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Perspect Psychol Sci. 2010 Jul;5(4):420-30. doi: 10.1177/1745691610375557.

Cultures and Selves: A Cycle of Mutual Constitution.

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Department of Psychology, Stanford University, CA
Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


The study of culture and self casts psychology's understanding of the self, identity, or agency as central to the analysis and interpretation of behavior and demonstrates that cultures and selves define and build upon each other in an ongoing cycle of mutual constitution. In a selective review of theoretical and empirical work, we define self and what the self does, define culture and how it constitutes the self (and vice versa), define independence and interdependence and determine how they shape psychological functioning, and examine the continuing challenges and controversies in the study of culture and self. We propose that a self is the "me" at the center of experience-a continually developing sense of awareness and agency that guides actions and takes shape as the individual, both brain and body, becomes attuned to various environments. Selves incorporate the patterning of their various environments and thus confer particular and culture-specific form and function to the psychological processes they organize (e.g., attention, perception, cognition, emotion, motivation, interpersonal relationship, group). In turn, as selves engage with their sociocultural contexts, they reinforce and sometimes change the ideas, practices, and institutions of these environments.


agency; culture; independence; interdependence; self


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