiles of cultures: Aggregate personality traits,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, pp. 407-425, 2005, Copyright © American Psychological Association. Reprinted by permission.
Do Perceptions of National Character Correspond to Aggregate Personality Traits?
The works by McCrae and others described above have been important because they have measured the actual personality traits of large numbers of individuals in a wide range of cultures. Thus, they are reliable data on what the actual personalities of individuals in these cultures are like. One of the things that these data allows us to do is to compare those actual personality profiles with our perceptions of national character. As described above, national character refers to perceptions of the average personality of people of different cultures. Perceptions of national character are, in fact, stereotypes about average personalities of people of different cultures.
But are they accurate? Terraciano et al. (2005) asked approximately 4,000 respondents in 49 cultures to describe the “typical member” of a culture using 30 bipolar scales with two or three trait adjectives on the poles of each scale. They found that there was relatively high agreement about the national character perceptions of the various cultures; but, these perceptions were not correlated with the actual personality trait levels of the individuals of those very same cultures. In other words, perceptions of national character were not correlated with the actual, aggregate personality levels of individuals of those cultures. One of the limitations of that study, moreover, was that different measures were used to assess personality and national character. Two subsequent studies corrected for this limitation, and found some degree of similarity between the two ratings, but with considerable dissimilarity as well (Allik, Mottus, & Realo, 2010 ; Realo et al., 2009 ). These findings suggested that perceptions of national character may actually be unfounded stereotypes of the personalities of members of those cultures to some degree.
If perceptions of national character are inaccurate, why do we have them? Terraciano and colleagues (2005) suggested that one of the functions of these unfounded stereotypes is the maintenance of a national identity. That is, one of the functions of stereotypes about other groups is to affirm, or reaffirm, the perceptions, and often the self-worth, of one’s own group. Sometimes, these functions are dangerous; when perceptions of others are unfavorable, they often lead to prejudice, discrimination, and violence. Other sources of personality stereotypes may be climate, national wealth, values, or social desirability (Allik, et al., 2010 ; McCrae, Terracciano, Realo, & Allik, 2007 ; Realo, et al., 2009 ).
Where Do these Traits Come From? The Five-Factor Theory
It is important to distinguish between the Five-Factor Model (FFM) of personality, which is a model of the number of traits that are universal to all people in their personality structure, and the Five-Factor Theory (FFT) of personality, which is a theory about the source of those traits. One is not entirely dependent on the other; the model of the traits may be entirely correct, while the theory about where they come from entirely wrong. Alternatively, research may show that there are more than five universal traits, while the theory that explains them is correct. Here we discuss the FFT, which attempts to account for where the universal personality traits come from.
The major proponents of the FFT are, not surprisingly, McCrae and Costa ( 1999 ). According to them, the core components of the FFT are Basic Tendencies, Characteristic Adaptations, and the Self-Concept, which is actually a subcomponent of Characteristic Adaptations.
The traits correspond to the Basic Tendencies; they refer to internal dispositions to respond to the environment in certain, predictable ways. The FFT suggests that personality traits that underlie basic tendencies are biologically based. Several sources of evidence support this idea. As described earlier, the same personality traits have been found in all cultures studied, and using different research methods (McCrae, Terracciano, Khoury, Nansubuga, Knezevic, Djuric Jocic et al., 2005 ; McCrae et al., 2005 ). Parent-child relationships have little lasting effect on personality traits (Rowe, 1994 ); and traits are generally stable across the adult lifespan (McCrae & Costa, 2003 ), although there are some developmental changes (Roberts, Walton, & Viechtbauer, 2006 ). Studies of twins demonstrate that the personalities of identical twins reared apart are much more similar than those of fraternal twins reared together (Bouchard & Loehlin, 2001 ; Bouchard, Lykken, & McGue, 1994 ). The FFM can predict variations in behavior among individuals in longitudinal studies (Borkenau & Ostendorf, 1998 ), and some evidence suggests that the FFM may apply to nonhuman primates as well (King & Figueredo, 1997 ).
