Gender and individualistic vs. collectivist bases for notions about the self


Address correspondence about this article and requests for reprints to M Brinton Lykes, Department of Psychology, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI 02908


This article provides a critique of traditional psychological theories of the self that emphasize autonomy, separation, and independence, and ignore the inherently social character of the self Evidence from an empirical investigation of selected experiences of 84 white adult women and men who evidence two different notions of the self (autonomous individualism and social individuality) suggest that the culturally dominant notion of the self, rooted in assumptions of autonomy, independence, and separation, is but one orientation to the self A contrasting notion, social individuality, reflects a dialectical understanding of individuality and sociality grounded in an experience of social relations characterized by inequalities of power Preliminary research suggests that differences between women's and men's notions of the self are grounded in their different experiences of power These findings support a larger argument that research on the self in psychology must be grounded in an analysis of material social reality and reflect the dialectical relation of individuality and sociality