Cultural differences are not always reducible to individual differences

Jinkyung Na, Igor Grossmann, Michael E.W. Varnum, Shinobu Kitayama, Richard Gonzalez, Richard E. Nisbett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

246 Scopus citations


We show that differences in social orientation and in cognition that exist between cultures and social classes do not necessarily have counterparts in individual differences within those groups. Evidence comes from a large-scale study conducted with 10 measures of independent vs. interdependent social orientation and 10 measures of analytic vs. holistic cognitive style. The social measures successfully distinguish between interdependence (viewing oneself as embedded in relations with others) and independence (viewing oneself as disconnected from others) at the group level. However, the correlations among the measures were negligible. Similar results were obtained for the cognitive measures, for which there are no coherent individual differences despite the validity of the construct at the group level. We conclude that behavioral constructs that distinguish among groups need not be valid as measures of individual differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6192-6197
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number14
StatePublished - Apr 6 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive style
  • Culture
  • Personality trait
  • Social orientation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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