An Analysis on Cross-Cultural Understanding of Personality

1.0 Introduction

Fundamentals that conscious beings share, such as a heartbeat or a reflection, unite us as a collective. However, we each have unique tendencies that create a mosaic of individuality in the world. The five-factor model (FFM), i.e. the organisation of personality traits, can be understood in terms of relatively enduring patterns of thoughts, feelings, and actions, outlined by John, Robins and Pervin (2008).

This assignment will perform a basic analysis of two respected theories; Costa and McCrae’s FFM and the Schwartz model. The goal is to obtain a justified conclusion on which theory is the most auspicious for the purpose of achieving a cross-cultural understanding of personality. The idea of a structured, global concept on personality came under intense scrutiny and was not readily available until researchers repeatedly found that the familiar FFM model was not subject to the constraints of cultural constructions. In addition to this belief, increasing evidence suggests that multiple aspects of personality form a universal human nature (Costa JR. & McCrae et al. 1998).

Similarly, as Schwartz & Sagiv (1992) verify, projects carried out in multiple nations using the Schwartz model endorsed the same thesis. Material from the projects gathered more than200 samples from over 60 countries. The model identifies 10 imperative human values. Roccas (2002) states that each value “expresses a distinct motivational goal: power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universalism, benevolence, tradition, conformity, and security”.

In order to arrive at a thorough perspective, this report will distinguish between the common ground of both theories and contrast the key principles that separate the content. Furthermore, after breaking down the constructs of strengths and weaknesses, analysis will be made in relation to cross-cultural application.

2.0 Findings

2.1 Similarities and Differences between theories

Costa and McCrae's model proposes five integral dimensions that can be measured along a continuum in all people - Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism stability (OCEAN), Pastorino & Portillo (2013). (See Appendix 5.1 for elucidation.) The dimensions encompass universal personality components which influence the efficaciousness of connecting to our peers and functioning in society.

People’s value priorities reflect coping strategies in line with universal requirements (Rohan, 2000; Schwartz, 1992). From this definition, we can speculate that the two theories have similar evolutionary origins and represent a desire to belong to a ‘clan’. The relative tenacity of both values and traits augments them as advantageous psychological constructs.

The FFM is based on empirical knowledge; ergo the development of the theory incorporates the use of personality questionnaires to compile supporting data. This method of research resembles the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator which adapts a logical approach to understanding our personality differences. Myers (1995) explains that perception determines how people view a situation ergo, judgement is determined as a result of a person’s actions in response to an occurrence. Thus, it is a plausible speculation that primary differences in our perception or judgement should result in corresponding differences in behaviour.

Values are enduring aspirations, whereas traits are enduring dispositions, hence the shared component of likely durability is the denominator of each concept. The variable factor of values and traits is that traits tend to be constructed genetically, whereas values usually transpire through our objectives. Rokeach (1973) argues that values are cognitive representations of desirable, abstract goals, such as autonomy or power. This distinction is affirmed by researchers Olver and Mooradian (2003) who state that traits are contrived biologically, alternatively; values develop due to a person’s environment, including culture, education, and life events.

However, a wide range of opposing ideologies suggests the distinction between a trait and a value cannot be cleanly cut. Instead, they are bound together at different levels of the personality spectrum. For example, McAdams (1995) explores an integrative model according to which there are three levels of personality. Traits are located in the first level (non-contextualised), whereas values are part of the second level of more contextualised elements of personality.

This integrative approach to understanding personality opens up a new pathway of thought in the mind. A good way of visualising the connection between a trait and value is to choose a specific trait and value, and perform tests to see if there is any correlation. A study carried out by Leduc, Feldman & Bardi (2015) found that individuals who score high on agreeableness show a genuine interest toward people in their close environment (benevolence values) and also toward people in society in general (universalism values).

Although there is clear evidence to support the notion that traits can be influenced by values and vice versa, it is important to note how the presence of either in a person’s personality is different. Roccas et al. (2002) contends that people may deem their behaviour rightful because it is fitting with their traits or values, although when they want to justify their actions as fair they tend to refer solely to core values. Therefore, the main distinction here is that one has cognitive control over values, whereas actions that are made because of a particular trait are more intuitive.

2.2 Strengths and Weaknesses

The merit of the Five-factor model is that it condenses the complexities of different characteristics into five dominate traits thus providing psychologists with structure and insight when conducting experiments. In regards to how it can be used in everyday life, it enables us to predict particular personality differences in particular people and to cope with a wide variety of people, overcoming our differences in a constructive way (Myers 1995).

The Revised NEO Personality Inventory is recognised as the largest international experiment carried out in order to ascertain the FFM. Allik (2005) interprets supporting evidence and claims that at least two of the Big Five constructs; neuroticism and extraversion, can be equally gauged across human languages and cultures.

Methodological limitations to the comprehensive instrument as a universal principle come into question, not only in terms of how genuine cultural disparity affects personality traits, but also in relation to language barriers. As Byrne & Campbell (1999) have confirmed, it has been difficult to calculate mean scores across different cultures, particularly in regard to distinguishing metric from scalar equivalence.

Schwartz’s value model displays strength in its progressive structure and is useful in understanding aspects of personality. Moreover, from its formula we can grasp the relevance of how certain values impact culture. Culture is defined by Northouse (2013) as “the learned beliefs, values, rules, norms, symbols, and traditions that are common to a group of people”. Ergo, the value model contends that a cross-cultural understanding of personality is achievable when we evaluate integral values.

