Unit 6: Introduction

Measuring Personality and Values Across Cultures

Center for Cross-Cultural Research
Western Washington University

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It is, of course, quite obvious that individuals in any culture or society differ on various personological dimensions.  They have different "personalities" (characteristic ways of behaving over time and situation), different values, different interest, different ways of responding to standard stimuli, and so on.  Psychologists who study such phenomena in world-wide scope are interested in the extent to which individuals vary on these dimensions and, if they do, what role their culture(s) play in these differences.  A large number of questions have been asked in this area of research for many years.  Just a few of these questions are good examples of the kinds of things that cross-cultural psychologists study:  1) Are there universals in personality traits and styles?  If so, what are they and why are they universal?  2) What are human "values?"  How many values are there, and how do you know?  3)  Are some values more important than others?  4) What about individual and cultural dimensions in other important areas of everyday behavior, such as sexuality? 

These and countless other questions are of critical interest to psychologists who study individual differences among and between human beings.  As in other areas of psychology and culture, two questions are pervasive: 1) what is universal (and what is the evidence)? and 2) what is culture-specific (and what is the evidence)? Current and future chapters in this unit give interesting overviews of  these questions.


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