Psychology: Way Individuals Shape Their Identities
One of the central issues of psychology is identity and the way individuals shape their identities for themselves. People live in different regions all around the globe and are consequently exposed to a distinct type of culture, religion, education, family values and media. These influences instill certain rigid values in people from birth, which configures their self-concept and the way they perceive other individuals in the society they interact with.
In many Western societies, the importance of personal achievement and glory are inculcated in people from early childhood. Hazel Markus and Shinobu Kitayama (1991) observed in a study that the culture in the North America values an identity that is focused on individual motivations, attributes and goals. A sense of self-reliance and independence are considered normal and desirable. Markus and Kitayama (1995) further noticed that most Asians cultures emphasize and identity that is based on conforming to the ideals of the community, religion and family. The importance of collective efforts and association with a group are instilled in Asian cultures. The Japanese and Chinese cultures encourage children to value and cherish collective honors through group work and to be modest about their personal distinctions (Kitayama & Markus, 1992). In other words, Western cultures encourage individuals to strive hard to stand out and develop a distinct image for themselves, whereas Asian cultures expect people to mould their personalities to adjust and blend into norms and practices of the community.
The object of this experiment is to explore how cultures may influence the way one perceives his or her identity. This survey will study whether people from different ethnic backgrounds respond differently to the “Who am I” test. In this study, two groups of people will be given the same questionnaire to answer. One group will consist of white Americans who were born and brought up in the USA. The other group will comprise of international Asian students coming from countries like Japan, Pakistan and India. It is hypothesized that the American group will respond by stating more responses that describe their personal traits than the International group will. It is further hypothesized that the International group will respond predominantly by identifying themselves with their groups such as ethnicity, religion and family, significantly more than Americans will.
The majority of the forty participants (20 white Americans, 20 international Asians) were randomly selected among the Amherst College students. The remainder of the pool of participants extended to the international student community of the Smith and Mount Holyoke Colleges. The participants were undergraduate students ranging from freshmen through seniors, and included both men and women.
Twenty questionnaires were handed out to the Asian students at the Five-College International Students Association meeting in the Campus Center. The other twenty questionnaires were distributed among the white Americans in the social dormitories of Amherst College.
The participants were instructed to read the questionnaire carefully and respond with five statements describing their identity. In this manner, a total of two hundred statements were collected from all forty participants. The responses were watchfully divided into two sections. The first section was for “personal identity responses,” such as self-focused words (e.g. smart, funny, attractive, student, good driver). The second section was for “group identity responses,” such as relationship-focused words (e.g. brother, sister, friend, Christian, Japanese).
The independent variable used in this experiment is the cultural identity of the participants while the dependent variable is the response to the question posed. In this way, percentage of “self” responses and percentage of “group” responses for each group of participants was obtained. If the hypothesis is true, then there will be a significantly higher percentage of personal identity responses from white Americans than from International Asians. Correspondingly, there will be a significantly higher percentage of group identity responses from International Asians than from white Americans.
The following results were obtained for the questionnaire consisting of the “Who am I” test.
White Americans International Asians
Personal Identity Response 74% 33%
Group Identity Response 26% 67%
It can be observed from the data and the graphical representation that the participants in the two groups responded very differently to the questionnaire. 74-percent of the responses made by the white Americans were self-oriented compared with only 33-percent of self-focused responses collected from International