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Individualism and Collectivism

What behavior traits are associated with individualism?


  1. Satisfaction with self (high self-esteem)
  2. Quest for freedom
  3. Direct communication style with emotional expression

The United States (particularly Montana, Oregon, Nebraska, and Wyoming), Germany, Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands are individualistic countries among others.

What behavior traits are associated with collectivism?

  1. Social self-concept
  2. Need for affiliation
  3. Indirect communication style with sensitivity to loss of “face” (embarrassment and rejection)

Examples of group oriented countries include: Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, Pakistan, Guatemala, and many more.

Try the assessment below to measure your tendencies:

Individualism and Collectivism Assessment

Social researchers also consider horizontal and vertical individualism/collectivism. The terms horizontal and vertical relate to the degree of hierarchy manifested in a society. For example, a horizontal individualistic culture values individualism, but sees individuals as equals, such as in Sweden or Austria. China is an example of horizontal collectivism. India demonstrates vertical collectivism. How do these concepts related to Mary Douglas’ Group/Grid Theory?

Given these generalizations and differences, how do these behavior traits impact communication across cultures? What are the embraced values and core worldview assumptions that underlie these traits? Effectiveness in intercultural communication goes beyond simply mimicking the behavior of others. It requires an authentic understanding of what lies beneath the outward and observable.


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