Are You Individualistic or Collectivistic?

June 02, 2021

Different cultures react to threats in different ways; depending on  1) whether the people are individualistic or collectivistic, and 2) whether the threat comes from individuals inside or outside one’s group.

The way a person responds to a threat depends on the goals and values of the person when the threat occurs.

People who see themselves as independent, are more affected by threats to their individual, personal freedom (e.g., doing another person a favor by lending him/her one’s business car).

Collectivists or people with a view of themselves as interdependent, are more affected by threats affecting not only themselves but also their group.

Only if people’s values are affected do they seem to be energized to fight for their freedom to be restored. 

A threat to freedom of choice coming from inside the group causes more reaction in individualistic than in collectivistic people.

In fact, individualists are more attracted to the eliminated option when the threat originated in the ingroup versus an outgroup.

In contrast, collectivists have an increase in attractiveness of the eliminated option when the threat comes from outside of their group.

This is of course because individualists highly value their individual freedom and being different from their group, so they are threatened by decisions coming from the group.

Collectivists, by contrast, value the connectedness with their group and do not feel threatened by decisions coming from the group.

If the threat is sure to happen, people rationalize any necessary sacrifice. If it is not certain that the threat will happen, people respond with opposition. Both of those outcomes are strongest if the restriction affected the individual.

Whether you are Individualistic or Collectivistic affects all of the relationships in your life; your relationship with your fellow countrymen and women, your relationship with your romantic partner, your family, your friends, and your coworkers.