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Abstract

Examined the prevalence of an interpersonal device, namely insult types, in a collectivistic and individualistic cultural context as an index of how the concept of person is culturally constructed. Insults were divided into three general categories, individualistic (those that refer directly to a person), relational (those that refer to a person and his/her significant relations) and swear-words. An examination of the insults subjects produced in Catania, southern Italy (collectivistic), Trieste, northern Italy (individualistic) and Bologna, central Italy, partially confirmed the hypothesized differences in types of verbal abuse. In the collectivistic context instances of verbal abuse are significantly more likely to be directed to a person and his/her relations than in the individualistic context. The social psychological implications of these findings are discussed.