The FFT suggests that the universal personality traits representing basic tendencies are expressed in characteristic ways; these characteristic ways can be largely influenced by the culture in which one exists, and here is where culture has important influences on personality development and expression. Characteristic Adaptations include habits, attitudes, skills, roles, and relationships. They are characteristic because they reflect the psychological core personality trait dispositions of the individual; they are also adaptations because they help the individual fit into the ever-changing social environment (McCrae & Costa, 1999 ). Culture can substantially influence these characteristic adaptations through the resources, social structures, and social systems available in a specific environment to help achieve goals. Culture can influence values about the various personality traits. Culture defines context and provides differential meaning to the components of context, including who is involved, what is happening, where it is occurring, and the like. Culture, therefore, plays a substantial role in producing the specific behavioral manifestations—the specific action units—that individuals will engage in to achieve what may be universal affective goals. Culture is “undeniably relevant in the development of characteristics and adaptations that guide the expression of personality in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors” (McCrae et al., 1998 ), and the characteristic adaptations vary greatly across cultures. The Basic Tendencies representing the universal personality traits, however, are not culturally variable, and a universal personality structure is the mechanism by which such goals are achieved through a balance and interaction with culture.
The characteristic adaptations help to produce a self-concept, as well as specific behaviors. For example, a person low in Depression, a facet of Neuroticism (Basic Tendency), may develop a low self-esteem, irrational perfectionistic beliefs, and pessimistic or cynical attitudes about the world (Characteristic Adaptations and Self-Concept). He or she may thus feel guilty about work or unsatisfied with his or her life (behavior). A person high on Gregariousness, however, which is part of Extraversion (Basic Tendency), may be outgoing, friendly, and talkative (Characteristic Adaptations). This person is likely to have numerous friendships and be a member of various social clubs (behaviors).
To be sure, one of the most contentious parts of the FFT is its suggestion that the origin of the personality traits are almost entirely, if not entirely, biologically determined. An alternative perspective suggests a role of culture or environment in the shaping of the personality traits underlying Basic Tendencies of behavior (Allik & McCrae, 2002 ; Roberts, Caspi, & Moffitt, 2003 ; Roberts & Helson, 1997 ; Roberts, Helson, & Klohnen, 2002 ). There is little debate that culture caninfluence the Characteristic Adaptations and Self-Concepts associated with underlying personality traits (Heine & Buchtel, 2009 ). Debate continues concerning the origins of the traits, and future research in this area will undoubtedly need to explore many possibilities.
An Evolutionary Approach
To explain the universality of the FFM, some (for example, MacDonald, 1998 ) have suggested an evolutionary approach. This approach posits universality both of human interests and of the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying trait variation. Personality structure is viewed as a universal psychological mechanism, a product of natural selection that serves both social and nonsocial functions in problem solving and environmental adaptation. Based on this theory, one would expect to find similar systems in animals that serve similar adaptive functions, and one would expect personality systems to be organized within the brain as discrete neurophysiological systems. One of the key questions about the FFM that an evolutionary perspective brings, for example, concerns why socially undesirable traits like Neuroticism have been preserved through evolution (Penke, Denissen, & Miller, 2007 ).
In the evolutionary view, traits such as Conscientiousness (which refers to the degree of organization, persistence, control, and motivation in goal-directed behavior), Neuroticism (tendency to experience negative emotions, vulnerability to stress, emotional stability), and the other components of the FFM are considered to reflect stable variations in systems that serve critical adaptive functions. Conscientiousness, for example, may help individuals to monitor the environment for dangers and impending punishments, and to persevere in tasks that are not intrinsically rewarding (MacDonald, 1998 ). Neuroticism may be adaptive because it helps mobilize behavioral resources by moderating arousal in situations requiring approach or avoidance.
According to MacDonald ( 1991 , 1998 ), this evolutionary approach suggests a hierarchical model in which “behavior related to personality occurs at several levels based ultimately on the motivating aspects of evolved personality systems” (p. 130). In this model, humans possess evolved motive dispositions—for example, intimacy, safety—that are serviced by a universal set of personality dispositions that help individuals achieve their affective goals by managing personal and environmental resources. This resource management leads to concerns, projects, and tasks, which in turn lead to specific action units or behaviors through which the individual achieves the goals specified by the evolved motive dispositions (see Figure 10.2 ).
Note that this model—and the assumptions about universality of the FFM made by McCrae and Costa and others (for example, McCrae & Costa, 1997 )—does not minimize the importance of cultural and individual variability. Culture can substantially influence personality through the resources, social structures, and social systems available in a specific environment to help achieve goals. Culture can therefore influence mean levels of personality and values about the various personality traits. As stated earlier, culture is “undeniably relevant in the development of characteristics and adaptations that guide the expression of personality in thoughts, feelings, and behaviors” (McCrae et al., 1998 ). Culture defines context and provides differential meaning to the components of context, including who is involved, what is happening, where it is occurring, and the like. Culture, therefore, plays a substantial role in producing the specific behavioral manifestations—the specific action units—that individuals will engage in to achieve what may be universal affective goals. A universal personality structure, however, is considered to be the mechanism by which such goals are achieved through a balance and interaction with culture.
