Dr Vivian Vignoles, University of Sussex
Identity motives in cultural context
Western research has identified various ‘identity motives’ that predispose people to see themselves in particular ways: emphasizing positive self-regard (self-esteem), continuity, distinctiveness, belonging, efficacy, and meaning. However, theorists disagree about the relevance of these motives in non-Western cultures, and existing evidence is hotly debated. Relativists argue that identity motives are simply internalized reflections of cultural beliefs and values. Universalists claim that particular motives have adaptive functions that should not depend on culture. Our findings support a middle way between these positions. Supporting universalism, identity motives show little variation in strength with beliefs, values or practices across diverse cultural groupings. However, cultural groupings show different characteristic ways of satisfying each motive. Thus, a common set of underlying motives may lead to different patterns of self-construal and social action in the context of different cultural systems, supporting Shweder’s concept of “universalism without the uniformity”.