Individualistic Cultures Vs. Collectivistic Cultures: Which is Better?

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Individualistic Cultures Vs. Collectivistic Cultures: Which is Better?

High levels of individualism in some countries showed higher ecological footprints / Photo by Getty Images


Culture is the invisible bond that ties people together, thus, one of the most important aspects in society. Some of the aspects that represent culture include language, art, literature, and religion. Even the moral values and beliefs that people have manifest our culture. The cultural values that people learn or acquire as they grow up play a major role in how we live and interact with others. It shapes our thinking, personality, and behavior. 

Culture also affects our perception of life. According to an article by the Opinion Front, there are several factors that are closely linked with our culture that has an impact on how we perceive things. This includes preconceived notions, judgment skills, attitude, and emotions. At the same time, culture has an important role in forming the framework of an individual's thoughts and behavior. The ideas or thoughts that are ingrained in people's minds because of culture influence the way we perceive people and situations.

Since we live in different kinds of societies, people also think and behave in different ways. There are cultures that promote individualism that encourages giving freedom of choice to children while they are growing up and also collectivism, which encourages the parents/elders to make choices for their children. Let's explore what these cultures are and how they affect a person's behavior. 



A Closer Look at Individualistic Cultures

Much like the term suggests, individualistic culture is all about giving greater importance to the needs of an individual more than the needs of a group or community. People are more concerned with themselves and their immediate family in this kind of society. Their behaviors are determined by personal preferences and personal attitude and at the same time are known to be independent and self-reliant. 

According to an article by the Very Well Mind, some of the common characteristics of an individualistic culture includes taking a higher precedence in the rights of individuals, placing a greater emphasis on being unique and standing out, considered embarrassing if dependent upon others, and many more. Some of the countries that practice this kind of culture are Australia, South Africa, Ireland, Germany, and the United States. 

Although it has been seen that individualistic cultures rise most in Western countries, a study showed that increasing individualism may actually be a global phenomenon. According to research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, a strong predictor of increasing individualistic practices and values in a particular country is its increasing socioeconomic development. 

Individualistic practices and values have been increasing around the world over time / Photo by Getty Images


In an interview by the Association for Psychological Science, psychology researcher Henri C. Santos of the University of Waterloo said, “Much of the research on the manifestation of rising individualism—showing, for example, increasing narcissism and higher divorce rates—has focused on the United States. Our findings show that this pattern also applies to other countries that are not Western or industrialized." 

The study found out that both individualistic practices and values have been increasing around the world over time. In fact, individualism has increased by about 12% across the globe since 1960. A recent analysis of Gallup Poll and Global Footprint Network datasets showed that individualism might be the reason why our planet is facing a global sustainability crisis.

According to an article by the Sustainability Times, high levels of individualism in some countries showed higher ecological footprints while they are also less likely to take responsibility for their impacts on nature. The researchers of the study suggest that nations with an individualistic culture are more likely to care only about personal benefits rather than the social good. At the same time, they are less likely to care or even organize for collective pro-environmental action. 


Understanding Collectivist Cultures

Collectivistic cultures, on the other hand, exist for the purpose of maximizing the common goal of all the individuals. It emphasizes the need for a community, society, or the nation to be united or help one another. It highlights teamwork and cooperation that play an important role in conformity, solidarity, and family cohesion. Individuals living in this kind of society tend to give a great significance on group goals and follow the expectation and rules of the group.

According to an article by the Very Well Mind, some of the common traits of collectivistic cultures include families and communities having a central role, encouraging people to do what's best for society, working as a group and supporting others is essential, and promoting selflessness and putting the community needs ahead of individual needs. One can be considered "good" in this society if they are generous, dependable, helpful, and attentive to other people's needs. 

Some of the countries that have a collectivistic culture include India, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Indonesia, Guatemala, Venezuela, Taiwan, Korea, China, and Japan. Previous studies showed that collectivistic cultures are more likely to describe themselves in terms of their social roles, unlike individualistic cultures that often describe themselves in terms of characteristics and personality traits. 

Additionally, collectivistic cultures are more likely to have stable, strong, and long-lasting relationships. Maintaining harmony within their community is a big deal since they want to keep their society at peace. In fact, they are willing to sacrifice their personal goals for the betterment of their group or community.




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