Personality and Culture: Demarcating Between the Common and the Unique



Four traditions in research on personality and culture are distinguished: (i) the culture-and-personality school and recent relativistic perspectives, (ii) the trait approach, (iii) interactionistic orientations, and (iv) situationist approaches. Next, the first two of these traditions are evaluated to ascertain how much variance is explained by culture. Thereafter, it is argued that the (questionable) focus on explanations with a high level of inclusiveness or generality is a major reason for the near absence of situationist interpretation of cross- cultural differences. Finally, three possible strategies are discussed to bridge the gap between relativism (emphasizing differences) and universalism (assuming basic similarities). A suggestion is made as to how both approaches can be valuable when unexplainable, as well as explainable variances, in cross-cultural personality research are taken seriously.