The Difference between British and Bangladeshi Cultures in their view of the self and thinking styles?
There is a strong tendency for behavioural scientists to visualise the human race as homogenous, despite the striking differences which exists between the populations of the world. This study investigated transmission and cross cultural variation in the view of the self and styles of thinking between younger and older British white participants, Bangladeshi immigrants and British Born Bangladeshi participants. Eighty subjects aged 18-60+ successfully completed the individualism and collectivism scale (Triandis and Gelfand‘s, 1998) and Masuda et al’s (2008) drawing test, a measure of analytic-holistic cognition.
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Results found that Bangladeshi immigrants project a more collectivistic view of the self and possess a holistic manner of thinking while British born participants appear to be more individualist and exhibit analytic styles of thinking. In addition British born Bangladeshi participants appear to display a form of ‘one generation assimilation’ into British society and have adopted views of the self and thinking styles which closely resembles that of the British white participants rather than rather than being intermediate between White British and Bangladeshi modes of thinking.
Social psychology is broadly considered a Western phenomenon and as a result the vast amount of literature and psychological research has been conducted in Western countries such as the UK, Austria, North America and Western Europe. The participants of such studies have obviously been predominately Western college/university students as they are the most easily accessible and convenient for example Heine & Norenzayan (2006) report statistics from a recent review which brought to attention that approximately 92% of studies published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology were conducted in North America while an staggering 99% of studies were undertaken in Western countries (Quinones-Vidal et al, 2004). A major concern of social psychologists is that the results of these experiments and questionnaires are thought of as universal cross cultural representation and used to draw inferences about the psychological characteristics of the human race as a whole. Furthermore Henrich et al’s (2010) review of a comparative database found that even within Western ‘standard’ subjects there is substantial variability in their results in studies of visual perception, reasoning styles, self concepts etc. Consequently these Western populations are fundamentally less representative in generalizing the entire human race than conventionally considered. Such criticisms could largely be avoided if researchers restricted their findings to the population which they have sampled and obtained their results from.
However recently psychologists have began to investigate the extent to which the observed results in typical Western samples can be generalized and considered representative across the numerous societies and cultures of the world, particularly non- Western populations (Henrich, Heine & Norenzayan (2010). The effects and influence of cultural factors will inevitably increase the external validity of experiments if they are found to be acting in the real world as a result they cannot simply be ignored.
Research conducted using non-Western and Western participants has contributed a great deal to the field of cultural psychology (Heine 2008). The findings of these experiments have discovered profound and intriguing differences between Western and non-Western samples. Such cross cultural differences in responses has shattered the notion that humans are ‘universal in nature’ and emphasised the importance of identifying and taking into account cultural influences.
Within the field of cultural psychology several experiments have led to the establishment of theories which attempt to explain the difference between Western and non-Western populations. The theory individualism versus collectivism in regards to the view of the self has been identified and confirmed by numerous experiments. For example Markus & Kitayama’s (1991) review found that different cultures maintain diverse visions of what the self is like. The two most distinguishable views of the self which vary in different cultural groups are the ‘individualistic view’ and the ‘collectivist view.’ Western countries such as the UK and the USA are regarded as having individualistic cultures which cater to the rights, needs and preferences of the individual. Therefore people of Western societies tend to maintain independent views of the self i.e. consider themselves fundamentally separate from others, their environment and distinct from social contexts/relationships. The behaviour of these individualists is considered to be determined according to their set of stable internal characteristics (e.g. thoughts, feelings, needs) and not according to external influences (e.g. the expectation of others or the demands of a situation)
On the other hand non- Western societies (e.g. China, Japan, Korea, and India) are typically characterised as being comprised of collectivistic cultures, which stress the importance of maintaining the norms, standards and traditions of families and social groups. As a result individuals from non-Western societies tend to have an interdependent view of the self. They believe the self is fundamentally connected to the people in their immediate community and to their environment. Consequently the behaviour and characteristics of collectivists are thought to be highly influenced by external factors and change depending on the situation, social context and social relationships.
The theory of individualism/collectivism was further supported by Trafimow et al’s (1991) study which found that North American students described themselves with attributes that marked them as unique or distinct individuals for example ‘I am really funny’. These are the characteristics of individualists. In contrast Chinese students tended to define themselves in terms of relationships, roles and attributes they shared with other people such as ‘I am a Buddhist’. These responses are indicative of a collectivistic view of the self. Cohen and Gunz (2002) also found the presence of different views of the self in different cultures. Asian participants when asked to recall memories from their own past often reported them from a ‘third persons’ perspective almost as if they were looking at themselves from an observer’s viewpoint reflecting their interdependent nature . In contrast American participants normally reported experiencing these memories from their own perspective.
The second theory indentified within the field of cultural psychological research was analytic versus holistic thinking styles. Nisbett et al’s (2001) review proposed that two different styles of thinking exist in different cultural groups. These two styles of thinking are referred to as analytic and holistic. Analytic thinking is characterized by focus on specific objects and their features independently from their context and relations to other objects and typically utilized by people from Western societies. In contrast holistic thinking can be described by orientation of objects in relation to other objects as well as the placing of objects in terms of a larger context. Holistic thinking is typically employed by people from non-Western societies.
