Culture and the distinctiveness motive: Constructing identity in individualistic and collectivistic contexts

Maja Becker*, Vivian L. Vignoles, Ellinor Owe, Rupert Brown, Peter B. Smith, Matt Easterbrook, Ginette Herman, Isabelle De Sauvage, David Bourguignon, Ana Torres, Leoncio Camino, Flávia Cristina Silveira Lemos, M. Cristina Ferreira, Silvia H. Koller, Roberto Gonzãlez, Diego Carrasco, Maria Paz Cadena, Siugmin Lay, Qian Wang, Michael Harris BondElvia Vargas Trujillo, Paola Balanta, Aune Valk, Kassahun Habtamu Mekonnen, George Nizharadze, Marta Fülöp, Camillo Regalia, Claudia Manzi, Maria Brambilla, Charles Harb, Said Aldhafri, Mariana Martin, Ma Elizabeth J. Macapagal, Aneta Chybicka, Alin Gavreliuc, Johanna Buitendach, Inge Schweiger Gallo, Emre Özgen, Ülkä E. Gäner, Nil Yamakoǧlu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

101 Citations (Scopus)


The motive to attain a distinctive identity is sometimes thought to be stronger in, or even specific to, those socialized into individualistic cultures. Using data from 4,751 participants in 21 cultural groups (18 nations and 3 regions), we tested this prediction against our alternative view that culture would moderate the ways in which people achieve feelings of distinctiveness, rather than influence the strength of their motivation to do so. We measured the distinctiveness motive using an indirect technique to avoid cultural response biases. Analyses showed that the distinctiveness motive was not weaker-and, if anything, was stronger-in more collectivistic nations. However, individualism-collectivism was found to moderate the ways in which feelings of distinctiveness were constructed: Distinctiveness was associated more closely with difference and separateness in more individualistic cultures and was associated more closely with social position in more collectivistic cultures. Multilevel analysis confirmed that it is the prevailing beliefs and values in an individual's context, rather than the individual's own beliefs and values, that account for these differences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)833-855
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Personality and Social Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012


  • Culture
  • Distinctiveness
  • Identity
  • Individualistic cultures
  • Motivation
  • Self-concept

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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