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Individualism appears to have increased over the past several decades, yet most research documenting this shift has been limited to the study of a handful of highly-developed countries. Is the world becoming more individualistic as a whole? If so, why? To address these questions, here we examine 51 years of data on individualistic practices and values across 77 countries. Our findings suggest that individualism is indeed rising in most of societies we tested. Despite dramatic shifts towards greater individualism around the world, cultural differences remain sizeable. Moreover, cultural differences are primarily linked to changes in socioeconomic development, and to a lesser extent to shifts in pathogen prevalence, disaster frequency, and climatic stress.
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Psychological Science
2017, Vol. 28(9) 1228 –1239
© The Author(s) 2017
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DOI: 10.1177/0956797617700622
Research Article
Over the past hundred years, some affluent societies
moved toward greater individualism in values and prac-
tices. Has individualism risen around the globe, or is
this shift limited to a few highly developed societies?
Why has this shift occurred? Utilizing 51 years of data
on individualist practices and values from 78 countries,
we sought answers to these questions. Here, we present
the novel empirical evidence we obtained and reflect
on outstanding questions for future research.
Cross-Cultural Differences in
Individualism and Collectivism
Individualism-collectivism is currently the most dis-
cussed construct in cross-cultural studies. Since the
seminal works by Triandis (1995), Hofstede (2001), and
Markus and Kitayama (1991), researchers have used this
cultural dimension to explain variations in psychologi-
cal processes across cultural groups. Individualism pro-
motes a view of the self as self-directed, autonomous,
and separate from others. Conversely, collectivism fos-
ters an interconnected view of the self as overlapping
with close others, such that one’s thoughts, feelings,
and behaviors are embedded in social contexts (Markus
& Kitayama, 1991; Triandis, 1995; Varnum, Grossmann,
Kitayama, & Nisbett, 2010). Individualist cultures
prioritize independence and uniqueness, whereas col-
lectivist cultures emphasize family ties and fitting in
(Grossmann & Na, 2014).
Cross-cultural differences in individualism-collectivism
are found in values and norms (e.g., obedience; Hofstede,
2001), socialization practices (Greenfield, 2009), and cul-
tural products (Morling & Lamoreaux, 2008). With regards
to living arrangements, individualist cultures also favor
living alone, whereas collectivist cultures favor living with
parents and grandparents (Vandello & Cohen, 1999).
Cross-Temporal Shifts in
Cultural values and practices are not static (Kashima, 2014;
Morris, Chiu, & Liu, 2015). Recently, scholars have begun
to explore how individualism-collectivism may change
over time (e.g., Greenfield, 2009; Grossmann & Varnum,
700622PSSXXX10.1177/0956797617700622Santos et al.Global Increases in Individualism
Corresponding Authors:
Henri C. Santos, Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo,
200 University Ave. West, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1
Igor Grossmann, Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo,
200 University Ave. West, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada N2L 3G1
Global Increases in Individualism
Henri C. Santos1, Michael E. W. Varnum2, and
Igor Grossmann1
1Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, and 2Department of Psychology,
Arizona State University
Individualism appears to have increased over the past several decades, yet most research documenting this shift has
been limited to the study of a handful of highly developed countries. Is the world becoming more individualist as
a whole? If so, why? To answer these questions, we examined 51 years of data on individualist practices and values
across 78 countries. Our findings suggest that individualism is indeed rising in most of the societies we tested. Despite
dramatic shifts toward greater individualism around the world, however, cultural differences remain sizable. Moreover,
cultural differences are primarily linked to changes in socioeconomic development, and to a lesser extent to shifts in
pathogen prevalence and disaster frequency.
cultural change, individualism, cross-cultural differences, social ecology, change over time, open data
Received 9/27/16; Revision accepted 3/1/17
Global Increases in Individualism 1229
2015; Kitayama, Conway, Pietromonaco, Park, & Plaut,
2010; Twenge, Dawson, & Campbell, 2016). Initial studies
tracked changes between 1969 and 1991 in Mayan com-
munities (Greenfield, 2009). During this period, this
group’s economy shifted from a subsistence to a market-
based economy, and this change was associated with a
socialization environment that became more individualist.
More recently, researchers have analyzed several decades
of U.S. survey data to assess potential changes in con-
structs related to individualism-collectivism. For instance,
Twenge and her colleagues (Twenge, Campbell, & Gen-
tile, 2012) found increases in positive self-views (the
better-than-average effect) among college students from
1966 to 2009.
