Using Individualism and Collectivism to Compare Cultures— A Critique of the Validity and Measurement of the Constructs: Comment on Oyserman et al.

Analyzing national and ethnic differences in individualism and collectivism, D. Oyserman, H. M. Coon, and M. Kemmelmeier (2002) showed that small differences in scales or samples produce markedly divergent results, challenging the validity of these constructs. The author examines the following limitations of research on individualism and collectivism: It treats nations as cultures and culture as a continuous quantitative variable; conflates all kinds of social relations and distinct types of autonomy; ignores contextual specificity in norms and values; measures culture as the personal preferences and behavior reports of individuals; rarely establishes the external validity of the measures used; assumes cultural invariance in the meaning of self-reports and anchoring and interpretation of scales; and reduces culture to explicit, abstract verbal knowledge.