Individualistic culture

Individualistic culture is a society which is characterized by individualism, which is the prioritization or emphasis of the individual over the entire group.[1] Individualistic cultures are oriented around the self, being independent instead of identifying with a group mentality. They see each other as only loosely linked, and value personal goals over group interests.[1] Individualistic cultures tend to have a more diverse population and are characterized with emphasis on personal achievements, and a rational assessment of both the beneficial and detrimental aspects of relationships with others.[2] Individualistic cultures have such unique aspects of communication as being a low power-distance culture and having a low-context communication style. The United States, Australia, Great Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, and New Zealand have been identified as highly individualistic cultures.[2]

Low power distance[edit]

Power distance is defined to be the degree to which unequal distribution of power is accepted in a culture.[1] Low power distance cultures challenge authority, encourage a reduction of power differences between management and employees, and encourage the use of power legitimately. Low power distance is more likely to occur in an individualistic culture, because in a collectivist culture, people protect the well being of the group and established order[1] so they would be less likely to challenge authority or people in power. Even though individualistic cultures are more likely to be low power distance, these cultures don't expect to completely eliminate power difference. People within this low power distance culture, however, are more likely to respond to such imbalances in power with more negative emotional responses than in the alternative, high power distance cultures. Low power distance cultures include Austria, Israel, Denmark, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, and Sweden. The U.S. ranks 38th on the scale.[2]

Low-context communication style[edit]

Individualistic cultures are also more likely to have a low-context communication style. This means that communication is precise, direct, and specific.[3] Unlike in high-context communication, reading between the lines is not necessary in low-context communication. This explicit communication is used in order to prevent any form of misunderstanding between cultures.[3] The ability to articulate the thoughts and opinions one holds as well as to express them eloquently are encouraged, as is persuasive speaking. Low-context communication is all content and no relationship dimension.

Emotion display and display rules[edit]

Individualistic cultures tend to prioritize the individual person over the group,[1] and this can be seen in how the display rules vary from a collectivist culture compared to an individualistic culture. Display rules are the rules that exist in different cultures that determine how emotion should be displayed publicly.[4] In an individualistic culture, self-expression is highly valued, making the display rules less strict and allowing people to display intense emotion such as: happiness, anger, love, etc. While in a collectivist culture, moderation and self-control is highly valued for the well being of the group, and collectivist cultures therefore tend to restrain from showing emotion in public.[1]

Conflict strategies[edit]

Conflict strategies are methods used to resolve different problems. There are different approaches to resolving conflict, and depending the culture a person is brought up in, the more likely it is for them to use a certain approach. Since individualistic culture sets greater value to personal achievement, contrary to collectivist cultures who value harmony,[5] it is more likely for a person from an individualistic culture to use competition as their method of resolving conflict. When using competition as an approach to resolving conflict, a person is more confrontational and seeks to achieve his or her own goals with no regard of the goals of others.[6] Using this approach a person seeks domination, which means to get others to do what the person wants instead of what they initially wanted.[6] On the contrary, a collectivist culture would more likely use a less confrontational approach such as accommodation to end the conflict with compromise so that each party is benefited.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Hofstede, Geert (2001). Culture's Consequences. SAGE. ISBN 0803973241.
  2. ^ a b c Rothwell, J. (2010). In the Company of Others: An Introduction to Communication. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 65–84.
  3. ^ a b Hall, Edward (1987). Hidden Differences: Doing Business with the Japanese. University of California: Anchor Press/Doubleday. ISBN 0385238835.
  4. ^ Ekman, Paul (1975). "Facial Areas and Emotional Information". Journal of Communication. 25: 21–29. doi:10.1111/j.1460-2466.1975.tb00577.x.
  5. ^ Park, H.S (2006). "The effects of national culture and face concerns on intention to apologize". Journal of Intercultural Communication Research. 3: 183–204.
  6. ^ a b Sillars, A. (1980). "Attributions and communication in roommate conflicts". Communication Monographs. 47: 180–200. doi:10.1080/03637758009376031.