Masuda et al’s (2008) study is evidence of this diversity in thinking styles among different cultures. In this study Japanese and American participants were asked to draw a landscape scene. The landscape drawings by Japanese participants were distinguishable from those drawn by American participants as the horizon was drawn significantly higher and there were more contextual objects included. The Japanese participant’s landscape drawings are a reflection of their holistic manner of thinking as a higher horizon allows more objects to be orientated in relation to each other more successfully than a low horizon. Furthermore the social orientation hypothesis proposed by Varnum et al, (2008) suggests that cultures which vary in their social orientation i.e. independent or interdependent also show corresponding differences in cognitive style; therefore Western societies who tend to be independent are also analytic, while East Asian societies who are considered interdependent are also holistic (Nisbett et al., 2001)
A relatively untouched area of research has been largely focused on the children of non Western immigrants who have been born and raised in a Western society. Social psychologists have questioned whether the children of these non-Western immigrants share a view of the self and style of thinking which is analogous to their parents i.e. collectivists with an holistic style of thinking or whether these children are similar to their Western counterpart i.e. individualistic with an analytic style of thinking. These two possible outcomes have significant implication in regards to the origin of cultural differences. If the children of non-Western Immigrants are indeed collectivist and posses a holistic style of reasoning then it would imply that cultural differences are almost fixed, hardwired and are not significantly influenced by the society in which they have been raised within. However if the ‘cognitive make up’ of children born to non-Western immigrants, resembles that of Western samples then it would suggest that cultural differences are fluid, largely socially learnt (transmitted) and subject to change resulting from the society they have been raised.
Norenzayan et al’s (2002) cross cultural analysis compared the reasoning style between American, East Asian (characteristically Korean or Chinese) and Asian American (born in the US to East Asian parents) university students. The study found that East Asians were in favour of an intuitive/ holistic style of reasoning while American students preferred a more formal/analytic style. Asian Americans on the other hand displayed a preference in reasoning style that was either identical to the American students or intermediate between American and East American students. This suggests that American Asian students through assimilation into a Western society are progressively shifting from the holistic form of reasoning of their parents to a more broadly Western style of thinking.
Similarly Heine et al’s (2007) meta-analysis of cross cultural studies centred on the self enhancement bias (i.e. people are motivated to view themselves more positively as a means of increasing self esteem), between East Asian, American and Asian American participants. The results of this meta-analysis coverage found that East Asians self enhance significantly less than Western American participants. Additionally Asian Americans appeared to be intermediate in the effect size (the strength of the self enhancement bias averaged across all the published papers) between American and East Asian participants. According to Markus and Kitayama, (1991) an interdependent view of the self that is associated with collectivist cultures, has less of a need to positive self enhance as there is no pronounced relationship between personal attributes and self esteem. Instead there is a greater value in fitting into groups and abiding by group norms rather than emphasising personal attributes in an attempt to stand out and emit a sense of uniqueness. As a result self enhancement appears to be more central within individualist societies.
This study serves as a replication of the cultural variation identified and confirmed by previous research within the field of cultural psychology, specifically Markus & Kitayama (1991), Nisbett et al (2001), and Masuda et al (2008). However unlike previous research the degree of variation among cultures was focused on between Bangladeshi immigrants, British Bangladeshi students (born in Britain to Bangladeshi immigrants) and British White participants (older and younger generations). It is predicted that British white participants would score lower in the individualism/collectivism (I/C) scale (Triandis and Gelfand, 1998) indicating individualistic views of the self while Bangladeshi immigrants Western societies will score higher signifying collectivists views of the self.
It is also predicted that Bangladeshi immigrants would draw a higher horizon in Masuda et al’s (2008) drawing test as well as a greater number of additional items. This represents their holistic style of thinking in contrast to the analytic style of thinking of British white participants who would have drawn lower horizons and fewer additional items. Therefore British Bangladeshi participants who were born to Bangladeshi immigrant parents and consequently raised in a Western environment are expected to project a view of the self and a thinking style which either closely or exactly resembles that of the British White participants, given the previously mentioned findings of Norenzayan et al. (2002) and Heine et al. (2007) for Asian Americans.
In regards to the additional questions in the experimental booklet, the first set of questions were aimed to measure the level of interaction participants experienced with family members in terms of the how many relatives they see in a week and how many relatives they communicate with over the phone or through email. The second set of additional questions referred to the amount of UK based media participants were exposed to. Participants were required to rate how often they utilized four different mediums; newspaper, magazines, television and the internet. It is predicted that there will be a positive correlation between the level of mass media viewing and the level of individualism. This may occur as UK based forms of media predominately convey values and messages that are typical attributes of individualism such as exclusivity and independence. For example Kim and Markus’s (1999) study found that there is a greater emphasis of uniqueness present in American magazines in comparison to Korean magazines. Furthermore messages of conformity, which is considered a characteristic of collectivistic cultures, has greater coverage in East Asian magazines as when as a greater emphasis on respective norms and long standing traditions.
