Relational Self-enhancement in the United States and Japan

University of Mississippi, 2005 - 286 ページ
One of the most fundamental and widely documented human motivations in social psychology is the need to self-enhance, that is, to elevate the positivity of one's self view. Recent cultural and gender investigations of the self-concept have suggested that this motivation should be studied with a consideration for those having a self-construal defined in terms of their relationships with others. In particular, for those with a relational or interdependent self-construal, theorists (Cross & Madson, 1997; Markus & Kitayama, 1991) suggest that self-enhancement needs may be met through the enhancement of close relationship partners, especially when the other is included in the self (Aron et al., 1991). Building on previous research, the present studies tested the hypothesis that some relational-interdependents, regardless of culture, tend to self-enhance indirectly by praising a close other in their extended self and receiving praise from a close other in their extended self. An individual difference in theory testing approach (Underwood, 1975) was adopted and a Relational Self-Enhancement Scale was constructed with items generated from previous studies where Americans and Japanese listed situations in which their self-esteem increased (Kitayama et al., 1997). Data were collected from a total of 4 samples in the United States (262 and 154 participants) and Japan (181 and 160 participants). Examining correlations between theoretically similar and dissimilar constructs provided evidence for criterion, convergent, and discriminant validity of the Relational Self-Enhancement Scale. Predictive validity on changes in state self-esteem was tested experimentally with pairs of participants by manipulating praise from a close other or self praise based on performance feedback following the completion of a bogus Creativity Test. Simple effects tests revealed that the scale predicted changes in social state self-esteem for Japanese who identified themselves as high Relational Self-Enhancers after they praised their friends for doing well on the Creativity Test. Further support for relational enhancement was revealed in analyses finding an increase in general self-esteem for both American friends who share an extended self as compared to those friends who did not report sharing an extended self. The same effect was found for close friends in the Japanese sample on changes in appearance self-esteem. Additional results of 3-way ANOVAs for those who took the Creativity Test revealed that the self-esteem of Americans increased more, compared to their Japanese counterparts, in the Self Praise condition. Finally, results of 4-way ANOVAs involving combined scores for friends in a pair replicated and added to these results, revealing that the self-esteem of both Japanese in a pair of friends increased more in situations when praise was delivered by a friend, whereas the self-esteem of both Americans in a pair of friends increased more in situations when positive self-feedback was delivered aloud. The proposed theory of self-enhancement has implications for studying self-esteem in relationships, an area of research that has been given little attention in the literature. Practical implications of relational self-enhancement range from improving romantic relationships to close friendships to relationships at the workplace, in both western and eastern cultures.