Values are clearly influenced by culture, (Inglehart & Beker 2000); Schwartz 1999) concur that there are substantial discrepancies found in the value priorities of people from different cultures Therefore, a potential weakness of the value model is that it is challenging to identify core values in different areas of the globe. Cynics have debated whether the uncritical extension of “Western” ideologies should be imposed on as a standardised procedure in psychological science (Allik 2005).

Schwartz’s 10 values can be collated into larger super-groups: Openness to change, Self-enhancement, Conservation and Self-transcendence (Schwartz 1994). It is written that a person’s goals are generally stable and unwavering facets throughout their lifetime. The set of personal goals proposed by Schwartz have been found to be present across a diverse span of nations. On the other hand, motivations may vary or drastically change due to life experiences. Roccas et al. (2002) agree that there is also a link between age and traits, suggesting that are trait structure changes with age.

Furthermore, reports of response bias from participants threaten to jeopardise the validity of studies to find a cross-cultural understanding of personality. Church (2001) contends that throughout scientific studies, method bias frequently occurred, especially cultural differences in response biases (e.g., extreme responding on rating scales, acquiescence, and social desirability).

3.0 Conclusions on Cross-cultural Understanding of Personality

There is a myriad of human traits and values which as a race we display and observe at different levels. As we have evolved it has become increasingly easier to learn about other countries and their unique cultures because access to broad, ever-changing information has expanded via advanced technology. Thus, an understanding of cross-cultural personality in current times is thought to be achievable. The FFM contributes an unprecedented summary of the pattern of covariation, Allik (2005) stress; it also retains its main properties in a non-Western psychiatric sample.

Church (2001) elaborates on this notion by arguing that “from an evolutionary perspective the assessment of traits is an appropriate approach in the study of personality cross-culturally, and one would expect to find evidence of universal traits”.

This essay investigated the idea that traits and values are interconnected and concludes that a slight correlation is present. Roccas et al. (2002) hypothesise this concept comprehensively and contend that they are distinct constructs, overlapping only partially.

This assignment has compared and contrasted the FFM model and the value model, although the set of 10 values stated have prominently been used to explain a wide variety of attitudes, behaviours, and subjective states across many nations (Schwartz & Bardi 2001). In-depth research leads to the conclusion that the FFM theory has superior significance in terms of global recognition and creditability. This educated conclusion that we are united by a global human trait structure is supported by D’Andrade (2001):

 “I would argue that in a real sense there is only one culture—the culture of humankind—that societal differences with respect to cultural items are small.”

4.0 Bibliography

Allik, J. (2005). Personality Dimensions across Cultures. Personality Disorder, 19(3), 212-232.

Byrne, B. M., & Campbell, T. L. (1999). Cross–cultural comparisons and the presumption of equivalent measurement and theoretical structure: A look beneath the surface. Journal of Cross–Cultural Psychology, 30, 555–574.

Church, A. T. (2001). Personality Measurement in Cross-Cultural Perspective. Journal of Personality, 69(6), 98-106.

Inglehart, R., & Beker, W. E. (2000). Modernization, cultural change, and the persistence of traditional values. American Sociological Review, 65, 19-51.

John, O. P., Robins, R. W., & Pervin, L. A. (2008). Handbook of Personality. (3rd ed.). New York, United states of America: The Guilford Press.

Leduc, L. P., Feldman, G., & Bardi, A. (2015). Personality Traits and Personal Values: A Meta-Analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 19(1), 3-29.

McAdams, D. P. (1995). What do we know when we know a person? Journal of Personality, 63(1), 365-396.

McCrae, R, R., & Costa, P. T. Jr. (1997). Personality trait structure as a human universal. American Psychologist, 52(1), 509-516.

McCrae, R. R., Costa P. T. Jr., Pilar, G. H., Rolland, J. & Parker, W. D. (1998). Cross-cultural assessment of the Five-Factor Model. The Revised NEO Personality Inventory. Cross-Cultural Psychology, 29(1), 171-188.

Myers, I. B., & Myers, P. B. (1995). Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type. California, United States of America: CPP.

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and Practice. (6th ed). London, United Kingdom: Sage Publications.

Olver, J. M., & Mooradian, T. A. (2003). Personality traits and personal values: A conceptual and empirical integration. Personality and Individual Differences, 35(1), 109-125.

Pastorino, E. & Portillo, S. D. (2013). What is Psychology? (2nd ed). CA, United States of America: Cengage Learning.

Roccas, S., Sagiv, L., Schwartz, S. H., & Knafo, A. (2002). The Big Five Personality Factors and Personal Values. Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc, 28(6), 789-801.

Rohan, M. J. (2000). A rose by any name? The values construct. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 4(1), 255-277.

Rokeach, M. (1973). The nature of human values. New York, United States of America: Free Press

Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. Advances in experimental social psychology, 25 (1), 1-65.

Schwartz, S. H. (1999). Cultural value differences: Some implications for work. Applied Psychology: An International Journal, 48, 23-47.

Schwartz, S. H., & Bardi, A. (2001). Value hierarchies across cultures: Taking a similarities perspective. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32, 268-290.

Schwartz, S.H. (1994). Beyond individualism/collectivism: New dimensions of values. California, United States of America: Sage Publications.

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