Moreover it is also predicted that there will be a positive correlation between the intensity of interaction with family members and the intensity of collectivism. Collectivistic cultures such as non-Western cultures are interdependent and view the self as overlapping or connected with other people i.e. family members and dependent on social context/interactions rather than in unique personal characteristics where as in Western cultures the self is seen as independent and autonomous. Trafimow et al’s (1991) study found that Chinese students are more likely to define themselves in term of relationships and roles they share with others such as ‘I am a daughter’ in comparison to Westerners. Therefore a higher level of interaction with family members will reinforce collectivism and vice versa.
Eighty participants (forty males and females) who were aged between 18- 60+ took part in this experiment. Participants were obtained through opportunistic sampling and directly approached for recruitment from universities in East London as well as from local East London community centres, libraries and GP medical centres. There were translation issues encountered with subjects for whom English was not their first language specifically Bangladeshi immigrants, and therefore lacked good verbal English. However researchers conducting the study were bilingual, fluent in both English and Bengali and consequently could sufficiently overcome this language barrier. The sample was comprised of two distinct cultural groups, Bangladeshi participants and White British participants. In addition these two groups were further divided into four sub groups of twenty participants; the Bangladeshi sample consisted of those who were born in Bangladesh and immigrated to the UK at the age of at least 14 (Bangladeshi immigrants) and British Bangladeshi students (those who born in the UK to Bangladeshi immigrants) aged between 18-30. The White British sample included White British students (aged 18-30) whose families have lived in the UK for at least two generations and older White British participants (aged +40).
The material of this experiment is paper-pencil based and consists of 3 sections to measure the participant’s view of the self and their style of thinking as well as a final section obtaining information regarding the participant’s cultural background, family interactions and mass media exposure. The first section of the experiment is the individualism/collectivism questionnaire (Triandis and Gelfand, 1998). This was comprised of a series of 16 questions, 8 questions measured collectivism and 8 questions measured individualism (see Appendix). These questions were in a random order and participants had to rate the extent they agreed with the statement from using a 1 – 7 rating score, 1 being strongly agree and 7 being strongly disagree. In order to calculate the scores on the individualism and collectivism scale; the ratings for the statements measuring collectivism were reversed i.e. strongly agree (7) and strong disagree (1). The ratings for each participant was then summed and divided by the number of questions (16). A score higher than 4 indicated collectivism while a score lower than 4 indicated individualism (a score of exact 4 indicated neither individualism nor collectivism.)
The second section of the experiment was Masuda et al’s (2008) drawing test, this measured whether participants had an analytic or holistic style of thinking. Participants are asked to draw a landscape scene within the allocated drawing box including a house, a horizon, a tree etc. Two critical measures were taken from the drawing test , the first was the height of the drawn horizon (the distance from the bottom of the drawing box and the horizon) in centimetres and second was the number of addition objects drawn without including the five standard objects (house, tree, river, person, horizon)
The third section of the experiment requires subjects to provide their age, their cultural background i.e. where they were born, where their parents were born and other countries they had lived in during their life time. In addition participants provided details concerning their level of interaction and communication with family members (including extended relatives) i.e. how many relatives they see in person in a week and how many relatives they phone or email in a week. Participants were also required to rate their level of intensity of exposure to UK based forms of medium; newspapers, magazines and television and the internet. The responses which were converted to a likert scale consisted of; every day (4), once a week (3), at least once a month, less than once a month (1), and no response (0).
The design of this experiment is within subject. Each subject carried out all the experimental conditions. The independent variable is whether the participants were raised in a Western society (UK) or a non-Western society (Bangladesh). The dependent variables are the participant’s mean score on the individualism/collectivism scale (Triandis and Gelfand 1998) as well as their response to Masuda et al’s (2008) drawing test; these were measured by the horizon height (cm) and the number of additional objects in the drawing.
Before the experiment was conducted all participants provided full written consent and received standardised instructions informing them of how to proceed with the experiment. Participants were fully aware that they could withdraw from the experiment at any time and should complete the experiment at their own pace. Participants were also informed that the results of the experiment would remain anonymous and there was no risk involved. Participants were presented with the experimental booklet which consisted of the three sections to be completed at their own pace. Participants were than thanked for partaking in the experiment and any questions they had were answered.
A one way ANOVA was employed to analyse the results obtained from the four experimental groups according to the three main dependent variables; individualism/collectivism score, horizon height and number of additional items. A 5% level of significance (p= 0.05) was applied to determine the statistical significance of the results. The one way ANOVA analysis revealed significant differences within each of the three measures. A significant difference was found among the four groups of participants in relation to their score on the individualism and collectivism questionnaire, (F(3, 76) = 23.3.92, p=<0.001). Significant differences were also found among the four groups of participants in regards to the length of the horizon height drawn , (F(3,76) = 26.467, p<0.001) as well as the number of additional items included in Masuda et al’s (2008) drawing task, (F(3,76) = 23.329, p<0.001).
