The Concept of Individualism and Collectivism in Personal Relationships

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Overview of Collectivism And Individualism
  • Value Will Shape Different Personality
  • The Value in Collectivism and Individualism
    Society Would Shape Different Personality
    The Bandura Et Al Study
    Social Identity Theory
    Culture and Identity
  • Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset
  • The Relationship Between Mindsets And Culture
  • How Does Growth Mind Set Help The Resilience After Failure?
  • Growth Mind Set Exist in Both Individualism And Collectivism


Individualism and collectivism describe the relationship between individuals and their relationship to groups. (Merkin). In different culture people will act differently to fit in their own group, while the personality and individual values will be shaped. In individualist societies, people prefer to act as individuals rather than as members of groups (Hofstede 1984: 6). However, in collectivistic cultures people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, which throughout people’s lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty (Hofstede 2001: 225). A clastic collectivism culture country is China, people seek loyalty and obey the same rule. They will protect their own group and put them self behind the group. An example of individualism culture is The U.S.A, individuals in the society has their own goal and willing to show out themselves for money, job and fame and so on. Overtime human development in technology had improved peoples living condition and promote the globalization. While individualism cultures individual has lots of chance to communicate with other cultures which are collectivism. The cultural difference between one another will bring out lots of different values and habits. Therefore, individual performance will be different toward same situation based on the influence of their own culture.

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Overview of Collectivism And Individualism

In society both collectivism and individualism culture have their value to success. For example, in collectivism society such as China, people follows whatever the leader and government says even if they don’t think is right because obeying is one of the most important part in their value. Contrary on individualism culture, people’s value would be more straight forward which they believe personal act and achievement is the value. Therefore, this topic will be based on individualism and collectivism different and discuss: To what extent would individualism and collectivism effect behavior on individual’s resilience after failure.

Value Will Shape Different Personality

The Value in Collectivism and Individualism

Obviously, the value between collectivism and individualism is different and will bring different personality toward individual. Consequently, it’s important to understand why different value would exist in these two cultures. Lots of studies have examined how different cultural values determine the way people communicate to accomplish goals while also maintaining poise. Under different values the reaction and believe would lead individual to perform differently against failure. The different perspectives people from dissimilar cultures hold are referred to as cultural norms. Cultural norms condition people to relate to others in patterned ways (Gudykunst & Kim 2003; Xizhen 2014). One example of culture norm is Chinese teacher would not recommend student to read any book or article which is not related to study. Such as cartoon, story book and books novels which are including lots of imagination because they believe it’s a waste of time and need to read more school-related book or article. While American students would be encouraged by teachers to read and discover more interesting knowledge out of the textbook. This example can show out cultural norms will bring people in to on similar pattern. And in this case while facing failure different reaction would be shaped by cultural norms.

Society Would Shape Different Personality

Bandura came out a theory named social cognitive theory which is also known as social learning theory. Bandura (1977) states: “Learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own actions to inform them what to do. Fortunately, most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.” (p22). The social cognitive theory develops the human behaviors influence by cognitive and environment.

The Bandura Et Al Study

Bandura, Ross and ross(1961) has carried out a study about social cognitive theory. Two aims of the study are to find out if children would imitate aggression modelled by an adult and they wanted to find out if children were more likely to imitate same-sex models. 36 boys and 36 girls during the age of 3 to 6 has been divided into three groups. Both groups are been macheted up by the aggression based on an evaluation by their teachers or parents. The first group was exposed to an aggressive theme either an adult is bashing an inflatable “Bobo” doll or using verbal aggression toward the doll. Relatively the other group observed a non-aggressive theme, adult assembled toys for 10 minutes. The third group is a control group which did not observe anything. Also, in the first and second group part of the children watched same-sex models while some did watch opposite-sex model. After the observation, children were been sent in a room with toys. And the researcher would tell them the toys in the room are for other children, after children would be put into a room with Bobo doll. The aim of this part is to make some frustration toward all children. Bandura’s team has found out children showed out significant sign of observation learning. Based on the aim of the study, they find out girls were more likely to imitate verbal aggression while boys are more likely into physical aggression. During the experiment when boys watched female adult bashing the Bobo doll, they would make comments such as “ladies should not do the”. Therefore, it can be said that children were more likely to imitate the same-sex adult.