Subsequent studies have shown shifts in individual-
ism in cultural products and practices. For example,
Americans and Japanese have become increasingly
likely to give their children relatively unique names
(Grossmann & Varnum, 2015; Ogihara etal., 2015;
Twenge etal., 2016). Also, Americans have become less
likely to live in multigenerational households and more
likely to divorce (Grossmann & Varnum, 2015). More-
over, the frequencies of words reflecting individualist
themes (e.g., self, unique, personal, me/mine) relative
to the frequencies of words reflecting collectivist themes
(e.g., obedience, belong, together, we/ours) have increased
over time in books from the United States (Greenfield,
2013; Grossmann & Varnum, 2015) and several other
countries (e.g., Yu etal., 2016; Zeng & Greenfield, 2015).
At least three studies have explored changes in markers
of individualism-collectivism across societies. Using data
from the World Values Surveys, Inglehart and Baker (2000)
found increasing self-expression (a concept related to indi-
vidualism; Inglehart & Oyserman, 2004) across 65 coun-
tries. Similarly, Yu etal. (2016) found increasing use of
words meaning “me” and “mine” in eight language groups
over a span of 59 years. Further, Hamamura’s (2012) analy-
sis of survey and census data from the United States and
Japan revealed shifts toward more individualist relational
practices in both countries. These studies suggest that
there may be a global trend toward individualism. How-
ever, these data came primarily from developed countries,
which limits what one can infer about less economically
developed countries. And although Inglehart and Baker
(2000) observed that countries that experienced greater
economic development endorsed more individualist val-
ues, they did not examine changes in practices, nor did
they systematically test multiple hypotheses for why indi-
vidualist values and practices might have been on the rise.
Changes in Ecology and Changes in
Recently, scholars studying cross-cultural variation have
begun using an ecological framework to explain
cross-cultural differences (Oishi & Graham, 2010;
Thornhill & Fincher, 2014; Van de Vliert, 2013). This
research has focused on dimensions of ecological affor-
dance and threat, including socioeconomic development,
frequency of natural disasters, pathogen prevalence, and
climatic stress. We applied this framework to our inves-
tigation of individualism-collectivism.
Socioeconomic development
Several scholars have theorized that individualism-related
changes are explained by socioeconomic development,
which involves a shift from agricultural to industrial and
postindustrial economies, greater occupational prestige
and education, and higher income (e.g., Inglehart &
Baker, 2000; Kagitçibasi, 2007; Kraus, Piff, Mendoza-
Denton, Rheinschmidt, & Keltner, 2012; Newson &
Richerson, 2009; Triandis, 1995; Varnum etal., 2010).
Living in an economically developed society reduces the
need to rely on a group for survival, allowing people to
prioritize individual goals and personal freedom (Inglehart
& Baker, 2000). A related argument specifically focuses
on the rise of urban centers, holding that city environ-
ments promote individualism (Greenfield, 2009; Yamagishi,
Hashimoto, Li, & Schug, 2012). Although there are various
explanations for modernization, correlational studies
across multiple countries (e.g., Hofstede, 2001; Kashima
& Kashima, 2003) and observations of single communities
before and after economic development (Greenfield,
2009) support the claim that more developed and urban-
ized societies are more individualist. Also, time-lagged
analyses in the United States showed that over 150 years,
shifts from blue-collar to white-collar jobs preceded
increases in individualist living arrangements, cultural
products, and practices (Grossmann & Varnum, 2015).
Disaster frequency
Environmental threats can also shape culture. Triandis
(2009) proposed that frequent disasters would reduce
individuals’ sense of agency, which would then lead to
less individualism. However, research on reactions to
trauma and the cognitive effects of stress suggests that
the experience of a disaster would narrow attentional
scope (Wachtel, 1968)—a tendency that frequently
accompanies individualism (Varnum etal., 2010). Thus,
it is possible that more frequent disasters may lead to
greater individualism. Consistent with the latter view,
a recent study found that increases in individualist prac-
tices were preceded by increases in disaster frequency
in the United States (Grossmann & Varnum, 2015).