A one way ANOVA was also utilized to evaluate the response of the four sample groups in relations to the additional six dependent variables; number of relatives in physical contact with in an average week, the number of relatives in non physical contact with in an average week, newspaper use,magazine use, television viewing and internet use . The results of this analysis revealed significant variation among the four groups according to each of the dependent variables. Significant differences were found in the number of relatives participants were in physical contact with in an average week, (F(3, 76) =27.864, p<0.001) as well as the number of relatives in non physical contact with in an average week,(F(3, 76) =11.098, p<0.001). Significant differences were also found among the four experimental groups in terms of the level of mass media consumption; newspaper use, (F(3, 76) = 3.480, p= 0.20), magazine use, (F(3, 76) = 6.459, p= 0.001), television viewing, (F(3, 76) = 5.582, p= 0.002) and internet use, (F(3, 76) = 22.924, p>0.001).
A secondary form of in-depth analysis was also conducted, this consisted of a series of two sample independent t-tests comparing each of the four sample groups in relations to the three main measures (I/C score, horizon height and number of additional items) as well as the remain addition variables i.e. contact with family and mass media consumption. Due to the multiple comparisons the Bonferroni correction was implemented into the analysis of the results. Therefore an adjusted p value of 0.008 (0.05/6) was obtained to determine statistical significance by dividing the initial 5% significance level by the number of comparisons conducted for each level of the independent variables i.e. the four groups of participants .
Figure 1 shows the mean scores for the individualism/collectivism scale as well as the mean horizon height and mean number of addition items for all of the four subgroups. The two sample independent test cross comparing the four focal groups in terms of the I/C score revealed significant differences between older Bangladeshi immigrants (M= 5.47, SD= 0.51) and older British white participants (M= 3.91, SD= 0.88; t(38) = -6.875, p=<0.001), younger white British participants (M= 3.99, SD= 0.61; t(38) =8.314, p<0.001) and younger British Bangladeshi participants (M= 3.99, SD= 0.74; t(38) =7.396, p<0.001). There were no significant differences for the I/C scores between older White British and younger British white participants, (t(38) =-0.320, p= 0.751), older British white and young British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =-0.284, p= 0.778) and between younger British and younger British Bangladeshi participants (t(38) =0.016, p= 0.987).
The two sample independent test cross comparing the four groups in regards to the horizon height drawn by each participants revealed significant differences between older Bangladeshi immigrants (M=15.16, SD= 0.79), and older British white participants (M= 11.19, SD= 2.95; t(38) =-5.804, p= <0.001), younger British white participants (M= 8.39, SD= 2.88; t(38) = 10.108, p= <0.001) and younger British born Bangladeshi participants (M= 10.44, SD= 2.57; t(38) = 7.837, p= <0.001). A significant difference was also found when comparing the horizon heights drawn by young British white participants to that of young British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) = 7.837, p= <0.001) and older British white participants (t(38) =3.038, p= 0.004) . However a significant difference was not detected between the horizon heights drawn by older British white and young British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) = 0.857, p= 0.397).
The two sample independent t-test cross comparing the number of additional items drawn by each participants in the four groups revealed significant difference between older Bangladeshi immigrants (M= 10.6, SD= 4.55), and older British white participants (M= 2.1, SD= 2.43; t(38) =-7.317, p= <0.001), younger British white participants (M= 3.6, SD= 2.70); t(38) =5.906, p= <0.001) and younger British Bangladeshi participants (M= 3.9, SD= 3.82); t(38) =4.998, p= <0.001). There were no significant differences found in the number of addition items drawn between old British white participants and young British white participants, (t(38) =1.785, p= <0.082, young British Bangladeshi participants, t(38) =1.778, p= <0.085 and between young British white and young British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =0.334, p= <0.740).
The two sample independent t-test comparing the number of relatives each member of the four sample groups had direct physical contact with in an average week revealed significant differences between older British white participants and older Bangladeshi immigrants, (t(38) =-7.673, p= <0.001), older British white and younger British Bangladeshi participants, t(38) =-4.992, p= <0.001. Significant differences were also found between young British white participants and older Bangladeshi immigrants, (t(38) =8.772, p= <0.001) and younger British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =-5.494, p= <0.001). There was no significant differences found between older British and young British white participants, (t(38) =0.321, p= 0.750) as well and between older Bangladeshi immigrants and younger British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =0.418, p= 0.418).
The two sample independent t-test comparing the number of relatives the four samples had indirect contact with (i.e. via the telephone or internet) revealed significant differences between older British white participants and older Bangladeshi immigrants, (t(38) =-4.404, p= <0.001) and older British white and younger British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =-2.618, p= 0.013). Significant differences were also found between younger British white participants and older Bangladeshi immigrants, (t(38) =6.237, p= <0.001) and younger British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =-3.544, p= 0.001). However no significant difference were found between older and younger British white participants, (t(38) =0.536, p= 0.595) as well as between older Bangladeshi immigrants and younger British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =1.172, p= 0.248).
