A Sociocultural Motives Perspective on Self-Concept and Personality

Research question/goal: 

The self-concept and the personality can predict important life outcomes, such as prosocial behaviours (civil engagement, volunteering) and ideologies (religiosity, political attitudes). Yet, there are substantial cross-cultural differences in these relations. For example, past research found a strong relation between communion-femininity and higher religiosity in Turkey, but this relation was altogether absent in Sweden. Cross-cultural variations of this kind have been described as major threats to the predictive validity of the self-concept and of personality. The present research develops a theory that can explain such cross-cultural variations. Specifically, our ‘sociocultural motives perspective’ (SMP) assumes that certain self-concept and personality dimensions evoke the desire to swim with the socio-cultural tide (sociocultural assimilation motivation). Thus, these self-concept and personality dimensions should predict important life outcomes particularly strongly if those life outcomes are culturally common. By the same token, the same self-concept and personality dimensions should predict important life outcomes particularly weakly (or even negatively) if those life outcomes are culturally uncommon. The SMP further assumes that other self-concept and personality dimensions evoke the desire to swim against the socio-cultural tide (sociocultural contrast motivation). As a result, these dimensions should predict important life outcomes particularly strongly, if those life outcomes are culturally uncommon. At the same time, the same self-concept and personality dimensions should predict important life outcomes particularly weakly (or even negatively), if those life outcomes are culturally common. The SMP’s added value is that the theory can explain cross-cultural differences in the effects of self-concept and personality. Therefore, the SMP contributes toward restoring the crippled predictive validity of the self-concept and of personality.

Current stage: 

2017 was the third year of the project, which is funded within the DFG's Emmy Noether Programme. It was a particularly productive year. The team has found conclusive evidence on the psychological processes that drive the effects uncovered in 2015 and 2016. Data collection for the project's three central papers is almost complete, and one paper has already been written up. Our team is optimistic that we will be able to publish the project's three central papers in 2018.

Fact sheet

Funding: 
DFG
Duration: 
2014 to 2019
Status: 
ongoing
Geographic Space: 
comparison of German Federal States, European countries, and countries worldwide

Publications

Books

Riva, Paolo, and Jennifer Eck (Eds.) (2016): Social exclusion: Psychological approaches to understanding and reducing its impact. Cham: Springer. more