Culture and Personality



Culture is a broad term encompassing many elements, traditions, and norms assimilated into our sense of self from a wide variety of sources including ethnic groups, social norms, religious affiliations, gender affiliations, sexual orientation, and even geographical norms. The individual personality emerges from within a cultural context as a unique person, often expressing different aspects of their personality dependent on context and salient cues.

The benefits of the eight perspectives of personality presented throughout this course is that it offers the learner an opportunity to determine which theory works best with various expressions of personality. The cultural aspects of personality are presented in tabular form in our text (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 435). The behaviorist perspective flows naturally with cultural variations in personality because it is all about reinforcement contingencies unique to each environment that produces altered behavior. Similarly, the cognitive perspective also works well in adapting to cultural variations because the individual’s cognitions, understandings of their context and environment, social and otherwise, are paramount in the development of their personality. My preferred perspective and viewpoint of personality that also incorporates cultural elements better than most of the other perspectives, is the interactionist perspective. “Culture is a collection of common situations; but behavior cannot be understood without a simultaneous focus on the particular individual in the particular situation; thus, culturally influenced behavior can undergo rapid change” (Friedman & Schustack, 2012, p. 435).

The psychoanalytic, biological and trait perspectives are not as successful incorporating cultural elements in their perspectives of personality. Both the psychoanalytic and biological perspectives face the ongoing limitation of diminishing environmental, social, and altogether human factors that come into play in developing personalities. Although the trait perspective has met with some success cross-culturally, it has met with some limitations primarily in that the traits factored are often cognitively valued differentially by different cultures, which inherently diminishes its perspective (Cheung, Van de Vijver, & Leong, 2011).


Cheung, F. M., Van de Vijver, F. J., & Leong, F. T. (2011, October). Toward a new approach to the study of personality in culture. American Psychologist, 66(7), 593-603.

Friedman, H. S., & Schustack, M. W. (2012). Personality: Classic theories and modern research (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.



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