Connection Between Kiasuism and Psychological Well-Being of Adolescents

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This hypothesis is based on the finding that conscientiousness had no significant relation to the use of Kiasu tactics (Kirby et al., 2010). Conscientiousness in the academic setting can be seen as students completing their assignments punctually, studying for examinations, and attending lessons consistently. The construct of conscientiousness resembles that of Environmental Mastery, where one can competently manage the environment around them. Thus, the lack of significant correlation between Kiasuism and conscientiousness, shown to be one of the best predictors of success across a wide range of situations just as Environmental Mastery predicts one’s ability to manipulate the environment to attain success, suggests that Kiasuism will not be significantly correlated to Environmental Mastery (Kirby et al., 2010).

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Similarly, no correlation has been discovered between academic performance and Kiasuism (Ho et al., 1998). Environmental mastery is understood to be a deciding factor in one’s success, hence supporting this hypothesis. Kiasuism The Kiasuism phenomenon is a complex construct owing to its origination as a colloquial term. One commonly accepted definition of Kiasuism is derived from a qualitative study which has yielded the finding that Kiasuism is most commonly defined using 5 types of phenomenon, with the most prevalent association made being the "Fear Of Missing Out", mentioned by 96% of the sample in the study, referring to the innate desire to have a competitive advantage over others. Selfishness, calculativeness, greed and risk-aversion were other descriptions of Kiasuism that were brought up (Ho et al., 1998) Literature has also discussed the nature of Kiasuism and come to the general consensus that "Kiasuism is a tactic" (Kirby & Ross, 2007) involving “a set of conscious behaviours designed to achieve a desired goal” (Ho et al., 1998), rather than a trait. Kiasuism tactics have further been identified as two distinct tactics: Kiasu-positive tactics and Kiasu-negative tactics. Kiasu-positive tactics refer to the expenditure of extra effort to increase one's competitiveness and standing in relation to others, examples of which in the academic context include studying more diligently, asking questions in class, and reading supplementary materials beyond the curriculum (Hwang, Ang, Francesco, 2002).

Kiasu-negative tactics “entail the use of guile, deceit and selfishness” to gain a lead over others. In the educational setting, examples may include a student refusing to share useful notes and knowledge or deceiving others about the amount of studying one does, in order to give them a false sense of security (Hwang et al., 2002). These two tactics are different approaches to the the common goal of attaining a competitive advantage over others, and both constitute the Kiasuism construct. Kiasuism is noticeably rooted in Singaporean society. In the workforce, the lack of creativity and entrepreneurship is attributed to Kiasu mindsets of Singaporeans (Kim & Low, 2006). In the educational setting, the Kiasu mentalities of adolescents is said to influence their attitudes towards education, work, and more (The Report of the Advisory Council on Youths, February 1989), while boorish, rude behaviour caused by the fixation to make the most out of every transaction is also attributed to Kiasuism (Ho et al., 1998).

However, it is interesting to note that while Kiasuism is rooted in Singaporean identity and is seen most prevalently in Singapore, it is not unique to Singapore, and evidence that similar behaviours exist in other Asian countries like Hong Kong (Chua, 1989) as well as Western countries such as those in Australia (Ho et al., 1998), and the USA (Kirby & Ross, 2007) exists. Eudaimonia and Psychological Well-Being A review on the science of “happiness” led us to conclude that one accurate representation of “happiness” would stem from Eudaimonia, a reflection of Psychological Well-Being (PWB). Eudaimonia could simply be translated to “happiness” (Bradburn, 1969), however, returning to the root of this theory, Aristotle defined Eudaimonia as “the highest of all goods achievable by human action”. This would bring the core meanings of eudaimonia into sharper focus. In the Nichomachean Ethics (350 B.C), Aristotle’s best-known ethical doctrine, Eudaimonia was presented as an approach to wellness that was focused on the process of living well. Virtue played a paramount role in determining Eudaimonia, where virtue for Aristotle was defined as a state of character concerned with choice in which deliberate actions are taken to avoid excess or deficiency. Therefore, it was concluded that ‘‘If happiness is activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest virtue; and this will be that of the best thing in us.’’ (Nichomachean Ethics, p. 263).

