Culture, Personality, And Subjective Well-Being

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    Culture, Personality, SWB 1

    Culture, Personality, and Subjective Well-Being:

    Integrating Process Models of Life-Satisfaction

    Ulrich Schimmack

    University of Toronto, Mississauga

    Phanikiran Radhakrishnan

    University of Toronto, Scarborough

    Shigehiro Oishi

    University of Minnesota

    Vivian Dzokoto

    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

    Stephan Ahadi

    Metritech, Champaign

    February 2001

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    Culture, Personality, SWB 2

    Abstract

    We examined the interplay of personality and cultural factors in the prediction of subjective well-

    being. We predicted that personality influences on life-satisfaction are mediated by hedonic

    balance, and that the relation between hedonic balance and life-satisfaction is moderated by

    culture. As a consequence, we predicted that personality influences on life-satisfaction are also

    moderated by culture. Participants from two individualistic cultures (US, Germany) and three

    collectivistic cultures (Japan, Mexico, Ghana) completed measures of extraversion, neuroticism,

    hedonic balance, and life-satisfaction. As predicted, extraversion and neuroticism influenced

    hedonic balance to the same degree in all cultures, and hedonic balance was a stronger predictor

    of life-satisfaction in individualistic than in collectivistic cultures. The effects of extraversion and

    neuroticism on life-satisfaction were largely mediated by hedonic balance. The results indicate that

    personality effects on life-satisfaction are moderated by culture.

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    Culture, Personality, SWB 3

    Culture, Personality, and Subjective Well-Being

    Over the past three decades, psychological science has made considerable progress in

    research on subjective-well being (SWB; see Diener, Suh, Lucas, & Smith, 1999, for a review).

    One major achievement has been the development of scientific measures of SWB. Scientific

    definitions of SWB recognize an affective and a cognitive component of well-being. The affective

    component is an individuals (actual or perceived) hedonic balance (i.e., the balance between

    pleasant affect and unpleasant affect). The cognitive component is an individuals life-satisfaction

    (i.e., evaluations of ones life according to subjectively determined standards).

    Past research indicates that both components of SWB are influenced by personality (Diener

    & Lucas, 1999) and by culture (Diener & Suh, 1999). Unfortunately, these studies examined

    personality and culture in isolation, although most cultural psychologists acknowledge biological

    constraints (cf. Church, 2000), and most personality psychologists recognize cultural influences

    on behavior (cf. Diener & Lucas, 1999). One advantage of a conjoint investigation of personality

    and cultural determinants of SWB is the ability to examine the interplay of both factors possibility

    to detect interactions of personality and cultural variables. For example, Diener and Diener (1995;

    see also Kwan Bond & Singelis 1997) demonstrated that the personality trait self-esteem is a

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    Culture, Personality, SWB 4

    1999; Headey, & Wearing, 1989; Wilson & Gullone, 1999), England (Furnham & Cheng, 1999),

    Wales (Francis & Bolger, 1997), the Netherlands (Arrindell, Heesink, & Feij, 1999), Germany

    (Staudiger, Fleeson, & Baltes, 1999), Estonia (Allik, & Realo, 1997), Spain (Fierro & Cardenal,

    1996), Isreal (Francis & Katz, 2000; Gilboa, Bisk, Montag, & Tsur, 1999), China (Furnham &

    Cheng, 1999), Hong Kong (Kwan et al., 1997), Taiwan (Lu & Shih, 1997), and Japan (Furnham

    & Cheng, 1999; Yamaoka et al., 1998). Moreover, the relation between extraversion and

    neuroticism is not merely a measurement artifact. The relation is also obtain when personality is

    assessed by informant reports (Spain, Eaton, & Funder, 2000), when affect is assessed in daily

    diary or experience sampling studies (see Lucas & Fujita, 2000, for a review), and when

    personality is assessed years before the affect measures (Costa & McCrae, 1980; Headey &

    Wearing, 1989; Suh, Diener, & Fujita, 1996). Last but not least, twin studies consistently

    demonstrated a genetic basis of extraversion and neuroticism (e.g., Lang, McCrae, Angleitner,

    Riemann, & Livesly, 1998; Loehlin, 1992; Saudino et al., 1999) and subjective well-being

    (Tellegen, Lykken, Bouchard, Wilcox, Segal, & Rich, 1988). Taken together, these findings

    suggest that SWB has a pancultural genetic basis.