Figure 10.2 Hierarchical Model of Motivation Showing Relationships Between Domain-Specific and Domain-General Mechanisms
Source: Republished with permission of Taylor & Francis Group LLC—Books, from Goal concepts in personality and social psychology, Pervin, L (Ed.), 1989. Permission conveyed through Copyright Clearance Center, Inc.
CROSS-CULTURAL STUDIES ON OTHER DIMENSIONS OF PERSONALITY
Are There More than Five Universal Traits?
Research documenting the robustness of the FFM of personality traits around the world has clearly made a major contribution to our understanding of personality organization and culture. Still, there are several lines of research that challenge whether five factors are enough. One of these challenges is that, because the FFM was essentially created in the United States by American researchers, it may be the case that its measurement is missing other important factors not intended to be measured in the first place.
One important line of research has been led by Fanny Cheung and colleagues (2001). They began their work with the idea that the FFM might be missing some important features of personality in Asia, and specifically China. Specifically, they thought that none of the FFM traits dealt well with issues of relationships, which are central in China (as well as many cultures around the world). Thus, they developed what they initially considered an indigenous scale designed to measure personality in China that included the following traits:
· • Harmony, which refers to one’s inner peace of mind, contentment, interpersonal harmony, avoidance of conflict, and maintenance of equilibrium;
· • Ren Qing (relationship orientation), which covers adherence to cultural norms of interaction based on reciprocity, exchange of social favors, and exchange of affection according to implicit rules;
· • Modernization, which is reflected by personality change in response to societal modernization and attitudes toward traditional Chinese beliefs;
· • Thrift vs. Extravagance, which highlights the traditional virtue of saving rather than wasting and carefulness in spending, in contrast to the willingness to spend money for hedonistic purposes;
· • Ah-Q Mentality (defensiveness), which is based on a character in a popular Chinese novel in which the defense mechanisms of the Chinese people, including self-protective rationalization, externationalization of blame, and belittling of others’ achievements, are satirized;
· • Face, which depicts the pattern of orientations in an international and hierarchical connection and social behaviors to enhance one’s face and to avoid losing one’s face (Cheung, Leung, Zhang, Sun, Gan, Song et al., 2001 ) (p. 408).
Collectively, Cheung and colleagues have named these dimensions “Interpersonal Relatedness.” Although they originally found support for the existence of this dimension in their studies of mainland and Hong Kong Chinese, they have also created an English version of their scale and documented the existence of the Interpersonal Relatedness dimension in samples from Singapore, Hawaii, the Midwestern United States, and with Chinese and European Americans (Cheung, Cheung, Leung, Ward, & Leong, 2003 ; Cheung et al., 2001 ; Lin & Church, 2004 ).
Filipino Personality Structure
Another major line of research that challenges whether the FFM is enough comes from studies on the personality structures of Filipinos headed by Church and colleagues. In early research, they identified as many traits as they could that existed in the Filipino language, and asked Filipino students to rate them, just as they would on any personality test. Early studies using the same statistical techniques that have been used to test the FFM were used and demonstrated that seven, not five, dimensions were necessary to describe the Filipino personality adequately (Church, Katigbak, & Reyes, 1998 ; Church, Reyes, Katigbak, & Grimm, 1997 ). The two additional traits were Tempermentalness and Self-Assurance. In fact, similar types of findings were found previously with Spanish-speaking samples in Europe as well (Benet-Martinez & Waller, 1995 , 1997 ).
In one of their later studies, Church and colleagues (Katigbak, Church, Guanzon-Lapena, Carlota, & del Pilar, 2002 ) used two Filipino indigenous personality scales encompassing a total of 463 trait adjectives, and a Filipino version of the NEO PI-R to measure the FFM, and asked 511 college students in the Philippines to complete these measures. Statistical analyses indicated that there was considerable overlap in the personality dimensions that emerged from the Filipino scales and the FFM measured by the NEO PI-R. Still, several indigenous factors emerged, including Pagkamadaldal (Social Curiosity), Pagkamapagsapalaran (Risk-Taking), and Religiosity. These latter traits were especially important in predicting behaviors such as smoking, drinking, gambling, praying, tolerance of homosexuality, and tolerance of premarital and extramarital relations, above and beyond what could be predicted by the FFM.
In the mid-20th century, European psychologists suggested the existence of an “authoritarian personality,” and developed scales to measure it (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, & Levinson, 1950 ). This dimension is related to the concept of dominance, and refers to the fact that people differ in their dependence on authority and hierarchical status differences among interactants. Hofstede, Bond, and Luk ( 1993 ) analyzed data from 1,300 individuals in Denmark and the Netherlands, and found six personality dimensions. Five of these were related to the FFM; the sixth, however, was not. The researchers labeled this “Authoritarianism.”
