Sociocultural Differences in Self-Construal and Subjective Well-Being: A Test of Four Cultural Models

Contact: Paul Jose


Countries experience different economic development. For example, some collectivistic countries have undergone rapid socioeconomic changes (i.e., East Asian countries) while other have experienced limited changes (i.e., African countries).

So, the sociocultural groups differ in their source of subjective well-being. Previous research has found that there are cultural models describing the relationships between how people perceive and interpret the world around them (self-construal) and how happy they feel (well-being).

This study compares students from four Western countries (Germany, New Zealand, United Kingdom and United States), three African countries (Algeria, Botswana, and Rwanda), and three East-Asian countries (Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan) to see if cultural models impact the relationship between self-construal and well-being.


The independence model applied to individuals from Western countries, implying that

  • Individuals are motivated to realize their inner potentials, fulfil their needs, and enrich their experience of living.
  • Individuals focus on self-related life tasks, like striving for one’s goals and being straightforward in interpersonal relations.
  • To achieve these life tasks, they exercise their agency to control the environment and influence others.
  • If their self-oriented needs are fulfilled, these individuals will experience an increase in subjective well-being.

The integration model applied to individuals from East Asian countries

  • It emphasizes that both independent and interdependent self-construals are important.
  • Individuals have a bicultural self, which means they vary the display of these two aspects of self according to specific situational demands and social expectations.
  • When these individuals are in situations that emphasize achievement (e.g., at work), their individual-oriented self may be more influential in guiding social behavior. Conversely, their social-oriented self may become more influential when they are in situations in which communal needs are valued (e.g., at home).

Mixed results were found among the African countries

The interdependence model is more applicable to African participants from the sub-Saharan region, implying that:

  • The welfare of the group constitutes the fundamental source of well-being.
  • Individuals in these cultures are motivated to adjust themselves to fit into the expectations of others, and the demands of social situations, or both.
  • The realization of harmonious interpersonal relations is crucial to subjective well-being.

The integration model is more applicable to those countries from the North African region.

  • As explained before, this model emphasizes the role of interdependent and independent self-construal on subjective well-being.

You can access the artice "Sociocultural Differences in Self-Construal and Subjective Well-Being: A Test of Four Cultural Models" here.