Culture, Personality, And Subjective Well-Being

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  • 7/29/2019 Culture, Personality, And Subjective Well-Being


    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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    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, 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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    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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    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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    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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    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 may report only moderate levels of life-


    The mediator-moderator model also implies that personality has a stronger influence on

    hedonic balance than on life-satisfaction. This prediction follows from the assumption that

    personality influences hedonic balance directly, whereas it influences life-satisfaction only

    indirectly via hedonic balance. If the mediator model fits the data, correlations of extraversion and

    neuroticism with life-satisfaction must be weaker than those with the mediator hedonic balance.

    The prediction also follows from the effect of the cultural moderator which influences the relation

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    satisfaction (Diener, Larsen, Emmons, & Griffin, 1985) in the United States and Hong Kong. The

    mediator-moderator model predicts weaker correlations in the more collectivistic sample from

    Hong Kong. The data support this prediction, although the differences did not reach statistical

    significance. The present study was conducted to test the integrated mediator-moderator model in

    a cross-cultural sample. To summarize, the main predictions based on the mediator-moderator

    model were

    (a) hedonic balance and life-satisfaction are more highly correlated in individualistic cultures

    than in collectivistic cultures (Suh et al., 1998)

    (d) the influence of extraversion and neuroticism on life-satisfaction is mediated by hedonic

    balance (mediator model; Schimmack et al., 2001).

    (c) extraversion and neuroticism are significantly related to hedonic balance and this relation

    is not moderated by culture.

    (d) extraversion and neuroticism are more highly correlated with life-satisfaction in

    individualistic cultures than in collectivistic cultures


    Description of Cultural Samples

    The present study included respondents from five nations that represent different cultures

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    nations in terms of individualism and collectivism. To simplify our analyses, we classified the

    national samples into two cultural groups, individualistic cultures (US & Germany) and

    collectivistic cultures (Japan, Mexico, & Ghana).


    For three nations we obtained data from two different locations (see Table 2). Table 2 also

    gives an overview of the number of participants, their age and gender at each location. All

    participants were university students, except for the sample from Chihuahua, who were teachers.

    Participation was voluntary in Mexico and Japan, rewarded with course credit in United States

    and Germany, and rewarded with $2 in Ghana.

    Materials and Procedure

    Participants completed a survey composed of several measures. We focus only on those

    parts of the survey relevant to the present article. The survey began with demographic questions,

    followed by the NEO-FFI to assess extraversion and neuroticism (Costa & McCrae, 1992),

    frequency judgments of mood adjectives to assess hedonic balance, and the Satisfaction with Life

    Scale to assess life-satisfaction (Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffins, 1985). All questionnaires

    were mailed by the collaborators to the University of Texas at El Paso where the data were


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    SWLS. The Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener et al., 1985; Pavot & Diener, 1993) is a

    five-item scale that assesses the cognitive component of SWB. Participants indicate, for example,

    how satisfied they are with their lives, and how close their life is to their ideal life. The SWLS has

    been translated into German, Spanish, and Japanese in a previous cross-cultural study by Diener

    and his colleagues (e.g., Suh et al., 1998). We used these translations in the present study. The

    SWLS typically uses a 7-point response format. We changed the response format to a five-point

    scale (strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree, strongly agree) because a 5-

    point response format was used for most of the questionnaires in the survey. To present means

    that are comparable to the typical SWLS scores, we transformed the ratings to fall into the typical

    range of SWLS scores (range 5 35). This linear transformation has no effect on the results.

