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Cross-Cultural Comparison of Collectivistic
and Individualistic Values between China and
the United States
Makiko Imamura
Yan Bing Zhang
University of Kansas
Introduction
• Values are cognitive structures that guide
individuals’ attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.
• The individualism-collectivism (I-C) value
orientation has been used as a major theoretical
framework in cross-cultural research to explain
cultural differences between the East and West.
в–« Chinese culture = Collectivistic
в–« American culture = Individualistic
Individualistic and Collectivistic Values
Individualistic Values
• Independence
• Equality
• Competitiveness
• Pleasure
• Success
• Etc.
Collectivistic Values
• Interpersonal Harmony
• solidarity with others
• harmony with others
• Relational Hierarchy
•
loyalty to superiors
•
ordering relationships by status
• Traditional Conservatism
• having fewer desires
• be content with life
In the Age of Globalization…
• The American Culture
• A growing number of Americans are travelling, studying, or working
in East Asian cultures.
• An increasing number of universities in the United States have
established centers for East Asian studies to promote the East Asian
values.
• The establishment of Confucius institutes in the United States
• CNN Hero Program
• The Chinese Culture
• Some of the modern values such as independence, equality,
competitiveness, and success have been influential among the
younger and more educated segment of the Chinese society.
• The coexistence of tradition and modernization
• Independence is more desired and accepted universally (e.g.,
Park & Guan, 2007)
Two Studies
From the perspectives of young Adults
• Study 1
в–« Compared collectivistic values (i.e., interpersonal
harmony, relational hierarchy, and conservatism)
between the Chinese and American participants.
• Study 2
в–« Compared individualistic values between the
Chinese and American participants.
Hypothesis for Study 1
H1: The American participants will endorse
interpersonal harmony, relational hierarchy and
traditional conservatism less than the Chinese
participants.
Method
• Participants
в–« 418 Chinese college students (M age = 19.51, SD = 1.52, 62.2% females)
в–« 415 American college students (M age = 20.14, SD = 2.05, 53.7% females)
• Measurements (on 5-point Likert Scales)
в–« Interpersonal Harmony: 14 items (О± = .77, M = 4.27, SD = .38 for China; О± =
.77; M = 4.11, SD = .36 for the U.S.)
п‚– e.g., tolerance of others, harmony with others, humbleness
в–« Relational Hierarchy: 8 items (О± = .61, M = 3.99, SD = .42 for China; О± = .65,
M = 3.81, SD = .44 for the U.S.)
п‚– e.g., obedience to parents, loyalty to superiors, ordering relationships by status
в–« Conservatism: 11 items (О± = .60, M = 3.18, SD = .47 for China; О± = .67 M =
3.08, SD = .46 for the U.S.)
п‚– e.g., contentedness with one's position in life, thriftiness, being conservative
Results
• A 2 (gender) × 2 (cultural groups) MANOVA on the three dependent
variables (i.e., harmony, hierarchy, and conservatism) was
performed.
• Results indicate that …
в–« There was a significant multivariate gender main effect (F (3, 827) = 3.02,
p < .05, ŋ² = .01) – Univariate ANOVA was significant only for Harmony.
в–« There was a significant cultural group membership main effect (F (3, 827)
= 23.42, p < .001, Е‹ВІ = .08) - Univariate ANOVAs were all significant.
в–« There was a significant group membership by participant gender
interaction effect (F (3, 827) = 3.44, p < .05, Е‹ВІ = .01) - Univariate
ANOVAs were not significant.
Means and Standard Deviations for Collectivistic
Values by Cultural Group
Cultural Group
China
U.S.
Value
M
SD
M
SD
Harmony
4.27a
.38
4.11b
.35
Hierarchy
4.00a
.42
3.81b
.44
Conservatism
3.32a
.47
3.08b
.46
Means with different superscripts differ significantly in rows
Means and Standard Deviations for Collectivistic
Values by Participants’ Gender
Gender
Male
Female
Value
M
SD
M
SD
Harmony
4.14a
.38
4.22b
.37
Means with different superscripts differ significantly in rows
Hypothesis for Study 2
H1: The American participants will endorse
individualistic values more than the Chinese
participants.
Method
• Participants
в–« 192 Chinese college students (M age = 20.91, SD = 2.31,
50.5% females)
в–« 246 American college students (M age = 20.41, SD =
2.81, 66.3% females)
• Measurements (on a 7-point Likert scale)
в–« Individualistic Values: 12 items (О± =.89, M = 5.73, SD =
.85 for China; О± =.85, M = 5.73, SD = .71 for the U.S.)
п‚– e.g., equality, competitiveness, ambition, competence,
modernity, and success
Results
• A 2 (gender) × 2 (cultural groups) ANOVA was conducted on
individualism as the dependent variable.
• Results indicated that …
в–« There was no significant gender main effect (F (1, 434) = .61, p = .58).
в–« There was no significant cultural group main effect (F (1, 434) = .13, p = .78).
в–« There was no significant gender by culture interaction effect (F (1, 434) =
2.03, p = .16).
Means and Standard Deviations for Individualism by
Cultural Group
Cultural Group
China
U.S.
Value
M
SD
M
SD
Individualism
5.68a
.78
5.73a
.77
Means with same superscripts did not differ significantly in rows
Summary of the Major Findings
• Consistent with the I-C framework
в–« The American culture is individualistic
в–« The Chinese culture is collectivistic
• Confirming recent literature
в–« Collectivistic and individualistic values co-exist in the Chinese
culture
в–« The values of relational hierarchy and traditional conservatism
were not as valued as the interpersonal harmony values in both
cultures
• Extending prior literature and contrary to H1 in Study 2
в–« The younger and more educated segment of the Chinese society is
as individualistic as the young Americans
• Additionally
в–« Women valued the interpersonal harmony values more than men
in both cultures
Discussion: Implications of the Findings
• Influences of globalization and modernization on the
values upheld by Chinese young adults:
▫ Chan and Cheng (2002) argue that China is “the fastest
growing and largest potential market in the world” (p. 389).
в–« Throughout such a transformation from a socialist to a
capitalist nation, Chinese value system among young
generation may have shifted from emphasizing solely the
collectivistic values to endorsing both collectivistic and
individualistic values (Zhang & Harwood, 2004).
в–« The portrayal of modernity in domestic media and the
influx of imported media from Western countries may have
had a great influence on the people’s value system within a
culture (Zhang & Harwood, 2002).
Discussion: Implications of the Findings
• Influences of domestic policy (e.g., one child policy)
on the values of Chinese young adults:
The Chinese domestic policy (i.e., one child policy) has
influenced not only the family structure but also the
young adults’ values systems.
Consistent with the current findings,
Deutsch (2006) found that Chinese young adults are
more likely to live on their own, pursue their own
ambitions, and rely more on the outside resources than
their family.
Deutsch (2006) also found that Chinese young adults are
exposed to a remarkable level of filial piety, which is a
core element of collectivistic values.
Discussion:
Suggestions for the Future Research
• Future studies should examine the link between
values and communication behaviors
в–« Conflict management
в–« Relationship development
в–« Work ethics
• Inclusion of other East Asian cultures
в–« Korean culture
в–« Japanese culture
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