ing self-regard (jison-shin). In other words, self-esteem may be more important to sustaining the self in some cultures than others.
Taking this theory further, Markus, Mullally, and Kitayama have proposed that selfways, which are typical ways of being and behaving in one’s cultural context, are “culturally constructed patterns” (Markus et al., 1997, p. 16). Selfways include critical cultural notions and beliefs, including a shared understanding of what it means to be a good or moral person in the culture in question. The process of selving is qualitatively different in different cultures. Selfways are similar to what Kagan (1989) has called the “ego-ideal” of a culture, and socialization operates in every culture to foster beliefs and attitudes that are conducive to adaptation in that culture—adaptation to events and situations that are common and occur on a regular basis (Kitayama, 2000; Kitayama et al., 1997). In the European-American context, such a person is an independent individual who can see herself in a positive way as having unique qualities or attributes, separate from others. As we have noted, this tendency toward self-enhancement can be seen as adaptive in a culture that socializes its members to focus on individual development (Kitayama, 2000; Kitayama et al., 1997).
In Japan, in contrast, a good person is one who establishes, maintains, and repairs interdependent relationships with others. In this cultural context, socialization operates to foster mutual relations with others and a sense of belonging. To grow and evolve in this society means that individuals will “develop a characteristic set of psychological tendencies—a sense of their connectedness, need to fit in, and tendency to harmonize with others” (Markus et al., 1997, p. 21). Markus and her colleagues argue that the shared nature of understanding characterized by selfways leads to certain cultural universals in members of the same society (Markus et al., 1997).
In its entirety, this work underscores the centrality of culture in self-concept. This, of course, has implications for methods of inquiry. Markus et al. (1997) note that, in cross-cultural research, it has been very common to administer the Twenty Statements Test (TST), in which one is asked to describe oneself by answering the question “Who am I?” This method, designed from a Western perspective where the notion of the self as stable is paramount, is uniquely suited to study the self-conceptions of individuals from Western cultures. In a different cultural context, where self-concepts are perceived as malleable, a method such as the TST is inappropriate because participation in a different culture requires qualitatively different ways of being.
Furthermore, the individualist/collectivist dichotomy does not represent the range of cultural selfways. For example, selfways in the African context can be characterized as neither one or the other. Rather, they are