The two sample independent t-test comparing utilization of newspapers in the four samples revealed no significant differences among all possible group comparisons. The level of newspaper use in older British white participants and older Bangladeshi immigrants was insignificant, (t(38) =2.771, p= 0.009), young British white participants, (t(38) =2.208, p= 0.034) and young British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =0.992, p= 0.328). No significant differences were found between older Bangladeshi immigrants and younger British white participants, (t(38) =-0.443, p= 0.660) and younger British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =-2.153, p= 0.039). There was also no significant difference between younger British white and younger British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =-1.552, p= 0.131).
The two sample independent t-test comparing magazine consumption in the four focal groups revealed significant differences between older Bangladeshi immigrants and older British white participants, (t(38) =4.170, p<0.001) and younger British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =-3.352, p=0.002). However no significant differences were found between older British white participants and younger British participants, (t(38) =1.583, p=0.112) and younger British Bangladeshi participants (t(38) =1.151, p=0.257). No significant differences were also found between younger British participants and older Bangladeshi immigrants, (t(38) =2.663, p=0.011) and younger British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =-0.524, p=0.603).
The two sample independent t-test comparing the level of television viewing in the four samples found significant differences between younger British Bangladeshi participants and older Bangladeshi immigrants, t(38) =-3.872, p=0.001), and younger British participants, (t(38) =-3.61, p=0.001). However no significant differences were revealed between older British participants and older Bangladeshi immigrants, (t(38) =1.602, p=0.118), younger British participants, (t(38) =1.443, p=0.157) and younger British Bangladeshi, (t(38) =-2.238, p=0.032). No significant differences were also found between younger British participants and older Bangladeshi immigrants, (t(38) =-0.150, p=0.881).
The two sample independent t-test comparing internet use among the four groups of participants revealed significant differences between older British white participants and younger British white participants, (t(38) =-3.423, p=0.002) and between older British white immigrants and younger British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =-3.599, p=0.001). Significant differences were also found between older Bangladeshi immigrants and younger British participants, (t(38) =-7.421, p<0.001) and younger British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =-7.641, p<0.001). However no significant differences were revealed between older British white participants and older Bangladeshi immigrants, (t(38) =2.738, p=0.009) as well as between younger British participants and young British Bangladeshi participants, (t(38) =-0.234, p=0.816).
Furthermore a linear regression analysis was employed to identify whether the results obtained for the three main (dependent) variables; individualism/collectivism score, horizon heights and number of addition items, could be predicted by the six supplementary variables; number of relatives in physical contact within an average week, the number of relatives in non physical contact within an average week, newspaper use,magazine use, television viewing and internet use.
The results of the analysis for predicting the score of the four experimental groups on the individualism and collectivism scale, found that internet use significantly predicted I/C scores of the four groups, (?= -0.389, t(79) =-0.356, p = 0 .001). Internet utilization also explained a significant proportion of variance in the I/C score among the four samples, (R2 =0 .310, F(6, 73) =5 .464, p <0.001).
In term of predicting the length of horizon height (cm) drawn by the four groups, the linear regression analysis revealed that only internet use among the participants significantly predicted horizon height, (?= -0.389, t(79) =-3.554, p = 0 .001). Internet utilization also explained a significant proportion of variance in the lengths of horizon height between the four samples, (R2 =0 .265, F(6, 73) =4 .831, p =0.001).
The linear regression analysis conducted to determine whether the number of additional items included in the drawings by the four groups of participants could be predicted by the six independent variables, found that the number of relatives participants were in non physical contact with in an average week significantly predicted the number of addition items drawn (?= -0.240, t(79) =2.258, p = 0 .027). Newspaper use also significantly predicted the number of additional objects drawn by the four groups, (?= -0.143, t(79) =-1.439, p = 0 .035), as did internet use, (?= -0.243, t(79) =-2.468, p = 0 .016). Therefore these three independent variables; the number of relatives in non physical contact, newspaper use and internet use explained a significant proportion of variance in the number of additional items drawn among the four groups, (R2 = 0.405, F(6, 73) =8 .283, p <0.001)
The results of this study confirmed earlier predictions and reinforced the findings of Markus & Kitayam (1991), Nisbett et al (2001), and Masuda et al (2008) studies. Non-Western subjects comprised of Bangladeshi immigrants produced a greater mean score on the individualism and collectivism scale which indicated a more interdependent and collectivist view of themselves. In comparison the mean scores of the older and younger British white participants and younger British Bangladeshi participants on the individualism and collectivism questionnaire was significantly lower than that of the Bangladeshi immigrants suggesting that this Western sample were less collectivist and more individualistic than their non Western counterparts. These findings reinforce the notion that a view of the self does vary across cultures providing further evidence that humans are not inherently similar but differ in core personality related aspects which have significant implications in psychological and social processes.
