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Social values and self-construal in the expression of social anxiety : a cross cultural comparison Hong, Janie J.

Abstract

Past research findings suggest East Asians are more socially anxious than their Western counterparts (e.g., Norasakkunkit, V. & Kalick, S.M., 2002; Okazaki, S., 1997). Given that these findings stem primarily from Western-based self-report questionnaires, the noted difference may reflect a cultural bias in measurement. Higher endorsement of social anxiety symptoms may be, at least partially, explained by a cultural variation in beliefs about the self, the social context and appropriate social behaviour. Drawing from community samples of Koreans (age M=34.6) and Westerners (age M=35.3), a total of 501 participants completed a battery of 12 questionnaires designed to tap levels of social anxiety, the ways in which individuals view the self in relation to others (i.e., self-construal), and values typically endorsed by East Asian cultures (i.e., self-criticism, selfflexibility, saving face and self-monitoring of behaviour). All Korean participants (n=251; female=177) spent 4 or less years in a Western country and completed the back-translated questionnaires in their own native language. The Western sample (n=250; female=181) was comprised of individuals of European descent and individuals who were at least 3r d generation Canadian. Between-group analyses confirmed expected cross-cultural differences; the Korean sample reported higher levels of social anxiety, more interdependent and less independent self-views, and greater degrees of self-criticism, self-flexibility, and face-saving concerns. Using structural equation modeling procedures, several lines of evidence suggested endorsement of traits, behaviours and self-views that are characteristic of East Asian cultures promote endorsement of social anxiety symptoms. First, interdependent self-construal (i.e., viewing the self as connected with others and emphasizing the maintenance of group harmony) and face-saving concern measures failed to differentiate from social anxiety measures. Second, affiliation with an independent self-construal (i.e., viewing the self as separate from others and emphasizing autonomy), which is more frequently endorsed by Western cultures, negatively predicted social anxiety ratings for both samples. Finally, mediation model analyses indicated that social values typically upheld within East Asian cultures (i.e., self-criticism, self-flexibility) explained the relationship between independent self-construal and social anxiety. Overall, the results appear to suggest that higher social anxiety ratings may be more normative within East Asian cultural frames.

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