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Soc Psychol Personal Sci. 2014 Nov;5(8):855-864.

Subjective and Objective Hierarchies and Their Relations to Psychological Well-Being: A U.S/Japan Comparison.

Author information

Stanford University.
University of Michigan.
Tokyo Woman's Christian University.
University of Tokyo.
University of Wisconsin, Madison.


Hierarchy can be conceptualized as objective social status (e.g., education level) or subjective social status (i.e., one's own judgment of one's status). Both forms predict well-being. This is the first investigation of the relative strength of these hierarchy-well-being relationships in the U.S. and Japan, cultural contexts with different normative ideas about how social status is understood and conferred. In probability samples of Japanese (N=1027) and U.S. (N=1805) adults, subjective social status more strongly predicted life satisfaction, positive affect, sense of purpose, and self acceptance in the U.S. than in Japan. In contrast, objective social status more strongly predicted life satisfaction, positive relations with others, and self acceptance in Japan than in the U.S. These differences reflect divergent cultural models of self. The emphasis on independence characteristic of the U.S. affords credence to one's own judgment (subjective status) and the interdependence characteristic of Japan to what others can observe (objective status).


Culture and Self; Culture/Ethnicity; Emotion; Interdependence; Social Status; Well-being

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