Pathogen prevalence
Evolutionary theorists argue that humans have
developed a behavioral immune system (Schaller &
Park, 2011), a suite of cognitive-behavioral tendencies—
1230 Santos et al.
including collectivism—that reduce disease transmis-
sion. Collectivism limits people’s contact outside the
in-group, reducing the likelihood of acquiring infec-
tions (Thornhill & Fincher, 2014). Further, compared
with people who live in regions with few infectious
diseases, those who live in regions with many infec-
tious diseases are more likely to de-emphasize indi-
vidualist values such as self-reliance and to encourage
obedience and conformity, which, all else being equal,
likely reduce the chance of infection (e.g., Murray,
Trudeau, & Schaller, 2011). Whereas many of the stud-
ies on this topic have examined the correlations
between historical pathogen prevalence and contem-
porary data on variables related to individualism-
collectivism, only one U.S.-based study has investi-
gated this relationship over time, finding that increases
in pathogen prevalence are associated with increased
individualist practices and word use (Grossmann &
Varnum, 2015).
Climatic stress
People living in climates that deviate from the optimal
mean temperature (22 °C/72 °F; cf. Van de Vliert, 2013)
face greater environmental stresses than do those who
live in optimal climates. These stresses may increase
focus on survival goals and in-group support as
opposed to individualist pursuits such as self-expression
(Hofstede, 2001; Kashima & Kashima, 2003; Van de
Vliert, 2013). Notably, the effects of suboptimal cli-
mates are felt particularly strongly in countries that do
not have the financial resources to cope with them.
According to this climato-economic theory, increased
climatic stress should lead to a shift away from indi-
vidualism in relatively poor countries (Van de Vliert,
The Current Research
We performed a formal analysis of change over 51 years
in a subset of individualist practices and values across
78 countries that varied in their economic development
(e.g., highly developed Switzerland vs. less-developed
Malawi) and geography. To assess whether the rise in
individualism is a global phenomenon, we extended
previous work that was conducted in a few industrial-
ized countries (Greenfield, 2013; Grossmann & Varnum,
2015; Hamamura, 2012; Zeng & Greenfield, 2015) to a
more representative sample of societies. We also exam-
ined whether certain socio-ecological factors—socio-
economic development, disaster frequency, pathogen
prevalence, and climatic stress—can account for pan-
cultural shifts in individualism-collectivism.
We focused on individualist behavioral practices (e.g.,
living alone rather than with grandparents; Triandis,
1995) and values associated with individualism (e.g.,
valuing independence; Hamamura, 2012). Following
previous research (Grossmann & Na, 2014; Hofstede,
2001), we conceptualized cultural-level changes in
individualism-collectivism as a single country-level
dimension, though we acknowledge that individualism
and collectivism may be independent from each other
when explored at the individual level of analysis
(Grossmann & Na, 2014; Schimmack, Oishi, & Diener,
2005; Triandis, 1995).
Country selection
Table 1 shows all the countries used in the analyses
and the sources of their data. For the analysis of indi-
vidualist practices, we selected 41 countries for which
we had access to national census data at a minimum
of three time points (i.e., data covering at least two
decades between 1960 and 2011, as most census data
are collected every 10 years). We retrieved these data
from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series-
International (IPUMS-I; Minnesota Population Center,
2015; see Table S1 in the Supplemental Material for a
full list of the databases used). This database provides
standardized measures so that indicators can be easily
compared across countries or surveys. For the analysis
of individualist values, we selected 53 countries for
which the World Values Survey and European Values
Survey integrated database (WVS; World Values Survey
Association, 2015) provides at least three data points
over 10 years. We chose a shorter range of time for
values than for practices because the WVS data were
collected in more frequent waves. Of these 53 countries
included in our analysis of individualist values, 16 were
also included in our analysis of individualist practices.
Socio-ecological factors
Socioeconomic development. We examined country-level
markers of socioeconomic development that should be asso-
ciated with differences in individualism: type of economy
(agricultural vs. service), occupational prestige, educa-
tional attainment, income, and urbanization (Greenfield,
2009; Grossmann & Varnum, 2015; Inglehart & Baker, 2000;
Kraus etal., 2012).
White-collar versus agricultural jobs: We examined
whether people tended to have white-collar jobs
(i.e., more developed economy) or agricultural jobs
Global Increases in Individualism 1231
10 years apart (we had income data for almost every year
in the sample, and thus no interpolation was necessary
for this variable). For the countries not in the IPUMS-I
database, we used standardized income data as the mea-
sure of socioeconomic development in the analyses
reported here. The findings were similar when analyses
excluded these countries (see Supplementary Analyses
in the Supplemental Material).
