The Value of Cultural Values Reinvestigating the Relationship Between Culture-Level Values and Individual-Level Psychological Phenomena

  • Culture is a complex and multi-dimensional construct that is difficult to grasp. It refers to a complex system of (material and non-material) elements that are shared by the members of a social collective, which in turn is most often determined by national boundaries, ethnicity, religion, or geographical concentration. In literature, culture has been understood as resulting from an adaptive interaction between humans and the environment. It is learned by its people and transmitted across generations and therefore relatively stable over time. This thesis is about culture. In particular, it is about cultural values which have been viewed by many cultural researchers as core features of culture. Cultural values represent the implicitly and explicitly shared abstract ideas about what is good, right and desirable in a society (Schwartz, 1999). They reflect what has been agreed upon to be a functional response to challenges that a society faces. These implicit or explicit fundamental agreements or ideals find expressions in poetry and art, communication, child-rearing and other everyday practices, but also in societal institutions such as educational, economic or judicial systems. Cultural values shape individuals’ thoughts, feelings and actions. They serve as a reference frame for individuals regarding what the world is like, how it should be, and what kind of behavior is appropriate. Individuals use these guiding principles as reference for evaluating their thoughts, feelings, and behavior. In this thesis, the relationship between cultural values and individual’s thinking, feelings and behavior is (re-)investigated. The main proposition of the thesis is that not all individuals living in a particular culture are guided by its values to the same extent, and that particular assumptions can be made regarding who is more guided than the other. Three general research hypotheses are tested. The first takes a developmental psychological perspective by focusing on adolescents. It is hypothesized that the relationship between a cultural group’s values and its members’ thoughts, feelings, and actions is stronger among older than among younger adolescents. The former have more likely gone through a period of identity exploration during which they have elaborated the personal meaning of their cultural group membership, have more likely committed to the cultural group’s values and are thus more likely to be guided by them. The second and third hypotheses regard to the role of migratory background and cultural minority status, respectively, as a moderator of the link between a culture’s values and the thinking, feelings and behavior of the individuals living in that culture. Immigrant and non-immigrant cultural minorities are not only exposed to the cultural values of the society’s cultural majority but in addition to cultural values prevalent in their cultural minority community. These potentially compete with the cultural majority’s values, which is why the latter are less likely to be adopted by cultural minority members as strongly as by cultural majority members. Hypothesis 2 states that the relationship between a cultural group’s values and its individuals’ thinking, feeling, and behavior is weaker among immigrants living in that group than among non-immigrants, which regards especially to first- as compared to second-generation immigrants and those coming from a culturally more distant compared to those from a culturally closer region. Hypothesis 3 also relates to cultural value adoption in the context of migration and cultural minorities but pursues a different approach: It states that immigrant- and non-immigrant cultural minority members differ in their similarity to the cultural values of their country’s majority (cultural value fit) depending on their acculturation orientations (integration, marginalization, assimilation, and separation). The cultural value fit is expected be highest among individuals pursuing an assimilation orientation, and lowest among those pursuing a separation orientation. The hypotheses are investigated using the cultural value model introduced by Shalom Schwartz – the thesis’ recurrent theme – which has so far only insufficiently been used with regard to these questions. Schwartz proposed that cultures can be aligned along three cultural value dimensions. Each dimension provides two opposing answers to a particular basic issue a society is confronted with when regulating human activity. The first dimension is constituted by egalitarianism at one pole and hierarchy at the other pole, the second dimension differentiates between cultures that value autonomy versus those valuing embeddedness, and the third dimension distinguishes between harmony versus mastery. Each hypothesis is tested in a separate study. Hypothesis 1 is investigated in study 1 with six samples of cultural majority and minority adolescents. Hierarchical linear models and ANOVA-based trend analyses are performed using Schwartz’s cultural value dimensions as the group-level variables and individuals’ group-related attitudes as an exemplary individual-level psychological variable. Results confirm the age-related hypothesis for the culture-level value dimension egalitarianism-hierarchy. Regarding the other two dimensions relationships with individuals’ group-related attitudes are evident but not significantly stronger in the older compared to the younger age group. In general, the results indicate that the hypothesis can be confirmed only with regard to the cultural value dimension egalitarianism-hierarchy, whose content is most relevant for the explanation of group-related attitudes. Hypothesis 2 is investigated in study 2 with data from 24 representative country-samples from Round 4 of the European Social Survey. Again, hierarchical linear models are performed using Schwartz’s culture-level value dimensions as group (country)-level variables, and group-related attitudes as an exemplary individual-level variable. In addition, migratory background is included as an individual-level variable, and cross-level interactions with cultural values are examined. The hypothesis is confirmed showing that the relationship between all three cultural value dimensions and group-related attitudes is weaker among immigrants than non-immigrants, especially among first-generation immigrants and those from a culturally more distant region. The results for the harmony-mastery dimension, however, show a somewhat different pattern than the other two dimensions. Hypothesis 3 is investigated in study 3 with the same data of immigrant and cultural minority adolescents used in study 1. The results confirm the hypothesis: Immigrant and cultural minority adolescents with an assimilation orientation show a stronger cultural value fit to the country’s cultural majority compared to those with a separation orientation. The unexpected, though interesting finding is that this result pattern was much more evident among Former Soviet Union immigrants (diaspora immigrants) as compared to Turkish immigrants in Germany and Arab Israelis. The three studies provide new insights that can potentially stimulate further research. Each study is therefore re-evaluated in an appertaining discussion section and additionally in a general discussion at the end of the thesis. Implications for future research are derived based on each study’s findings. Furthermore, a number of additional moderators and ideas that are worth investigating in future studies are outlined. Finally, regarding each study, and regarding the general approach of the thesis, a number of content-related and methodological aspects that have received some debate in literature are critically addressed.

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Meta data
Publishing Institution:IRC-Library, Information Resource Center der Jacobs University Bremen
Granting Institution:Jacobs Univ.
Author:David Schiefer
Referee:Klaus Boehnke, Ulrich Kühnen, Ulrich Wagner
Advisor:Klaus Boehnke
Persistent Identifier (URN):urn:nbn:de:101:1-201305294821
Document Type:PhD Thesis
Language:English
Date of Successful Oral Defense:2012/05/30
Date of First Publication:2012/12/14
PhD Degree:Psychology
Library of Congress Classification:H Social Sciences / HM Sociology (General)
School:SHSS School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Call No:Thesis 2012/45

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