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Collectivism and Individualism in Human Behaviour


Social constructs are useful in the study of human motives and behaviour. The constructs such as individualism and collectivism are essential as they form the basis of human character. While scholars use construals such as independence and interdependence to explain social constructs, the construals represent social constructs that determine human character. Individualism, also known as an independent construct, champions for personal development and progress, whereas collectivism, also referred to as the interdependent construal, advocates for group or societal development. The differences that exist between individualism and collectivism constructs establish the variance in the focus of individuals, who hold on to the constructs. Therefore, the essay explains the differences that exist among individuals who hold different social constructs.

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Brief Definition of Social Constructs

Individualism and Collectivism

Individualism is a social construct that lays emphasis on various aspects that enhance uniqueness, autonomy, and achievement of personal aspirations at an individual level. The construct of individualism encourages people to work and achieve goals themselves without necessarily relying on the views and perspectives of others around them. Through the construct, individuals usually go out of the way and strive to be creative and innovative so that they optimise their full potentials and abilities. According to Mandal (2013), individualistic cultures are often characterised by self-motivation and creativity, which drives individuals to come up with results and outcomes that represent their true self’s. Therefore, individualism is a social construct that champions personal autonomy and independence. It is notable for asserting that some scholars refer to the construct of individualism as independence.

On the other hand, collectivism social construct encourages individuals to work together and achieve goals in groups. By using the construct of collectivism, individuals seek to achieve goals that satisfy everyone in the group. Governments that employ the construct usually encourage teamwork and social relationships that are useful in the achievement of collective objectives. In the assertion of Fiske and Taylor (2013), collectivism is a concept that countries, which include China and Japan, practise. The governments usually develop a culture that minimises self-autonomy and uniqueness, encourage social participation, and assert value on others in society. Since the social construct of collectivism encourages joint participation and reliance on one another, scholars often use the concept of interdependence in reference to the construct. Primarily, collectivism limits the level of creativity and optimisation that an individual could achieve in an environment, which practises individualism social construct.

Difference between Individualism and Collectivism Labels

Individualism and collectivism cultures, as well as independent and interdependent social construals, demonstrate various differences. While individualistic or independent social construct champions for self-reliance, autonomy, and optimisation of personal abilities, collectivism and interdependent social construct discourages prioritization of personal goals. Instead of prioritising personal goals, collectivism social construct advocates for togetherness and teamwork so that teams and groups achieve combined goals. Millon and Lerner (2003) explain that the implication of adjustment as advanced by collectivism or interdependent culture is a person, who is less creative, but focused on the well being of others in society. Moreover, while individualistic and independent cultures encourage people to express their feelings and opinions freely, collectivism culture requires consideration of others in society.

Focus on People with Different Social Constructs


Fundamentally, the environment is a major determinant of one’s character and behaviour. Since the environment encompasses social constructs, which comprise individualism and collectivism, a person is likely to behave in a way that depicts the construct practised in a particular environment. For instance, people who live in environments that practise individualistic social construct, demonstrate different behaviours as opposed to individuals who live in collectivism societies. The essence of social constructs in human motive and behaviour is a factor that scholars cannot compromise. According to Csizér and Magid (2014), social constructs determine several aspects that make up a society, and thus, are essential in the study of human life. In essence, psychological research needs to focus on the differences that exist among individuals who hold on to the different social constructs and social construals.

Differences between People Who Hold Individualism and Collectivism Self Construals

Individualism Characters

Individualism characters are usually evident in societies that practise independent cultures. Notably, these individuals enjoy freedom and diversity, unlike their counterparts, who practise collectivism culture. Kitayama and Cohen (2007) state that individualism societies encourage independence among its members and give them the chance to express their opinions and feelings in an assertive manner. People who hold on to individualism culture are dynamic, trendy, and tend to be more oriented towards personal aspirations and goals. In individualistic environments, people have the freedom to demonstrate their true personalities and capitalise on their abilities. The implication of increased freedom and optimisation of personal abilities is improved performance and creativity, and thus, societal progress.

Apparently, in individualistic societies, people demonstrate their unique initiatives, a factor that catalyses development and progress. In the quest to achieve personal goals, people usually devise initiatives that are not only beneficial to them but also beneficial to society. One of the major differences that exist amongst people, who hold on to individualistic cultures is the prioritization of personal goals (Cross, Hardin & Gercek-Swing, 2011). In individualistic cultures, personal goals override societal goals because the focus of the construct is on personal success and not society. People who hold on to the construct of individualism value their goals and aspirations and respect individual rights.

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Collectivism Individuals

Some of the characteristics that are evident among collectivism individuals include minimal selfishness, low levels of inequality, and togetherness. Collectivism or interdependence encourages people to value societies, and thus, the character of people in environments, which practice the construct is socially oriented. People who hold on to the construct are less likely to exercise selfishness since they value others in society. Therefore, instead of focusing on personal achievements, as is the case in an individualistic culture, interdependent individuals share what they have with others around them. Moreover, since the culture encourages societal development, individuals will struggle together so that a society develops as opposed to individualistic characters where individuals struggle for their own good. According to Kitayama and Cohen (2007), collectivism places a lot of value on societies and compromises individual rights and personal development. Therefore, by practising the collectivism culture, people demonstrate unity and pursue goals in groups.

Another character that differentiates collectivism or interdependent culture and individuals from those, who hold on to individualism or independent cultures is the unity and togetherness. It is remarkable to state that collectivism places a lot of emphasis on unity and cooperation. Therefore, people who hold on to the construction work together for the common good of all members in the subject group or society. Mandal (2013) explains that individuals who practise collectivism understand that all persons are equal and require similar treatment and progress. Therefore, these individuals work together and encourage all the members of a society to strive towards collective success.

Empirical Findings

The findings reflect a relationship between social constructs and human behaviour. From the research, it is evident that indeed social constructs dictate the motives and behaviour of individuals in a society. Markus and Kitayama (1991) use samples from countries such as China, Japan, and some countries in southern Europe to substantiate their evidence. With the findings, it is apparent that individualistic societies have people, who are autonomous, creative, and personal, whereas countries that practise collectivism have people, who love cooperation, societal progress, and value communal development..


Collectivism and individualism, as well as independent and interdependent self-construals, are social constructs that determine the behaviour and motive of individuals in a particular society. The power to determine human character emanates from the differences that exist between the constructs. While individualism constructs champion for autonomy, uniqueness, and self-independence, collectivism construct places a lot of value on society and advocates for societal progress. The implication that transpires from the difference is evident in the diversity among societies and individuals, who hold on to the constructs. Principally, individuals, who practise individualism construct, demonstrate independent personalities motivated to achieve personal objectives and place little focus on societal rights. On the other hand, people who hold on to collectivism or interdependent construct emphasise on society and encourage each other to develop and achieve combined goals that benefit each individual in the group.


Csizér, K., & Magid, M. (2014). The impact of self-concept on language learning. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Cross, S., Hardin, E., & Gercek-Swing, B. (2011). The what, how, why, and where of self-construal. Personality and social psychology review, 15, 142-179.

Fiske, S., & Taylor, S. (2013). Social cognition: From brains to culture. London: SAGE.

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Kitayama, S., & Cohen, D. (2007). Handbook of cultural psychology. New York: Guilford Press.

Mandal, P. (2013). Proceedings of the International Conference on Managing the Asian Century: ICMAC 2013. Singapore: Springer.

Markus, H., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and self: Implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. Psychological review, 98, 224-253.

Millon, T., & Lerner, M. (2003). Handbook of psychology: 5. New York: Wiley.

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