Essentially, Aristotle deemed that the telos was to achieve the very best within us which would lead to the fulfilment of Eudaimonia. If we were to plainly define Eudaimonia as “happiness” it would cloud the true essence of the term, associating it with Hedonia, a more subjective approach to PWB. Aristotle was not concerned with the subjective states of feeling happy. Rather, his conception of the highest good towards which we all should be reaching was the task of self-realization, played out individually, each according to his or her own disposition and talent. It is noteworthy that in a classic 1971 article, Brickman and Campbell suggested that all people labor on a "hedonic treadmill." As they rise in their accomplishments and possessions, their expectations also rise. Soon they habituate to the new level, and it no longer makes them happy.

Therefore, our focus leans towards Eudaimonia (living well) over Hedonia (feeling good). Stemming from the original theory, other models reflecting well-being in accordance to the theory of Eudaimonia have emerged. One framework being the Subjective Well-Being (SWB) theory built upon the following components; life satisfaction, satisfaction with important domains, positive affect, and low levels of negative affect (Diener, 2000). However, it is found that temperament and personality appear to be powerful factors influencing people's SWB due to individual values and goals being intimately tied to what events are perceived as good and bad. Therefore, we deemed the SWB lacking in clarity as a framework to determine Eudaimonia for our study. Secondly, the Self Determination Theory (SDT) was introduced as an approach to human motivation and personality that uses traditional empirical methods while employing an organismic metatheory that highlights the importance of humans' evolved inner resources for personality development and behavioral self-regulation (Richard M. Ryan, Kuhl and Edward L. Deci, 1997).

Many of the elements within Aristotle’s conception of Eudaimonia are at the core of SDT’s conception of wellness. The SDT also highlighted the concept of pursuing first-order outcomes in the form of attaining intrinsic values; a basic value in its own right, not reducible to other values, which would reflect Eudaimonia being reached, as opposed to harbouring extrinsic aspirations. Extremely similar to SDT is the credible Psychological Well-Being (PWB) model that utilises 6 dimensions of PWB that capture the outcomes of a life well lived (Carol D. Ryff, 1989). We hypothesised that Kiasuism would be negatively correlated with Autonomy and Self-Acceptance based on a study conducted which studied the correlation between Kiasu tendencies and one’s propensity towards maximisation or satisficing behaviour, yielding the finding that maximizers are far more likely to engage in Kiasu behaviour than satisficers (Kirby, Kirby, Bell & Schafer 2010). Maximization is a trait where one tries to optimise their decisions, such as by evaluating all decisions and possible alternatives before making a picking the best solution. Maximizers tend to be concerned about their success relative to others and often seek to outperform others, while satisficers tend to engage in behaviours that are merely “good enough” to achieve satisfactory results, and are not particularly concerned with their success relative to others (Schwartz, Ward, Monterosso, Lyubomirsky, White, & Lehman, 2002). Prior research has proven that maximizing individuals are more likely to experience lower levels of happiness, life satisfaction, optimism, and self-esteem, (Schwartz et al., 2002) and maximisation tendencies have been shown to result in less behavioral coping, greater dependence on others for information, increased interpersonal comparisons, avoidance of decision-making in order to search for more information, and more acute feelings of regret (Parker, Bruin, W. & Fischhoff, 2007). As many of the implications of maximisation are items that may be measured under Psychological Well-Being, such as lower self-esteem falling under the PWB dimension of Self-Acceptance and greater dependence on others relating to the dimension of Autonomy, we hypothesized that we would find a negative correlation between Kiasuism and Autonomy and Self-Acceptance. Further supporting our hypothesis for the dimensions of Self-Acceptance, a negative correlation has been found to exist between Kiasuism and one’s satisfaction with one’s academic grades (Ho et al., 1998). As someone with poor Self-Acceptance is defined as dissatisfied and disappointed with occurrences in life, we hypothesise that Kiasuism is negatively correlated with Self-Acceptance.

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