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Good, Better, Best: Between Culture and Self-Enhancement



The topic of self-enhancement and culture is discussed. The question of the universality of the self-enhancement motive, well-documented in the West, inspired a lively debate, pertaining mainly to the existence of a self-enhancement motive in East-Asian cultures. The present paper presents some major findings that challenge the basic assumption of Markus and Kitayama (1991) and of Heine et al. (1999) that the self-enhancement motive does not exist in East-Asian cultures. These findings relate to the following issues: self-enhancement in East-Asia in culturally accepted domains; the role of modesty in self-enhancement; relevance of anonymity to self-enhancement manifestation; self-enhancement done by significant others; implicit measures of self-esteem; and the relations between well-being and self-enhancement in East-Asia. Some common beliefs, that self-enhancement inhibits self-improvement and that low uniqueness implies low self-enhancement are discussed and questioned. The paper suggests that the controversy regarding the self-enhancement motive may boil down to the question of the degree to which the social norms regarding restrictions on self-success are internalized in a culture.

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