Social learning theory has been applied extensively to the understanding of aggression (Bandura, 1973) and psychological disorders, particularly in the context of behavior modification (Bandura, 1969). Thus, social learning theory (also known as social cognitive theory) can explain the formation of individualism and collectivism. Bandura’s experiment develops out the idea that childhood memory and observation will influence us a lot in our behavior. Even in 10 minutes observation children can be aggressive and learn from adult, much less when people grown up in their own culture, they would be influenced by what one constantly sees and hears. A big difference would exist between people in different culture because the history for them are different. Based on the aim and personal value and tradition is different, the tradition would form individuals’ different personalities. The social cognitive theory points out that people would learn from adults and when they become adult the next generation would follow. As time goes on it would form a pattern in the society which people would learn from the elders in their group to receive value and knowledge. This pattern which cultural cognition bring to individual to shape their value would give them two different mindsets of relation between individual with their group which is collectivism and individualism.

Social Identity Theory

Social cognitive theory points out the process of young generation learning and shaping personality and value will easily be influenced by adult behavior. In some people opinion, individualism and collectivism influence to one can simply be changed. They think individual’s cognition will change when individual trans to another culture. Thus, they might be influence by individualism previous and suddenly be not more influence by it but accept collectivism. Thus, social cognitive could easily been changed and influence when people change to one culture to another. But to change one’s cognition is not as simple as we sought. The mind set of individualism and collectivism would take long term to share in their mind and it’s not easy to be changed. The social identity theory can explain that.

Social Identity theory argues that individual not only having one “personal self”. Based on people have different groups in their social life, they will have different social selves. Deep in people’s heart, we all have a place to belong to and have our own identity. Thus, people will always understand and fit them self in their own social group, no matter if is shown to others or not.

Drury’s group (2009) had carried out a study of a simulation of fire in London Underground to explore social identity theory. In the experiment there are a virtual simulation of fire happening in the underground and therefore participates need to run away from the fire. Under this situation participants either could push other out of their way to run as quickly as possible or help other to escape together. Obviously the first way is much faster. There are to condition in this experiment, in the first condition people were given a “shared identity”, for example they are fans of the same football team, they all come from American. In the other condition people are simply given different identity’s such as “you are on your way back from buying a pair of shoes”. The result of this study shows out that participants who has “shared identity” are willing to help one another, contrarily people who was been given different identity would run away as individual. Thus, people with same identity were not panic and helping each other to escape from fire.

The social identity theory can help us to understand human behavior in lots of area. In Drury et el (2009) experiment people who has same identity group can be understand as they are in a collectivism culture. And when facing a emergency collectivism would be more on to sacrifice their self to help the whole group. When people are in different identity the performed more likely as an individualism and the goal at an emergency is to save their self. This can be understanding that collectivism usually will be strongly observe when same identity individuals are together. Thus, individualism will be identified out when people does not have the same identity. The result of Drury et el(2009) study can be understand as, collectivism is more likely to help each other through hard moments, and individualism performs more personally to face problems.

Culture and Identity

Individualism and collectivism have shown different characteristic while facing problems, and these characteristics come from their own identity based on social identity theory. Moreover, there would be connection between the identity and culture to form individual as individualism and collectivism. A study has been carried out by Odden & Rochat (2004). The researchers carried out a longitudinal study of 25 months on 28 children in a single Samoan village. They studied the behavior of line fishing is this village. Samoan culture is very hierarchical thus, between adult and children there are lots of rules such as parents hardly would teach children, but children would only learn by their own. Based on the fishing lines, spears and nets are limited, children are not able to participate in fishing, only observing. But at the age of 12, children are able to understand how to line fishing but only fishing. Also, when researchers asking question about social rules to the children, they can answer quite well but nobody did teach them. Thus, the result of this research appears that the cultural norms are not taught directly, but rather learned through the active observation by the children of the adults in the community (Odden & Rochat 2004).

Nowadays there are numbers of well-educated children, and they have class to attempt every day and they learn from teachers. It’s hard for children at the age of 12 to fully understand culture rules by the knowledge they have, but they could understand through observation but not system learning. The experiment of Simona culture can support the power of observation. Thus, this would proof that individual can understand their own identity. Therefore, individual would be exerting an imperceptible influence their own observation of the culture and give put them self into an identity which will fit the culture. In another word culture bring imperceptible influence in shaping individuals identity and shape out individuals characteristic toward either individualism or collectivism.

Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset

Obviously, the performance of individualism and collectivism would be different, and mindset make an important role. When one experience failure the resilience performance would definitely depend on mind set. Individualism and collectivism would affect people mind set and therefore shape their different performance of resilience. To find out the pattern in individuals mind set with in both individualism and collectivism culture, it’s important to define and analyze different type of mind set. In the society individual would believe either they can develop their intelligence and resilience after failure by improving or just give up because they don’t feel they have the ability to do so. Based on these two thought a question has been asked “What are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait?” (Carol Dweck 2016). Carol came out this idea and generate both mindset which is been named as fixed mindset and growth mindset.

If the believe of an individual is that qualities are unchangeable and want to proof themselves are right but not learn from failure, this type of though is what Carol analyses out as fixed mindset. “I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves— in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?” (Carol 2016) This has been described as a typical as fixed mindset. They want to prove themselves; they would measure themselves before trying in any situation which need effort. If they think it would be a failure, then they would even start. After facing failures people with fixed mindset would just come down to telling themselves “I’m not smart enough, I can’t do it.” Obviously, individuals with fixed mind set won’t find out their own reason after failure but blame on its too hard for them. The resilience act after failure is use the same strategy and start over again.

“There’s another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand you’re dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when you’re secretly worried it’s a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts.” (Carol 2016) This describes the characteristic of growth mind set. Different than fixed mind set people with growth mind set will like to generate out their weakness during failure, and summary the failure and try it over again. Their believe is not to give up or blame on objective reason but find out their own weaknesses and improve it next time.

The Relationship Between Mindsets And Culture

Individualism and collectivism can be understood as two different type of culture. As social cognitive theory and social learning theory points out, people are observing and shaping personality within their own culture, especially children. After one’s sense of worth as been shape in their culture is hard to change. Therefore, the education plays I big row in mindsets.

In collectivism cultures education, it focuses more on to be efficiency and learn because of the society needs you, the social group needs you and the government needs you. Thus, the aim of education is to get personal prepared to work for your society, your country but not yourself. Under this education, the teaching style would be more likely to be straight for word, learners don’t have to think too much on their own but just remember all the equation and answers. One example is the education system is China, they don’t aim for developing scales but aiming for correct answer only. Students only need to make sure they have the correct answer. And when this type of education became a culture, it would be easy to form a fixed mind set. In individualism cultures, there are more competition between individuals, the education focus is more on developing selves scale and get prepare for compactions. Thus, this fix more toward growth mind set.

How Does Growth Mind Set Help The Resilience After Failure?

Angela Duckworth was a grade 7 teacher in New York. During her teaching she had find out “IQ was not the only difference between my best and my worst students. Some of my strongest performers did not have stratospheric IQ scores, some of my smartest kids wasn’t doing so well.” (Angela)This question had made Angela think a lot and after years of teaching she had found out what we need in education is not only measuring IQ, because doing well in school and life depends more on the ability to learn quickly and easily but not only IQ. Therefore, she went to become a psychologist to find out what is the most important rule to make students improve in school and life. She started to study all areas in the society and try to find out what is the common in success. In all of her studies she always has a question “who is successful here and why”. By the end of all studies she came out with one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success was not IQ which people always believe, but the key to success is grit. “grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is sticking with your future day in, day out” (Angela) and “the main point to build grit is through growth mind set”.

The finding which Angela had come out points to the people with growth mindset will be willing to learn from failure. In another word growth mind set will bring a positive influence to the resilience after failure. Based on the founding’s education under collectivism will help one’s resilience after failure by encourage to try again and find out our own weakness. And after failure individualism education influenced people in having thoughts to give up.

Growth Mind Set Exist in Both Individualism And Collectivism

Is not that all collectivism has fixed mind set and individualism have growth mindset but the in the big picture different cultures education did play a big row in forming mindsets. A traveler says “Creativity does not thrive in China as much as it does here in North America. Where the arts are heavily encouraged at a young age in the American education system, China’s main focus for education is memorization and logic. There are certain downfalls with this kind of structured education system as many Chinese students simply work hard to memorize answers which leaves them with little to no room for innovation.” (Admin) China and North America is a two typical example of individualism culture and collectivism culture. Therefore, this comparison in two different education in first-person view by Admin can fairly represent the education in two different culture. Thus, briefly individualism will bring a growth mindset toward individuals contrarily collectivism will bring fixed mindset to individuals.

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