Personality: The universal and the culturally specific

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There appears to be a universal desire to understand individual differences. This common desire exhibits both universal and culturally specific features. Motivations to view oneself positively differ substantially across cultural contexts, as do a number of other variables that covary with this motivation (i.e., approach-avoidance motivations, internal-external frames of reference, independent-interdependent views of self, incremental-entity theories of abilities, dialectical self-views, and relational mobility). The structure of personality traits, particularly the five-factor model of personality, emerges quite consistently across cultures, with some key variations noted when the structure is drawn from indigenous traits in other languages. The extent to which each of the Big 5 traits is endorsed in each culture varies considerably, although we note some methodological challenges with comparing personality traits across cultures. Finally, although people everywhere can conceive of each other in terms of personality traits, people in collectivistic cultures appear to rely on traits to a lesser degree when understanding themselves and others, compared with those from individualistic cultures. Copyright © 2009 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-394
JournalAnnual Review of Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2009


Heine, S. J., & Buchtel, E. E. (2009). Personality: The universal and the culturally specific. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 369-394. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.60.110707.163655


  • Self-enhancement
  • Cultural equilibria
  • Big 5
  • Personality utility


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