Read the attached article “Ingroup Vigilance in Collectivistic Cultures” and answer the following questions. Due time: May 8th, Friday at midnight. Upload your assignment (MS WORD document) in the Turnitin folder in the portal.
According to the article, what are the characteristics of “collectivistic cultures” ? What are the characteristics of “individualistic cultures”? Do you think your cultural background (for example, Indian, Panjabi, Mexican, Canadian and etc.) is mostly individualistic or collectivistic and why? Do you think it is useful to divide different cultures into collectivistic versus individualistic ones? Write at least 200 words to answer this question.
What does the term “ingroup vigilance” mean? Why did the authors of the paper believe that collectivistic cultures show greater ingroup vigilance? Write at least 100 words to answer this question.
What was the dependent Variable in this study 1 of this article? How did the researchers measure the dependent variable? What was the key finding? Write at least 100 words to describe how the researchers measure the dependent variable and the key finding from the research.
Did study 1 in the article compare different groups of subjects? Did the research reported in study 1 manipulate an independent variable? Why or why not? Answer this question in a two or three sentences. Grading rubric:
• Completing the essay in your words before the deadline-10%
• Answering the questions correctly and completely-50
• Organization and coherence of your writing– 20%
• Grammar, syntax, spelling – 20%
Collectivistic cultures have been characterized as having harmonious, cooperative ingroup relationships.
Yet we find evidence that people in collectivistic cultures are more vigilant toward ingroup members, mindful of their possible unethical intentions. Study 1 found that Chinese participants were more vigilant than Americans in within-group competitions, anticipating more unethical behaviors from their peers. Study 2 replicated this finding by comparing areas within China, finding that people from China’s collectivistic rice-farming regions exhibit greater ingroup vigilance than people from the less collectivistic wheat-farming regions. The rice-wheat difference was mediated by greater perceived within-group competition. Study 3 found that Chinese participants were more likely than Americans to interpret a peer’s friendly behavior as sabotage in disguise. We also manipulated within-group competition and found that it increased ingroup vigilance in both cultures. Lastly, Study 3 identified two boundary conditions where cultural differences in ingroup vigilance decrease: an unambiguously competitive win-lose situation where Americans also exhibit vigilance, and an unambiguously cooperative win-win situation where Chinese participants relax their vigilance. This research contributes to a more balanced view of collectivism, revealing its interpersonal tensions in the forms of within-group competition and ingroup vigilance.
Keywords: culture, collectivism, social vigilance, competition, interpersonal relationships.
Decades of research have described East Asian cultures as collectivistic, often characterized by ingroup relationships that are harmonious and cooperative. We find evidence that people in collectivistic cultures can also be more vigilant, mindful of ingroup members’ bad intentions. Participants imagined what coworkers and classmates would do in competition. Compared to individualistic Americans, people in China expected more unethical competition. Is this a “China phenomenon” or a phenomenon of collectivistic culture? We next compared regional cultures within China to rule out between-country alternative explanations. We found that people from China’s collectivistic rice-farming regions were more vigilant than people from the individualistic wheat-farming regions. This research suggests a more balanced view of collectivism, revealing tensions that can co-occur with harmony.
Harmony is a consistent theme in descriptions of East Asian culture. It is emphasized as a virtue in ancient classics of Confucianism and Daoism; it is used in modern travel guides to set visitors’ expectations (1); it has featured prominently in ethnographic descriptions of China and Japan over the last century (2, 3). In cultural psychology, harmony is a common feature in the central concepts such as collectivism (4) and interdependent self (5).
While harmony is no doubt a crucial component of the tight-knit social fabric in East Asian cultures, we propose that it is an incomplete depiction. Anthropologists have cautioned that surface harmony can co-exist with underlying interpersonal tensions: “Harmony may be observed where there is, in fact, deep-seated antagonism. The emotional, verbal, and behavioral cues for signaling conflict are so different between cultures that outside observers may easily misjudge the intensity and character of conflict” (6).
Cultural psychologists have also acknowledged that collectivism does not mean a social utopia. In his book Individualism & Collectivism, Triandis argued that collectivism is not about being nice to everyone, but rather, distinguishing between ingroup and outgroup members (7). Markus and Kitayama also noted that interdependent relationships need “not imply harmony or affection” (8). In his research on Ghana, Adams found that Ghanaians were more likely than Americans to think of even some of their close friends as potential enemies (9).
However, the vision of harmony still pervades psychology. In theories of collectivistic culture, researchers have described collectivism as emphasizing cooperation (i.e., “great readiness to cooperate with ingroup members”) (10) and positive intentions toward each other (i.e., “promote other’s goals”) (5). In scales measuring collectivism and interdependence, ingroup harmony remains a staple theme. For example, people in collectivistic cultures are supposed to agree more to items such as “It’s important to maintain harmony within my group” (11, 12) and “The well-being of my coworkers is important to me” (13). This expectation can be seen even in recent studies. For example, when researchers found that people in collectivistic cultures were more likely to believe in zero-sum competition than people in individualistic cultures, they called it their “most surprising result” (14).
Our research tests the counter-intuitive hypothesis that people in collectivistic cultures are actually more likely to be vigilant against ingroup members. Further, we propose that ingroup vigilance arises from a common byproduct of collectivism—perceived within-group competition. The interpersonal tension of within-group competition and ingroup vigilance departs from the vision of harmony.
The interdependent self theory holds that, for people in collectivistic cultures, ingroup members are construed as part of the self and people are more aware of the “fundamental relatedness of individuals to each other” (5). The theory describes this “relatedness” in a positive way, proposing that people’s orientation in ingroup interactions is “attending to others, fitting in, and harmonious interdependence with them” (5).