In regards to Masuda et al’s (2008) drawing tasks, older Bangladeshi immigrants also drew a horizon considerably higher in mean height than that drawn by the British born participants’ i.e. younger and older British white participants and the British born Bangladeshi participants. Bangladeshi immigrants also included more additional objects within their landscape drawing in contrast to the three Western raised samples. These findings reinforce the results of Masuda et al’s (2008) study were Japanese subjects also produced higher horizons and more objects in contrast to the American subjects. This represents a division in the thinking styles across cultures (Nisbett et al 2001), as Bangladeshi immigrants appear to possess a holistic mode of thinking which is reflected by a higher horizon to allow more contextual objects to be included in relations to the drawing as a whole. However British born subjects who were raised in a Western society, instead appeared to display an analytic style of thinking. This is indicated by the lower horizon which prevents objects from being drawn in relations to the whole landscape. Western participants also appear to have chosen not to draw as many additional items as Bangladeshi immigrants.
British participants born to Bangladeshi immigrants were highly similar to White British participants in terms of their I/C score, horizon height and number of addition items included in the drawing task, suggesting they are more individualistic and analytical than older Bangladeshi immigrants. It appears as though this younger generation of British Bangladeshi participants have assimilated and adopted the cultural values of the Western society they were born and raised in rather than ‘inherit’ their parents non-Western values. Furthermore this process of assimilation does not appear to be gradual but indicative of a ‘one generation’ form of assimilation as British Bangladeshi participants are not intermediate between the non Western- Bangladeshi subjects and White British white. In contrast, Heine’s, (2007) meta-analysis identified a slower form of assimilation occurring in the first generation of Asian Americans born to East Asian immigrants and raised in America. The Asian Americans were found to be intermediate between East Asian and American participants, in their levels of self enhancement. Although Kurman’s, (2001) study found that self enhancement is not necessary restricted to individualist cultures as well as highlighting a negative correlation between modesty and self enhancement motive in East Asian participants from Singapore. Nevertheless Bangladeshi born participants who immigrated to the UK maintained their non-Western values regardless of residing in the UK for a long period of time and appear to be unreceptive to the cultural influences and values emanating from the British society.
This rapid ‘one generation’ form of assimilation can be due to several factors for example it can be speculated that perhaps a difference in UK schooling and education influenced this rapid form of assimilation in British Bangladeshi participants in contrast to the schooling in America. Perhaps British Bangladeshi participants were able to interact with British culture to a greater extent increasing the transmission of British values. British Bangladeshi participants may also be more susceptible to adopting British values due to a sensitive period of acculturation during development. This period for acculturation was highlighted in Cheung et al’s (2011) study which found that the younger Chinese immigrants were at the time of immigration, resulted in an increasingly rapid rate of identification and assimilation into Canadian culture. In addition this identification with Canadian culture increased if these young immigrants resided in Canada for a longer period of time, however the opposite affect was observed in older immigrants although this was not statistically significant. Therefore it is proposed that British Bangladeshi participants who were born in the UK and therefore experienced this sensitive period of acculturation from birth consequently lead to a longer period of exposure to Western values. This could perhaps explain the rapid rate of assimilation demonstrated by British Bangladeshi participants into British culture. However older Bangladeshi immigrants may have missed this sensitive period of acculturation, as most immigrated to the UK above the age of 14 and thus may have formed a stronger association and identification with their own Bangladeshi culture, despite residing in the UK for a longer time than the British born Bangladeshi participants.
Internet use among participants appears to be a strong predictor of scores achieved on the individualistic and collectivistic scale as well as the horizon height and number of addition items drawn. A greater use of the internet was reported in British born subjects who consequently attained a lower score on the I/C scale, a lower horizon height and fewer addition objects, suggesting a more individualistic view of the self and analytic style of thinking, while the opposite was noted in the Bangladeshi immigrants. The underlying reasons behind this relationship is not fully understood and requires replication, however perhaps this popular medium encourages a sense of independence in these British born users by allowing them to escape from reality and from having to form ‘real relationships’ with proximal groups. For example Nie et al, (2002), suggest that an increase in global communication and involvement via the internet results in a reduced connection and interest in local communities. Furthermore internet use is leading to a phenomenon called ‘Networked individualism’ which is defined as ‘the movement from densely-knit and tightly-bounded groups to sparsely-knit and loosely-bounded networks’, (Wellman, 2001). Bangladeshi immigrants who were found to be more collectivist than British born participants, perhaps posses more stronger ties their immediate community which is evident in their low level internet use.
The classifying and categorizing of cultures as either individualistic or collectivistic is not that simple as culture is not absolute. According to Fiske (2002), ‘culture is neither is black or white but a rainbow of colours.’ The ‘out dated’ concept of homogeneity within a culture is very vague and invalid, as a culture is rarely ever completely individualist or collectivist for example it is possible to find non-Western participants who hold independent views of the self amongst a sea of collectivists and vice versa.
