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: 

The project is divided in two parts, an experimental one and a cross-cultural one, which makes use of big data. In the last year, our research team made substantial progress regarding both parts. The experimental part elucidated the causal processes underlying our theoretical model (i.e. the sociocultural motives perspective on self-concept and personality). Additionally, both parts jointly helped to better understand the psychological processes driving the effects predicted by the sociocultural motives perspective.

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