Table 1. List of Countries in the Samples
Countries only in
Countries in
and WVS
Countries only in
the WVS
Bangladesh Argentina Albania
Bolivia Austria Armenia
Brazil Canada Australia
Burkina Faso Chile Azerbaijan
Cameroon France Belarus
Colombia Hungary Belgium
Costa Rica India Bulgaria
Dominican Republic Ireland China
Ecuador Mexico Croatia
Fiji Morocco Czech Republic
Greece Portugal Denmark
Haiti Romania Estonia
Indonesia Spain Finland
Israel Switzerland Georgia
Kenya United States Germany
Malawi Uruguay Iceland
Malaysia Italy
Mali Japan
Nicaragua Latvia
Panama Lithuania
Puerto Rico Macedonia
Thailand Malta
Venezuela Moldova
Vietnam Netherlands
Zambia New Zealand
Russian Federation
South Africa
South Korea
United Kingdom
Note: IPUMS-I = Integrated Public Use Microdata Series-International
(Minnesota Population Center, 2015); WVS = World Values Survey and
European Values Survey integrated database (World Values Survey
Association, 2015).
(i.e., less developed economy; Greenfield, 2009).
Using harmonized census data from IPUMS-I, we
calculated the percentage of people classified as
“skilled agricultural, forestry, and fishery workers”
as a measure of agricultural jobs. The percentage
of people classified as “legislators, senior officials,
and managers,” “professionals,” “technicians and
associate professionals,” “clerks,” and “service
workers and shop and market sales” was our mea-
sure of white-collar jobs. We then subtracted the
percentage of agricultural jobs from the percentage
of white-collar jobs. Thus, higher scores repre-
sented more white-collar jobs in society.
Occupational prestige: We obtained occupational
data coded by IPUMS-I into the major categories
in the 1988 International Standard Classification
of Occupations scheme. We weighted these cat-
egories by multiplying the percentage of people
in each category by the corresponding weighted
value from the 1996 Standard International Occu-
pational Prestige Scale (Ganzeboom & Treiman,
1996), a measure of popular evaluation of occu-
pational standing across multiple countries.
Higher scores indicated that more people were
working at jobs with greater prestige.
Educational attainment: We used harmonized cen-
sus data on educational attainment that was already
recorded in the IPUMS-I database using a standard
4-point scale (1 = less than completion of primary
school, 4 = completion of university education).
Income: We used gross domestic product (GDP)
as an indicator of income. Following recommen-
dations by Deaton (2008), we log-transformed
GDP per capita (in current U.S. dollars). The GDP
data were obtained from the World Bank (2015)
Urbanization: Using the same harmonized census
data from IPUMS-I, we calculated the percentage
of households coded as urban.
These variables were correlated with each other in the
expected direction, .17 < s < .74 (see Table S2 in the
Supplemental Material). Note that the measures of type
of economy (agricultural vs. white-collar jobs), occupa-
tional prestige, educational attainment, and urbanization
were available only for those countries in the IPUMS-I
sample. To simplify the data for these countries, we com-
puted composite scores for individualist socioeconomic
development by standardizing the five variables and then
calculating the mean across the five variables for each
country and each year. To account for missing data when
computing the composite score, we used linear interpola-
tion between any two data points that were no more than
1232 Santos et al.
Disaster frequency. We obtained data on disaster prev-
alence from 1960 to the present from the International
Disaster Database, maintained by the Centre for Research
on the Epidemiology of Disasters in Belgium (Guha-Sapir,
Below, & Hoyois, 2015). Disasters were classified as natu-
ral events (e.g., earthquakes, storms, floods) or technology-
related events (e.g., fire, chemical spill, transportation
accidents) that met at least one of the following criteria:
10 or more people dead, 100 or more people affected,
declaration of a state of emergency, or call for interna-
tional assistance. We log-transformed the frequency of
these events for each year to address the skew in the data.
Pathogen prevalence. We obtained annual data on the
incidence of infectious diseases from the Global Health
Observatory data repository (World Health Organization,
2016). We selected seven diseases for which the files had
data spanning at least 20 years: cholera, diphtheria, mea-
sles, neonatal tetanus, pertussis, total tetanus, and tuber-
culosis. To estimate the prevalence of these diseases, we
divided the number of incidences of each disease in each
year by the total annual population, taken from the World
Bank (2015) database. We then took the sum of all of
these ratios as an overall measure of the prevalence of
infectious pathogens.