    However, previous research on personality and SWB suffers from two shortcomings. First,

    this research has paid little attention to the fact that the cognitive and affective components of

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    Culture, Personality, SWB 5

    form a life-satisfaction judgment they retrieve past pleasant and unpleasant events from memory.

    If pleasant memories outweigh unpleasant memories, they report high levels of life-satisfaction,

    and when unpleasant memories outweigh pleasant memories, they report low life-satisfaction. The

    model implies that neuroticism and extraversion influence life-satisfaction indirectly via their

    influence on hedonic-balance. In other words, Schimmack et al. (2001) proposed a mediator

    model of the relation between personality traits and life-satisfaction. One implication of the

    mediator model is that extraversion and neuroticism have a stronger effect on hedonic balance

    than on life-satisfaction because people can choose to incorporate hedonic balance in life-

    satisfaction judgments. To the extent that hedonic balance figures prominently in life-satisfaction

    judgments, extraversion and neuroticism are strong predictors of hedonic balance and life-

    satisfaction. However, to the extent that people rely on other information, extraversion and

    neuroticism are weaker predictors of life-satisfaction.

    Cultural Influences on SWB

    Culture influences SWB in two different ways. First, culture has direct effects on both

    indicators of SWB in that individualistic, rich, and democratic cultures have higher levels of SWB

    than collectivistic, poor, and totalitarian cultures (Diener & Suh, 1999; Veerhoven, 1993).

    Second culture moderates the relation between hedonic balance and life-satisfaction (Suh et al

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    Culture, Personality, SWB 6

    importance on emotions. Emotions provide direct feedback about the fit between the ones needs

    and goals and the actual state of affairs (Frijda, 1986; Lazarus, 1991; Ortony, Clore, & Collins,

    1988; Reisenzein & Spielhofer, 1994; Scherer, 1984; Schimmack & Diener, 1997; Smith &

    Ellsworth, 1985). Hence, for people in individualistic cultures emotions provide important

    information about the subjective quality of their lives. A life filled with many pleasant emotions

    and few pleasant emotions indicates that ones needs and goals are fulfilled, and that life is good.

    In collectivistic cultures, greater emphasize is placed on the needs of close others. As a

    consequence, people often subordinate their own needs and goals to those of others. Although

    fulfilling the needs of close others can be pleasant, it also often implies that own goals remain

    unfulfilled, which leads to unpleasant emotions. It follows that emotions are poor indicators of the

    quality of ones life decision. As a consequence, people in collectivistic cultures pay less attention

    to their emotions when they consider their life (Diener & Suh, 1999; Suh et al., 1998). Consistent

    with this reasoning, Suh et al. (1998) found weaker correlations between hedonic balance and life-

    satisfaction in collectivistic cultures than in individualistic cultures. Apparently, individualistic

    respondents used hedonic balance as an important source of information to judge life-satisfaction,

    whereas collectivistic respondents relied on other information. In statistical terms, Suh et al.

    (1998) provided evidence for a moderator model of cultural influences on SWB (Figure 1)

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    Culture, Personality, SWB 7

    these assumptions leads to the mediator-moderator model displayed in Figure 3. The most

    important prediction of the integrated mediator-moderator model is that personality and culture

    interact in the determination of the life-satisfaction component of SWB. Personality should be a

    stronger predictor of life-satisfaction in individualistic cultures because the influence of personality

    on life-satisfaction is mediated by hedonic balance and the importance of hedonic balance for life-

    satisfaction judgments is moderated by culture. For example, Pam is a stable-extravert in the

    United States often experiences pleasure and rarely experiences displeasure. Therefore, she is very

    satisfied with her life. In contrast, Juan is a stable extravert in Mexico. He also often experiences

    pleasure and rarely experiences displeasure. However, he pays less attention to these experiences,

    when he forms a life-satisfaction judgment, and m