The Worldview Dimensions of Individualism and Collectivism: Implications for Counseling. (Trends)

Article excerpt

In 1978, Sue introduced the construct of worldview to the field of counseling with his article "Worldviews and Counseling" (Ibrahim, Roysircar-Sodowsky, & Ohnishi, 2001). Since its introduction, worldview has become one of the most widely referenced constructs in the multicultural counseling literature. Because worldview is theorized to mediate such varied psychological processes as cognition, emotion, and motivation, numerous scholars claim that it plays an integral role in the counseling process. The significance of the construct is evidenced by its inclusion in the multicultural competency statements issued by the American Counseling Association and the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development, both of which mandate the importance of understanding how the worldview of both the counselor and the client affect the counseling process.

To bolster the notion that worldview plays a fundamental role in the counseling process, empirical evidence is needed for the relationships that are theorized to exist between the construct and various psychological processes. Counseling research in this area has yet to elucidate these relationships and, instead, has primarily focused on clarifying the variations in worldview that exist among various racial, ethnic, and national groups. In examining the research on worldview conducted by other psychological disciplines, it is noted that the social and personality psychologists have produced a voluminous body of work on the worldview dimensions of individualism and collectivism. The article "Rethinking Individualism and Collectivism: Evaluation of Theoretical Assumptions and Meta-Analyses" (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002) recently revealed 170 studies on the constructs. Results from the analyses of these studies provided empirical support for the theorized links that exist between worldview and the psychological variables of self-concept, well-being, attribution style, and relationality. The results also clarified the differences in worldview that exist among various racial, ethnic, and national groups. This article presents the results of Oyserman et al.'s (2002) analyses and discusses the implications for counseling.


Oyserman et al. (2002) noted that the contrasting worldview dimensions of individualism and collectivism have intrigued social scientists for over three centuries. These constructs have been implicated in religious and social movements, as well civil wars. Scholars continue to debate whether the constructs represent opposites on a bipolar continuum or whether they are orthogonal, making it possible for both to concurrently exist within an individual. These arguments aside, scholars agree that individualism and collectivism make up a portion of a culture's core set of values and serve as organizing principles for both interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. In regard to defining the constructs, Oyserman et al. stated, "Although sometimes seen as simple opposites, it is probably more accurate to conceptualize individualism and collectivism as worldviews that differ in the issues they make salient" (p. 5). Individualism is defined "as a worldview that centralizes the personal--personal goals, personal uniqueness, and personal control--and peripheralizes the social" (p. 5). Collectivism is defined as a worldview based on "the assumption that groups bind and mutually obligate individuals," where "the personal is simply a component of the social" (p. 5).

Oyserman et al. (2002) stated that the first objective of their analyses was to empirically examine the theoretical assumption posited by many scholars, which assumes that European Americans are higher in individualism and lower in collectivism than individuals from other racial and ethnic groups within the United States and other national groups. Second, the authors sought to determine whether the relationships that are hypothesized to exist between individualism and collectivism and the psychological processes of self-concept, emotion, attribution style, and relationality are empirically supported in the literature. …


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