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Abstract

I present a roughly historical overview of the literature bearing on the universality of the self-enhancement motive, which I define as the need to cultivate and maintain a positive self-view. There is considerable evidence indicating that people from prototypically Western cultures demonstrate a strong need to self-enhance, which manifests itself in a number of tendencies involving attending to and elaborating upon positive self-relevant information at the expense of negative information. Recently, a lively debate about the universality of the self-enhancement motive emerged, with some researchers arguing that the motive itself is culture-specific and others contending that the motive is universal but that culture places important constraints on how it is expressed. I provide a review and synthesis of the existing evidence and conclude by discussing research on dialectical self-esteem, which offers another perspective on how culture shapes the expression of self-evaluative processes.