Becoming aware of culture's influence on me : the psychological processes of developing cultural self-clarity from cultural experience
Date of Issue2017
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
This research proposes that individuals understand their self partly by reflecting on their cultural experience. I conceptualize the awareness of culture’s influence on the self as cultural self-clarity, and examine how such awareness develops through two psychological mechanisms. First, cultural self-clarity mainly develops through the cognitive engagement route. Individuals are more cognitively engaged in thinking about culture and realize culture’s influence during experience with an unfamiliar (vs. familiar) culture. Such increase in cognitive engagement in turn contributes to cultural self-clarity. Second, cultural self-clarity also develops through the experience engagement route during experience with a familiar (vs. unfamiliar) culture. Individuals think more about their personal experience with the culture, and in turn have higher cultural self-clarity. Four studies were conducted to test the two routes and how simultaneous experience with an unfamiliar culture and a familiar culture affects the two routes. Studies 1 and 2 found that the cognitive engagement route was activated when culture was salient (vs. non-salient). Studies 3 and 4 found support for the two routes. Study 4 also demonstrated that individuals were more cognitively engaged during experience with two cultures (vs. one culture), and in turn had higher cultural self-clarity. Results of the current research provide an alternative perspective to study individuals’ understanding of the self in cultural contexts, and expand the outcome scope of learning from cultural experience.