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Differences between Individualistic and Collectivist Cultures

A person’s culture to a large extent defines how a person interacts with people and what type of relationship he/she build with others. Culture can be broadly classified into two kinds: Individualistic and Collectivist. Where individualism gives importance to the concerns and rights of individuals and people see and define themselves based on their individual characteristics, collectivism pays importance to interdependence and more stress is on the whole community, group goals, group cooperation, social harmony, and social norms (Farrukh et al. 2019, p. 988). In this essay, there will be a discussion of the main differences between individualist and collectivist cultures and where Australia stands in this respect. Additionally, the essay will discuss how people from two different cultures would differ in their approach to problem-solving.

Culture influences the way people perceive themselves. In an individualistic culture, people would describe themselves in terms of their own characteristics, for instance, I am funny. However, in a collectivist culture, people are more likely to describe themselves in terms of their social relationships, for example, I am a good brother (Cherry, 2022). Moreover, people of collectivist culture have strong and stable relationships owing to which great importance is given to maintaining harmony. On the other hand, relationships in individualistic cultures are fragile.

Collectivists believe in selflessness and unity while individualists believe in personal identity and independence. For instance, collectivists are more likely to let go of personal happiness for the greater good of society while individualists, if confronted with such situations, would stress more on their own interests and well-being. Additionally, collectivists care more about the standard rules and procedures and work accordingly while individualists might be more innovative and stand out rather than fit in a group. A study has shown that if collectivists are submitting an online review, they are unlikely to go against the average ratings and express their own emotions (Kim, Jun and Kim, 2018).

Parenting style also differs based on a person’s culture. Where individualist parents would want their children to enjoy autonomy, assertiveness, independence, and self-actualization, collectivist parents would want their children to be obedient, dutiful, interdependent, and value conformity (Haslam et al. 2020, p. 324).

The culture of Australia, just like many other western countries like the USA and the UK, is individualistic where great value is given to individual freedom, independence, and pursuing personal goals. Australia holds steadfast values of self-reliance and independence. Australia is a developed country with a high income. The country accepts a significant number of migrants and most of them are from non-English backgrounds. Even with a plural culture with a multicultural society and ethnic diversity, individualism is the mainstream culture of Australia. The country has a modern welfare system in which migrants are provided with the facilities of English language courses, easy access to education, health services, and employment opportunities (Wali and Renzaho, 2018).

As per (Wali and Renzaho, 2018)’s study migrant women from Asian cultures felt more empowered and independent in Australia whereas males felt that they felt a huge change in the family dynamics after moving to Australia in ways that they had to contribute more to household chores and babysitting, something that in their culture was deemed to be a woman’s job. Additionally, women felt an increase in responsibility with a lack of family support and social interactions between family and friends for emotional support.

Australia's Individualistic Culture

With the continuous economic development, urbanization, industrialization, movement of people to metropolitan areas, dislocation of family structures, and breakdown of collectivist culture, Australia and Australians are leaning more towards the individualistic culture. However, (Miller, 2022) in his book shed light on how among the growing material universe, there are still remnants of culture left in some areas. In this respect, they gave the example of Australian Aboriginal communities who even in the present world continue to live in communities and exhibit a strong connection to their land and community.

Culture influences the way people perceive reality and react to it. It influences their thinking process which ultimately impacts the way they approach and solve problems. (Arieli and Sagiv, 2018), in their study investigated the relationship between the cultural mindset of the problem solver and the type of problem they are facing. (Oyserman, 2015) in his theory, Culture-as-Situated-Cognition or CSC theory proposes that a cultural mindset is a cultural arrangement made up of contents, procedures, and goals wherein people of an individualistic mindset have contents, goals, and procedures related to autonomy and separation and people of a collectivist mindset have contents, goals, and procedures that align with connection and interdependence. In this way, collectivists adopt context-oriented and holistic thinking while individualists adopt object-oriented and analytic thinking.

Arieli and Sagiv in their research hypothesized that while a person with an individualist mindset would be better at solving problems that require systematic analytic thinking (for example, counting square riddles), a person with a collectivist mindset is better at solving problems that require a holistic way of thinking, those that require looking beyond a focal object and understand the entire context (for example, the riddle of who am I?). Every problem involves contextual cues and objects in its structure; however, the difference lies in the thinking approach that is likely to successful problem-solving. In a rule-based problem, finding a solution will require analytical thinking, a focus on the object, analysing the characteristics of that object, and then identifying the method that would be helpful to solve that problem. Looking beyond the object and having a holistic view of the context would probably not be that helpful in solving this kind of problem.

Moreover, people who belong to individualistic cultures like America and Australia have a cognitive process that is focused more on a logical method of thinking. They rely on standard rules while classifying and grouping objects. The cognitive process of people from collectivist cultures like Korea, in contrast, is more focused on a holistic and emotional method of thinking. They rely on the holistic resemblance between elements to classify and group them together. To understand the cognitive process that underlies problem-solving, Arieli and Sagiv distinguished between context-based and rule-based problems. They considered the focus of attention (whether it is on an object or on context), the process (whether the person uses rules, links, and similarities or the context), and the kind of inference (holistic or analytic logic). They drew the conclusion that different cultural mindsets do not differ in their success in problem-solving rather they differ in the type of problem-solving they facilitate. To improve performance in problem-solving, one must match the type of problem with the type of thinking process that will facilitate its solution.