Actually, Dominance is a trait that emerges in studies of the personalities of animals. King and Figueredo ( 1997 ), for instance, presented 43 trait adjectives with representative items from the FFM to zoo trainers who work with chimpanzees in 12 zoos. The trainers were asked to describe the chimpanzees in terms of the adjectives provided. The results showed no differences between the zoos, and the interrater reliability among the raters was high. Factor analysis of the ratings produced six factors, five of which corresponded to the FFM; the sixth corresponded to dominance. The same findings have been reported in studies of orangutans and chimpanzees (Pederson, King, & Landau, 2005 ; Weiss, King, & Enns, 2002 ; Weiss, King, & Figueredo, 2000 ), and suggest that Dominance is an inherited trait among animals.
To date, attempts to find other universal traits do not contradict the FFM, but instead add to it. The unresolved question concerns exactly what other dimensions, if any, reliably exist across cultures. The findings reported above are indeed promising in terms of an answer to this question, but certainly much more research is necessary across a wider range of cultures to gauge its comparability with the FFM. Other indigenous approaches to studying traits have also been developed in countries such as India, Korea, Russia, and Greece (Allik et al., 2009 ; Cheung, Cheung, Wada, & Zhang, 2003 ; Saucier, Georgiades, Tsaousis, & Goldberg, 2005 ). These, and other approaches, will hopefully shed more light on this important topic in the future.
To be sure, we need to be clear about the difference between the FFM, which is a model of the universal personality traits, and FFT, which is a theory about the source of those traits. It is entirely possible that the FFM will be amended in the future to allow for the possibility of other traits, but for the theory underlying them to be the same. Or it could be that the FFM will turn out to be the most reliable but that the theory accounting for the source is entirely wrong. The number of traits that are universal and where they come from are two issues we need to keep separate in our minds.
Internal versus External Locus of Control
Aside from cross-cultural research on traits, there has also been a considerable amount of cross-cultural research examining other dimensions of personality that do not fall cleanly within the trait perspective but are noteworthy in their own right. One of these concerns the personality concept of locus of control . This concept was developed by Rotter ( 1954 , 1966 ), who suggested that people differ in how much control they believe they have over their behavior and their relationship with their environment and with others. According to this schema, locus of control can be perceived as either internal or external to the individual. People with an internal locus of control see their behavior and relationships with others as dependent on their own behavior. Believing that your grades are mostly dependent on how much effort you put into study is an example of internal locus of control. People with an external locus of control see their behavior and relationships with the environment and others as contingent on forces outside themselves and beyond their control. If you believed your grades were mostly dependent on luck, the teacher’s benevolence, or the ease of the tests, you would be exemplifying an external locus of control.
Research examining locus of control has shown both similarities and differences across cultures. In general, European Americans have higher internal locus of control scores than East Asians, Swedes, Zambians, Zimbabweans, African Americans, Filipinos, and Brazilians (for example, Hamid, 1994 ; Lee and Dengerink, 1992 ; Munro, 1979 ; Dyal, 1984 ; Paguio, Robinson, Skeen, & Deal, 1987 ). These findings have often been interpreted as reflecting the mainstream American culture’s focus on individuality, separateness, and uniqueness, in contrast to a more balanced view of interdependence among individuals and between individuals and natural and supernatural forces found in many other cultures. People of non-mainstream American cultures may be more likely to see the causes of events and behaviors in sources that are external to themselves, such as fate, luck, supernatural forces, or relationships with others. Americans, however, prefer to take more personal responsibility for events and situations, and view themselves as having more personal control over such events.
Although such interpretations are interesting and provocative, they still leave some gaps to be filled. For example, they do not account for phenomena such as self-serving bias or defensive attributions, in which Americans tend to place the responsibility for negative events on others, not themselves (see Chapter 13 on self-enhancement). Also, some researchers have suggested that locus of control is really a multifaceted construct spanning many different domains—academic achievement, work, interpersonal relationships, and so on—and that separate assessments of each of these domains are necessary to make meaningful comparisons on this construct. Smith, Dugan, and Trompenaars ( 1997 ) examined locus of control across 14 countries, and found some cross-national differences in locus of control, but larger differences by gender and status across countries. Thus, the search for cross-cultural differences may obscure larger differences based on other social constructs. Future research needs to address all these concerns to further elucidate the nature of cultural influences on locus of control.