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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Is there cultural variability in implicit self-esteem? Falk, Carl Francis


Cultural psychology research has cast doubt upon the assumption that self-enhancement motivations are universal – the majority of empirical research finding that those from East Asian cultural backgrounds self-enhance less than those from Western cultural backgrounds. However, measures of implicit self-esteem (ISE) – automatic and unconscious global self evaluations – do not often yield cultural differences. By using a diverse range of approaches, this dissertation seeks to shed light on the question of whether variability exists in implicit self-esteem across individuals from East Asian and Western cultural backgrounds. In Study 1, two different ISE measures provided divergent results regarding possible cultural variability in implicit self-esteem. In search for a valid measure of ISE, Study 2 simultaneously tested the convergent and predictive validity and cultural variation of popular and new ISE and explicit self-esteem measures. Since no single ISE measure in Study 2 was found to have adequate validity, Study 3 attempted to boost the validity of ISE measures. This was done based on the argument that ISE is better defined as a context-dependent/domain specific construct rather than a global self-evaluation, yet did not yield evidence in favour of the validity of any ISE measure. Supplementary analyses for Study 2 and the final two studies took an alternative approach to the problem of this dissertation and found cultural variability in phenomena theoretically connected to implicit self-esteem. In particular, cultural variability was evident in the theoretical correlates of implicit self-esteem from Study 2. Study 4 found evidence that cultural variability in the tendency to value an object after one owns the object (i.e., the endowment effect) is likely due in part to cultural variability in feelings about the self. Study 5 provided evidence that cultural variability exists in the tendency to display in-group favouritism after being arbitrarily assigned to a group (i.e., the minimal group effect), and that this cultural variability is explained in part by self-esteem. Taken together, these studies provide converging evidence that 1) implicit self-esteem measures are currently not a viable option for assessment of cultural variability, and 2) cultural variability in implicit self-esteem is likely.

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