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  1. David W. Johnson,
  2. Roger T. Johnson

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0438

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Johnson, D. W. and Johnson, R. T. 2010. Individualism. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. University of Minnesota

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


In common usage, individualism is defined as leading one's life in one's own way without regard for others. Individualism involves giving one's own interests precedence over the interests of the state or social group (i.e., egoism or selfishness). It is based on the belief in the primary importance of the individual and in the virtues of self-reliance and personal independence. Individualism may be separated from individuality, which is the sum of the qualities that set one person apart from others. To individualize is to distinguish a person as different from others, whereas to individuate is to make a person individual or distinct. Individualism is also distinct from autonomy, which is the ability to understand what others expect in any given situation and what one's values are, and to be free to choose how to behave based on either or both. Whereas individuality and autonomy are important aspects of healthy psychological development and health, individualism is not. Finally, individualism is often contrasted with collectivism. Collectivism is a moral, political, or social outlook that stresses human interdependence and the importance of communities and societies rather than the importance of separate individuals, thus giving priority to group goals over individual goals. Collectivism requires attention to the well-being of other members of the community and the common good, whereas individualism requires attention to only one's own well-being.


  • individualism;
  • cooperation;
  • competition;
  • collectivism;
  • autonomy;
  • egosim