Parenting Style in Individualistic and Collectivist Cultures

Additionally, individualists stress that an individual must be able to solve his/her problems on their own without having to rely on help from others (Cherry, 2022). The way in which people deal with dynamic and complex problems is often shaped by their learning within their cultural context (Dörner and Funke, 2017). Cultural mindset affects problem-solving because culture is closely linked with an individual’s perception, cognition, and problem-solving. Cultural beliefs affect the way people learn, adapt, and update cultural information (Holden, LaMar and Bauer, 2021). Culture also affects decision-making, where individualists make decisions based on their own values and preferences, collectivists make decisions by seeking advice and even sometimes defer to someone else’s preferences. Studies have shown that since individualism promotes uniqueness, divergent thinking, and deviance, individualists are more creative in finding solutions to problems. Collectivists, on the other hand, use conformity in thinking which is why their solutions to problems are found to be more practical than creative (Yates and de Oliveira, 2016, p.110). Additionally, cultural values influence how people perceive problems, how they generate alternatives and strategies to solve those problems, and what alternative they finally choose. Hence, cultural orientation plays a key role in determining how people approach problem-solving.

Conclusion

Culture is classified into two types: individualism and collectivism. A person’s culture impacts how he/she perceives the world and behaves. Individualists define themselves by their own characteristics while collectivists define themselves in terms of their social relationships. In individualism, relationships are fragile while they are strong and stable in collectivism. Collectivists care more about standard rules while individualists are innovative. Parenting style also differs based on culture.

Australia has an individualistic culture that holds strong values of independence and self-reliance. With the country’s development and rising urbanization, Australia is leaning more towards individualism, however, remnants of collectivism remain within Australian Aboriginal Communities.

People from two different cultures differ in their problem-solving. Collectivists have a holistic way of thinking while individualists have analytic thinking. For better performance in decision making, one can match the problem’s type with the thinking process that will facilitate its solution. Culture also affects decision-making. Individualists make decisions based on their own values while collectivists make decisions after seeking advice from others. Individualists have more creative solutions to problems while collectivists have more practical solutions.

References

Arieli, S. and Sagiv, L., 2018. Culture and problem-solving: Congruency between the cultural mindset of individualism versus collectivism and problem type. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 147(6), pp.789-814.

Cherry, K., 2020. Individualistic Cultures and Behavior. [online] Verywellmind. Available at: <https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-individualistic-cultures-2795273> [Accessed 28 Mar. 2022].

Cherry, K., 2022. What Is a Collectivist Culture?. [online] verywellmind. Available at: <https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-collectivistic-cultures-2794962> [Accessed 28 Mar. 2022].

Dörner, D. and Funke, J., 2017. Complex Problem Solving: What It Is and What It Is Not. Frontiers in Psychology, 8.

Farrukh, M., Lee, J., Sajid, M. and Waheed, A., 2019. Entrepreneurial intentions. Education + Training, 61(7/8), pp.984-1000.

Haslam, D., Poniman, C., Filus, A., Sumargi, A. and Boediman, L., 2020. Parenting Style, Child Emotion Regulation and Behavioral Problems: The Moderating Role of Cultural Values in Australia and Indonesia. Marriage & Family Review, 56(4), pp.320-342.

Holden, L., LaMar, M. and Bauer, M., 2021. Evidence for a Cultural Mindset: Combining Process Data, Theory, and Simulation. Frontiers in Psychology, 12.

Kim, J., Jun, M. and Kim, C., 2018. The Effects of Culture on Consumers' Consumption and Generation of Online Reviews. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 43, pp.134-150.

Miller, K., 2018. Balancing individualism and collectivism in an Australian Aboriginal context. In: K. Miller, ed., Balancing individualism and collectivism. Springer, pp.199-209.

Oyserman, D., 2015. Culture as situated cognition. Emerging trends in the social and behavioral sciences: An interdisciplinary, searchable, and linkable resource, pp.1-20.

Wali, N. and Renzaho, A., 2018. “Our riches are our family”, the changing family dynamics & social capital for new migrant families in Australia. PLOS ONE, 13(12), p.e0209421.

Yates, J. and de Oliveira, S., 2016. Culture and decision making. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 136, pp.106-118.

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My Assignment Help. (2022). Individualistic Vs Collectivist Cultures Essay. Retrieved from https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/behv1021-the-individual-in-society/australian-culture-and-management-file-A1DF638.html.

My Assignment Help (2022) Individualistic Vs Collectivist Cultures Essay [Online]. Available from: https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/behv1021-the-individual-in-society/australian-culture-and-management-file-A1DF638.html
[Accessed 03 March 2024].

My Assignment Help. 'Individualistic Vs Collectivist Cultures Essay' (My Assignment Help, 2022) <https://myassignmenthelp.com/free-samples/behv1021-the-individual-in-society/australian-culture-and-management-file-A1DF638.html> accessed 03 March 2024.

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