Magazine article Psychology Today

The Size of Success

Magazine article Psychology Today

The Size of Success

Article excerpt

IS IT BETTER to be a big frog in a small pond or a small frog in a big pond? When high school studentsand college graduates make this type of decision every year, their preferences may depend partly on their culture,according toa recent paper published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Both Chinese participantsand American participants of European descent were given a hypothetical choice of a university or company: Would they prefer a spot at a top 10 institution at which they would fare below average, or at a top 100 institution where they would perform above average? Chinese participants were more than twice as likely as Americans to choose to be a "small frog" in the "big pond" that elite places represented. In one study, 58 percent of the Chinese participants preferred the top Ю college scenario, compared to 29 percent of Americans.

Concern for one's own prestige helped to explain the cultural difference: Chinese participants reported more of this concern in a survey than did the Americans, on average. …

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