Our understanding of collectivism comes from a socioecological perspective (9, 15-17). It starts from the idea that collectivism arises in ecologies with tight social relationships. Tight social relationships need not to be positive. We propose that people in collectivistic cultures are keenly aware of the downsides of “relatedness”— they recognize that others in the group might constrain them and impinge upon their interests.
This sort of tension in tight relationships shows up in descriptions of traditional village environments. For example, anthropologists observing rice-farming villages in Japan found that villagers competed intensely with their neighbors over water (18). This observation highlights the paradox that a collectivistic community can have more cooperation (sharing labor or building irrigation systems) (19) and more competition (disputes over water). A recent cross-cultural study found that cooperation and competition can appear together in the workplace. Compared to Americans, participants in China were more likely to view coworker relationships as both cooperative and competitive (20).
Researchers have measured the tendency to construe social situations as competitive using the concept “zero-sum belief.” Zero-sum belief is the belief that “one person’s gain is possible only at the expense of other persons” (14). Różycka-Tran and colleagues (14) measured zero-sum belief in 37 nations and found that it correlates highly with various measures of collectivism (rs .47 to .71). This finding is consistent with the proposal that collectivism attunes people to both positive and negative relatedness. That negative relatedness includes how the other members of one’s group sometimes constrain one’s goals.
Zero-sum belief often leads to competition and conflict (21). However, for collectivists, the demand for cooperation and harmony may make them suppress open confrontation in ingroup relationships. The competition and conflict is thus channeled underground. For instance, anthropologist Lebra suggests that the “closure and tight network of cooperation” in Japanese farming villages means that “intense competitiveness, jealousy, and hatred may indeed predominate, though such conflict emotions usually may not surface” (22).
The underlying interpersonal tension in collectivistic culture, although hard to observe, can reveal itself in the form of social vigilance. Vigilance is a core concept in ethology (the study of animal behavior in their natural habitat). Ethologists define vigilance as a tendency to perceive threat. Different animals monitor different kinds of threats. Birds and herd animals are vigilant against predators. Among primates, however, a large proportion of vigilance is directed toward conspecifics in the same social group, who can be an important source of competition and aggression (23, 24). Primatologists refer to within-species vigilance as social vigilance (25).
We define ingroup vigilance as social vigilance directed toward peers in one’s groups, such as classmates and coworkers. Ingroup vigilance is a social cognitive tendency to anticipate threat from ingroup members. We argue that people in collectivistic cultures tend to perceive more competition in their social relationships. Because of this, we propose that they more readily impute negative intentions to ingroup members.
It’s important to clarify why we use the term “vigilance” instead of terms like “distrust,” “suspicion,” “hostile attribution bias” (26), or “paranoid social cognition” (27). We avoid these terms because they are negative evaluations, which is particularly important to avoid when describing human cultures. We choose the term “vigilance” so as not to prejudge this tendency as a failing and to highlight its potential adaptiveness.
In fact, an argument could be made that vigilance is a part of a set of adaptive behaviors in collectivistic cultures. For example, Yamagishi and colleagues argue that collectivists more often use sanctioning systems to punish selfish choices and thereby enforce prosocial norms (28- 30). Sanctions and vigilance both point to people’s need to protect themselves against ingroup threats. However, they are different in that sanctions are reactions after people catch defection. In contrast, vigilance is proactive, coming into play before threat happens. By being vigilant, people prepare themselves to detect threat and can therefore take actions to block it.
In sum, we propose two hypotheses:
H1: People in collectivistic cultures are more vigilant against ingroup members than people in individualistic cultures.
H2: Perceived competition (zero-sum belief) within groups explains cultural differences in ingroup vigilance.
We ran three studies to test these hypotheses. All studies were approved by the Columbia University Institutional Review Board and all participants provided informed consent.
Study 1 tests whether there are cultural differences (H1) by comparing working adults in the U.S. and China. We chose these two countries because a meta-analysis study showed that people in China were more collectivistic than Americans and that the country difference was particularly large in their emphasis on social harmony (31). One caveat is that collectivism is a complex concept and there is heterogeneity within countries (31). A limitation of Study 1 is that we did not measure participants’ collectivism and instead used country as a proxy for culture.
Because we were studying a phenomenon without much prior research and were uncertain about effect size, we followed the suggestion of recruiting at least 50 participants in each culture (32). Given the study design, our sample was large enough to detect a small effect (Cramer’s V = .11) at 80% power. We recruited 52 American participants from MTurk (www.mturk.com) and 66 Chinese participants from a Chinese crowdsource market similar to MTurk (www.zbj.com) to participate in “a study of daily life.”
Participants read four scenarios of within-group competition and indicated what people around them will do in the situation. Participants were asked to imagine two or three possible behaviors for each competition scenario, such as actresses competing for a lead role, company employees competing for a bonus, students competing for scholarships, and officials competing for promotions. We created two versions featuring male protagonists and female protagonists. Participants were randomly assigned to these two versions. Gender of the protagonists did not significantly influence ingroup vigilance and the SI Appendix reports similar results in analyses accounting for it (Table S1 Model 3). All vignettes and instructions were generated through the standard back-translation practice in cultural psychology. Here is the actress scenario.
Two bilingual research assistants (native Chinese speakers, fluent in English, having lived in the U.S. for more than a year) coded participants’ responses. They coded the responses in the participants’ original language without translation. To minimize possible demand characteristics, we recruited new research assistants on the basis that they had not taken cultural psychology classes and had not participated our lab meetings. In addition, they were told that the purpose of the coding was to explore possible cultural differences, but no hypothesis was mentioned.
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