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January 2022

Cultural and social-structural explanations of cross-national psychological differences

Journal/Book: Annu Rev Sociol. 1996; 22: 4139 El Camino Way, PO Box 10139, Palo Alto, CA 94303-0139. Annual Reviews Inc. 323-349.

Abstract: This chapter examines cross-national differences in individual values, attitudes, and behaviors. The central question raised is how social-structural and cultural factors account for the differences found. After discussing a series of theoretical issues raised by this question, the chapter reviews the findings of four quantitative sociological research programs on modern cross-national differences. The program on individual modernity led by Alex Inkeles established that social-structural conditions associated with industrialization are linked to an increase in individuals' being open to new experience, rejecting traditional authority, and taking a rational, ambitious, orderly apl,roach to both work and human problems. The cross-national research on the Kohn-Schooler hypothesis that self-directed work increases intellectual functioning, and self-directed orientations confirmed the generality of that hypothesis and established that the social status and social class differences in these psychological characteristics found within different countries are largely the result of social-structurally determined differences in the opportunity for occupational self-direction. Eric Wright's cross-national research program on class structure and class consciousness provides evidence that in a range of countries social classes directly affect political attitudes, while acting as tangible barriers to mobility and personal relationships. The research deriving from John Meyer's theories on institutionalization highlights the importance of institutions and socially constructed views of reality for the development and maintenance of cross-national differences and similarities in cultural values and their behavioral embodiment. All four of the programs provide evidence of the continuing importance of historically determined cultural differences. All are also congruent with the hypothesis that speed of change generally decreases as we go from psychological to social-structural to cultural levels of phenomena-a possibility whose confirmation would provide a valuable tool for understanding how culture and social structure affect cross-national differences in values and behavior.

Note: Article C Schooler, NIMH, Lab Socioenvironm Studies, NIH, Fed Bldg, Room B1A14, 7550 Wisconsin Ave, Bethesda, MD 20892 USA

Keyword(s): culture; social structure; attitudes; psychological functioning; UNITED-STATES; OCCUPATIONAL CONDITIONS; CLASS BOUNDARIES; JAPAN; PERMEABILITY; BEHAVIOR; CANADA; NORWAY; SWEDEN


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