Cultural Variation in the Self-Concept

  • Hazel R. Markus
  • Shinobu Kitayama


As American society prepares to participate in the internationalized world of the 21st century, the first reports suggested there was little to fear. Perhaps it was a small world after all. Preferences for Coke, McDonald’s, rock and rap music, copying machines, and T-shirts appear universal. Along with these confirmations of cross-cultural similarity in consumer behavior, however, come anecdotes that hint at some powerful differences. And this seems particularly true for the differences between the West and the East. The popular press recount the examples daily. While Americans learn the value of standing out and being noticed and hold to the maxim that “it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease,” a prevalent proverb in the East—in Japan, China, even in Australia—is “the nail that sticks up shall be hammered down.” Nowhere are East–West differences more apparent than in baseball. Both cultures love the game. And, in fact, Japanese baseball is painstakingly modeled on American baseball. Yet in Japan, the goal is not the familiar one of obliterating the opposing team by scoring as many runs as possible, but instead, to beat the other team by a face-savingly small amount. Moreover, rather than applauding the virtues of “doing your own thing,” Japanese coaches caution that “lone wolves are the cancer of the team.” While American players are advised to express themselves and “get it off their chest,” among Japanese players such behavior is considered immature and untoward—the goal is to keep one’s emotions to oneself (see Whiting, 1989, for a full description of these differences).


Cultural Variation Emotional Experience Experimental Social Psychology Japanese Student Interpersonal Aspect 
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© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hazel R. Markus
  • Shinobu Kitayama

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