Individualism and Collectivism: The Case of Lebanon

Article excerpt

This study focused on whether people with different individualistic and collectivistic (I-C) tendencies speak different languages, belong to different religious groups and are of different gender. These three independent variables were examined using data from 517 college students in Lebanon: a multi-lingual society where both worldviews (I and C) co-exist. The Twenty Statement Test, Triandis' Attitude items, and ten of Schwartz's Value items were used to empirically test the I-C orientations and the above variables. Results indicated that language plays a primary role in individuals' orientations; respondents who used the Arabic language were consistently more collectivist than those who used either English or French. The discussion focused on the role of second language, specifically, English or French, which when learned by Arabic native speakers, enhanced the accessibility of private self-cognitions. Religion seemed to impact individuals' orientations in certain domains, but not consistently. Gender did not appear to be of significance in I-C orientation in this study.

Individualism-Collectivism (I-C) is a cultural construct that has been the focus of many studies in a wide range of disciplines. According to Triandis (1990) I-C has been used for the analysis of various aspects of economic development (Adelman & Morris, 1967), moral views (Shweder, 1982), and religious behavior (Bakan, 1966). Psychology and anthropology represent the fields in which cross-cultural studies of I-C have been most frequently conducted (e.g., Bond, 1988; Fiske, 1990; Gudykunst, Ting-Toomey, & Chua, 1988; Hofstede, 1980; Schwartz, 1990; Smith & Bond. 1993: Triandis, 1995).

Individualism and Collectivism constitute worldviews that contribute to shifting the attention of those who espouse them on specific characteristics of their personality as well as certain aspects of interpersonal and intergroup behavior (Georgas, 1989; Kagitcibasi, 1987; Triandis, 1987). Individualism has been defined as the subordination of the goals of the collectivities to individual goals, whereas Collectivism involves the opposite, that is, the subordination of the individual to the goals of a collective (Hui & Triandis, 1986, p. 245). It is worth mentioning that these constructs have been perceived as operating on two levels: the personal level and the collective one (Kim, Hunter, & Yoon, 1996). Societies are labeled as individualistic or collectivistic according to the value orientations that predominate among their individuals (Hui & Triandis, 1986). Within a specific society, however, individual differences depend on the predominant orientation. The terms social individualism and societal collectivism have been proposed by Dion and Dion (1993) to designate these constructs at the cultural level, whereas the terms psychological individualism and psychological collectivism have been used to refer to these constructs at the individual level.

A number of characteristics of the individualist orientation have been mentioned in the literature. Individualists perceive themselves as independent of collectives, give priority to their own preferences, needs, rights, are motivated to achieve personal goals rather than the goals of others (Hui & Triandis, 1986), are driven by their own beliefs, values and attitudes (Leung & Bond, 1984), focus on rational analyses of the advantages and disadvantages of establishing contacts with others, and think in terms of "I" (Hofstede, 1980). On the other hand, Collectivism is a social pattern consisting of closely linked individuals who see themselves as parts of one or more collectives are more likely to be driven by social norms, obligations and duties imposed by those collectives, and are prepared to sacrifice personal interests for collective interests. In addition, collectivists emphasize their connectedness to members of these collectives (Bontempo & Rivero, 1992; Leung & Bond, 1984; Triandis et al. …