As a result there is a vast amount of criticism regarding the use of these two constructs ‘individualism’ and ‘collectivism’ in attempting to explain cultural and cross cultural differences, whereby both constructs are conceptualized as being at opposite ends of a continuum. For example, Fiske (2002) found that Japanese culture, can be more individualist than western cultures, depending on how the studies are set. It should also be noted that one type of collectivist culture is not the same as another collectivist culture and the same applies for individualistic cultures Triandis (1995, 2001). Therefore measures which may indicate collectivism in one culture may not necessary measure collectivism in another culture, resulting in that particular culture being wrongly labeled ‘individualist’. For instance the Scandinavian culture, which is more individualist than the North American culture, is non-competitive and finds referring to the self, shameful (Fiske, 2002). Furthermore this notion that differences between cultures are concrete and unchangeable i.e. a culture is either collectivistic or individualist has lead to concerns regarding stereotyping among cultural psychology research (Heine & Norenzayan, 2006). At an attempt to solve such concerns, Triandis, (1996) proposed that there are four types of cultures; Horizontal Individualism, where people strive to be unique, Vertical Individualism, where people want to do their own thing and are very achievement orientated, Horizontal Collectivism: where people assimilate into their in-groups; and finally Vertical Collectivism, characterized by submission to the authority figures of the in-group and a sense of self sacrifice for the best interests of the in-group. This is substantial progress in comprehending the scale of variation in individualism and collectivism within a culture to a more multi dimension perspective.
The implication of these criticisms is that the results of this study cannot validly conclude that Bangladeshi immigrants are all collectivists and have holistic styles of thinking or that British Bangladeshi participants and younger and older generations of British white participants who were all born and raised in a Western society are less collectivistic and holistic than these Bangladeshi immigrants. As mentioned this study was proposed to emphasis the cultural differences across the human race however this cannot possibly be achieved by ignoring variation that exists within a culture and simply generalizing a culture as being either solely more collectivist or more individualist.
There are also several concerns regarding the measures of individualism/collectivism. Firstly Triandis and Gelfand‘s (1998) scale for measuring individualism and collectivism has been criticised for utilizing a arbitrary numerical rating to measure the validity of a statement. For example take the statement ‘I feel good when I cooperate with others’ , one participant might rate this as 3 while another as 6, does that mean that the latter participants response is twice as validIn addition the use of Likert scales incorporated into I/C questionnaire does not provide any insight into whether a person likes cooperating with others, but it is almost like an instant subjective, reductionist answer which is dependent on the participant’s frame of mind, understanding of the sentence and therefore not free of context assessment. After all for how accountable can such numerical mean ratings be in validly indicating cultural variation, (Kitayama, 2002).Furthermore classifying an individual as collectivist or individualist is dependent on whether their score on the I/C scale is lower or greater than ‘4’ i.e. neither collectivist or individualistic. The use of the value ‘4’ itself is arbitrary highlight additional concerns of whether it is a true neutral midpoint.
In general the validity of measurements is an issue within all of psychology. The use of Likert scales have also been criticised as being influenced by response styles, for example it has been found that participants from one culture are more likely to select an answer from the centre of the scale in comparison to people from another culture, (Chen et al, 1995). Differences in responses could be due to several reasons such as brain lateralization; whereby dominance in one hemisphere of the brain leads to a preference in one side of the visual field and thus a preference in either the right hand side or left hand side of the Likert scale. As a result the validity of this measure is severely compromised as responses may not be reflecting how a participant view’s themselves but merely an indication of which side of the scale participants prefer. Subjective Likert scales also often require social comparisons which further affects the validity of cross cultural measures, Heine et al (2002) has been referred to this as the’ reference group affect’. The judgements individuals produce are due to the implicit comparisons they make with those around them; therefore people from different cultures have different reference groups from which they make implicit comparisons from. The implication this has in reducing any real cross cultural variation is based on the different norm for a particular dimension used by cultures drawing comparison for a particular dimension i.e. how collectivistic or individualist a person feels they are. For example a person from an individualist culture may compare themselves to those who are more individualistic, thus producing a judgement they are not as individualistic as other members, when in actual fact they are.
One of the most notable criticisms of paper-pencil based tests are that they are highly liable to falsification and are prone to social desirability bias, that is answering questions with responses that the participant feels are socially acceptable. This is a particular problem as in the individualism/collectivism questionnaire, there are certain statements i.e. ‘parents and children should always stay together as much as possible’ that participants might agree with not because they want to but because they feel socially obliged to. Kitayama (2002) further proposes that self reflective questionnaires often tend to fail in accurately reflecting spontaneous responses of cognition, emotion and motivation, as how people would actually have in everyday social settings. In addition questionnaires which require retrospective responses are highly unlikely to reveal how a person would respond to a particular situation, especially if such an individual is very forgetful, thus distorting their response and producing unreliable results.
