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Identity And The Way Individuals Shape Their Identities For Themselves

1605 words - 6 pages

Identity and the Way Individuals Shape Their Identities for Themselves

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...

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