The Differential Effects of Relational and Group Collectivism on Social Motivation: Evidence from Two Cultures

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Motivated by recent academic inquiry into the distinction between relational collectivism and group collectivism that characterize different cultures, I empirically investigate the differential effects of relational and group collectivism on social motivation across cultures. The present research contextualizes motivation in social interactions and illustrates the influences of different types of interaction partners on social motivation through self-construal. To unpackage the psychological process in which social motivation is elicited, I develop a two-step theoretical model: In the first step, I examine how different types of interaction partners activate the individual, relational and collective aspects of the self construal. The second step of my model investigates how the activated self-construal shapes individuals' social motivations toward their interaction partners.

Empirical studies were conducted in an individualist culture (US) and a collective culture (Singapore). Results from the studies identified both culturally specific and culturally universal patterns in self-construal activation. Interacting with a friend elicits relational self across both cultures. When interacting with a stranger, members of individualist cultures activated their collective and relational selves whereas members of collectivist cultures activated their individual self. Another interesting finding is that interacting with an ingroup member evokes the relational aspect of the self-construal in collectivist cultures, but it elicits the collective aspect of the self-construal in individualist cultures. An outgroup member evokes the collective aspect of the self-construal across both cultures. The studies also examined the link between the activated self-construal and its motivational consequence, and established the mediating effect of self-construal between interaction partner and social motivation. Applying the two-step model to both individualist and collectivist cultures, I demonstrate that individualist and collectivist cultures vary in the self-construal activation process in response to different types of interaction partners, but once certain aspect of the self is activated, it is likely to lead to the same social motivations across the two cultures.





Li, Min (2008). The Differential Effects of Relational and Group Collectivism on Social Motivation: Evidence from Two Cultures. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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