A limitation of this study is that participants were selected by opportunistic sampling as a result there may be certain extraneous variable which were not controlled for the most obvious being individual differences among participant, which may have influenced the results of this study compromising the validity of the results. For example if a participant had a history of being deceived and disappointed by others, it may cause them to strongly agree with statements such as ‘I’d rather depend on myself than others’. In general it is difficult to separate within culture variation from between cultural variation is that within culture variation, due to individual differences are derived from a completely different source of variation in contrast to between-cultural variation (e.g. language, history, customs etc), (Kitayama, 2002), as a result the validity of such questionnaire in measuring cross cultural variance is highly questionable. One way of avoiding measuring culture through an individual-level response was demonstrated by Kim and Markus, (1999), this involved examining the cultural messages present in magazines and advertisements as reflection of cultural shared beliefs and ideas thus allowing culture to be measured directly rather than subjectively through individuals. Furthermore Oysterman (2002) suggests that questions attempting to measure cross cultural differences should be structured so that they capture the core elements of culture, which are a set a values such as self-assertion, uniqueness, duty and group harmony. Despite the significant discrepancies regarding whether an individual level or cultural level approach should be implemented when analysing cross cultural variation, it should be noted that a cultural level of measure would ultimately prevent researchers from understanding cultural variation at a psychological level (Heine et al, 2002).
In addition a participant’s occupation may also be a variable which affected the results of this study, as the majority of participants for the younger generation of both cultures (Bangladeshi and White British) were university students. For example Fiske (2002) found that post-college aged adults tended to be more individualist while college-aged persons were inclined to be more collectivist. Therefore whether these participants were more individualist and less collectivist may be due to attending university rather than cultural differences. Furthermore the older Bangladeshi sample consisted of participants who were illiterate therefore the questions had to be translated into Bengali, consequently the meaning of a statement might have become altered during the translation as it isn’t possible to completely translate English into Bengali accurately or vice versa. In general language is a key problem for measuring cultural variation for example two English speakers from different cultures may have different semantic interpretations of the same sentence (Fiske, 2002). As a result these two people from different cultures when presented with a questionnaire may circle different scores for the same statement, even though realistically their cultures value that statement equally consequently reducing the validity.
Future experiments regarding cross cultural variation in terms of thinking styles and the views of the self may involve improved material which is not prone to deception or affected by social desirability biases. In terms of the methodological problems associated with questionnaires various solutions have been proposed for example in terms of abstract Likert scales which do not reflect a respondents true behaviour, Peng et al, (1997) suggests that specific behavioural contexts should be include in the measurements of attitudes. To resolve the reference group effect, Heine et al, (2001) suggest that a forced-choice formation i.e. choosing between two options; a collectivistic and individualist choice will prevent the need for comparison to a reference group thus enhancing the validity of the results but at a cost i.e. very specific concrete responses are provided, (Heine et al, 2002). Although primary observations of participants may be ideal and highly informative to measure cultural differences without the concerns of subjectivity and social desirability, as culture after all appears to be socially transmitted, realistically such methods are inconvenient and time consuming to implement.
A more objective way to measure cross cultural variation may involve some form of implicit measurement, whereby the independent and collectivist views of the self are indirectly measured. For example perhaps some form of visual assessment using images that represent individualism and collectivism could be used and the time person a spends on these two types of images is measured this would also alleviate concerns regarding language barriers . It would also be more valid and reliable to measure the cultural tendencies of British Bangladeshi participants longitudinally, i.e. to asses any changes in their views of the self or their style of thinking after a few years as well to observe whether an association with the British culture increases the longer these participants reside in the UK or whether it declines or comes to a halt after a certain period of time has passed. Furthermore a study which focuses on this ‘sensitive period of acculturation’ in terms of the relationship between rate of assimilation and age should include Bangladeshi participants who immigrated to the UK at different ages, similarly to Chen et al’s (1995) study. This could determine whether such a relationship does exist or whether older Bangladeshi immigrants who entered the UK above the age of 14 had different reasons for leaving Bangladeshi and therefore felt unable to fully embrace and involve themselves in the British culture. An alternative study could also measures the rate of assimilation of immigrants from a Western society who permanently relocate to a non Western society; it would be interesting to note how these participants interact with non- Western culture.
In general this study provides evidence which supports the notion that Western and non Western cultures do vary to a degree in various psychological traits, in this case Bangladeshi immigrants where more collectivist and holistic then the British born participants. Such findings further highlight the deeply ingrained problem within cultural psychology regarding the generalization of results obtained from one culture being applied to another culture thus shattering the notion of a universal human race. In addition this cross cultural variation appears to be fluid and liable to change as demonstrated by the cultural assimilation and adoption of Western values by British born Bangladeshi participants within one generation. However as Oyserman (2002) suggests researchers are almost too willing to accept any cross cultural evidence of indication as either individualistic or collectivist processes which could ultimately lead to the stereotyping of cultures. Although there is consistent evidence that the framework of Individualism and collectivism is useful, future research should strive to acknowledge core elements of culture as well as adopt methods of measuring cultural difference which possess higher validity, perhaps as Triandis, et al (1990) proposed the most successful approach may be one which combines multiple methodologies as a means of true cultural assessment.
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