    Hedonic Balance. Hedonic balance was assessed with three frequency judgments of pleasant

    affect (pleasant, cheerful, good humored) and complementary judgments of unpleasant affect

    (unpleasant, downhearted, depressed). We choose indicators of the pleasure-displeasure

    dimension because it is most closely associated with SWB (Larsen & Diener, 1992). The response

    format was a five-point frequency scale with vague quantifiers (very rarely, rarely, sometimes,

    often, very often). Unpleasant affect ratings were subtracted from pleasant affect ratings to obtain

    indicators of hedonic balance (pleasant-unpleasant cheerful-downhearted and good humored-

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    Juarez and El Paso, TX with each other because of their close geographic proximity (i.e., Juarez

    and El Paso are twin-cities separated by the US-Mexican boarder). Participants south of the

    border were more satisfied with their lives (M = 25.88) than participants North of the border (M

    = 22.11), t(140) = 2.93, p < .05. The Mexicans also scored higher in extraversion (M = 3.57) than

    US Americans (M = 3.33), p < .05. The difference in Hedonic Balance was not statistically

    significant (Juarez M = 1.59; El Paso M = 1.11), t(140) = 1.75, p = .08, and scores in neuroticism

    were virtually identical. It is remarkable that El Paso, TX was more similar to the geographically

    distant sample from Illinois than to the Mexican samples from Juarez and Chihuahua.

    For the sake of comprehensiveness, we also examined cross-cultural differences between the

    national samples. However, the mean differences between our samples should be interpreted with

    caution because they are not based on representative samples (Church, 2000). A MANOVA

    revealed significant differences between the five samples. Follow-up ANOVAs revealed

    significant differences on all four variables, Fs(4,464) > 7.79, ps < .05. Culture explained 5% of

    the variance in extraversion, 7% of the variance in SWLS, 13% of the variance in Hedonic

    Balance and 17% of the variance in neuroticism. Table 3 shows the mean differences between the

    five samples. The Japanese sample shows low levels of SWB as reflected in low SWLS, HB, and

    Extraversion scores and high neuroticism scores This finding is consistent with numerous studies

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    samples than in the three collectivistic samples. Furthermore, the pattern is also consistent with

    the integrated mediator-moderator model, which predicts weaker correlations of extraversion and

    neuroticism with life-satisfaction in collectivistic cultures. Furthermore, the mediator-moderator

    model assumes that hedonic balance is universally influenced by extraversion and neuroticism.

    Consistent with this prediction, individualistic cultures do not differ systematically from

    collectivistic cultures in this relation. Finally, Table 4 shows the within-nation correlations

    between neuroticism and extraversion. The models do not make any predictions about this

    correlation, which is typically slightly negative in the United States (e.g., Schimmack & Diener,

    1997). The present results suggest that this correlation is the same across cultures.

    Testing Statistical Significance and Controlling for Age, Sex, and Context Effects

    In the following analyses, we examined the reliability of the patterns in Table 4. In addition,

    we statistically controlled for the influence of several confounding variables. First, our national

    samples differed in age and in the gender composition. In addition, we examined the possibility

    that cultural effects are due to larger context effects in collectivistic cultures. The SWLS items

    were preceded by a questionnaire of effortful control (e.g., Ahadi, Rothbart, & Ye, 1993). It is

    possible that information about life-satisfaction are less accessible for collectivistic respondents

    than for individualistic respondents If information about life-satisfaction is less chronically

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    the products HB x IC, HB x sex, HB x age and IC x context as predictors. The moderator model

    predicts a significant effect for the HB x IC interaction. In the first step, HB (beta = .48) and the

    context items (beta = .16) were significant predictors. In the second step, the interaction between

    HB x IC was the only significant predictor that contributed to life-satisfaction, beta = .23, t =

    4.59, p < .05. This finding demonstrates that the cultural differences in the magnitude of the

    correlation between SWLS and HB in Table 4 are significant and are not due to age or sex

    differences between the samples. Furthermore, the results are inconsistent with the idea that

    collectivistic respondents are more susceptible to context effects.

    Similar analyses were repeated with neuroticism and extraversion as predictors. Neuroticism

    (beta = -.57) and context (beta = .19) were significant predictors in Step 1, but only the

    neuroticism x IC interaction entered as a significant predictor in Step 2 (beta = -.15, t = 2.22, p