Climatic stress. We obtained mean monthly tempera-
tures for each country from the Climate Change Knowl-
edge Portal database (World Bank, 2016). These data were
obtained from thousands of weather stations throughout
the world and represent the average climate across each
country. We calculated the mean for each year for each
country and took the absolute value of the difference
between the annual mean and 22 °C as a measure of the
deviation from the optimal temperature for humans (Van
de Vliert, 2013).
Practices. Previous work has examined shifts in individu-
alism by looking at changes in choices people make con-
cerning their living arrangements. More individualist people
tend to have smaller households, are more likely to live
alone, are less likely to personally care for their parents and
grandparents by living with them, and are more likely to be
divorced (Grossmann & Varnum, 2015; Triandis, 1995; Van-
dello & Cohen, 1999). To measure these behaviors, we
used harmonized census data from IPUMS-I, as follows.
Household size: We calculated the mean number
of relatives (by blood, marriage, or adoption) per
household. This measure was reverse-scored so
that higher mean values indicated greater indi-
Living alone: We calculated the percentage of
households that had only one member. Higher
percentages indicated greater individualism.
Older adults living alone: We calculated the per-
centage of single-member households in which
the household consisted of someone age 60 or
older. Higher percentages indicated greater
Divorce: We calculated the ratio of the number
of divorced and separated people to the number
of married and widowed people. A higher ratio
indicated greater individualism.
These variables were correlated with each other in
the expected direction, .27 < s < .69, with the excep-
tion that there was no reliable correlation between the
scores for older adults living alone and divorce, = .02
(see Table S3 in the Supplemental Material). Therefore,
we pooled and then standardized these measures across
all years and countries with available data. Each coun-
try’s annual measure of individualist practices was the
mean of its standardized values for these variables.
Analyses without divorce as part of the individualism-
collectivism composite yielded results similar to those
reported here (see Supplementary Analyses in the Sup-
plemental Material). We also looked at the number of
children born, single-child families, and married cou-
ples with no children as part of the individualism index,
but because these variables are closely related to life-
history strategies, we did not include them in our main
analysis. When we included these variables in the com-
posite, our findings were similar to those reported here
(see Supplementary Analyses).
Values. Culture is also manifested in the values held by
a country’s population. To measure cultural values, we
used three items from the World Values Survey that have
been used as indices of individualism-collectivism in
prior cross-cultural research and have been linked to
established self-report and non-self-report measures of
individualism-collectivism (Hamamura, 2012; Inglehart &
Oyserman, 2004):
Importance of friends versus family: Respondents
answered two items asking them about the impor-
tance of their friends and their family (1 = very
important, 4 = not very important). Responses
were reverse-scored so that higher scores indi-
cated greater value given to friends and family.
We then subtracted the score for friends from the
one for family. Thus, higher scores on this mea-
sure reflected a lower emphasis on the family
relative to friends, which is associated with less
collectivism (Hamamura, 2012; Triandis, 1995).
Global Increases in Individualism 1233
Independent children: We calculated the percent-
age of respondents who said that it was important
to teach the value of independence to their chil-
dren (dichotomous yes/no measure). Individual-
ist societies socialize children to be independent,
whereas collectivist societies put greater empha-
sis on obedience (Hamamura, 2012; Triandis,
1995). Responses to this item were reverse-
scored, so that higher scores indicated greater
Preference for self-expression: Respondents were
asked to think about their country’s goals in the
future and to select two goals (out of a list of four)
that would be important to them. If they picked
at least one self-expression goal (i.e., “Giving
people more say in important government deci-
sions” or “Protecting freedom of speech”), they
were coded as valuing self-expression, which is
nomologically linked to the notion of individual-
ism (Inglehart & Oyserman, 2004).
These variables were correlated to each other in the
expected direction, .11 < s < .24 (see Table S4 in the
Supplemental Material). After pooling the variables, we
standardized the values across all countries. Each coun-
try’s annual measure of individualist values was computed
by averaging its standardized values for these variables.
Data analysis
We performed all analyses in the R language for statisti-
cal computing (R Core Team, 2016; see Table S1 in the
Supplemental Material for a list of the main R packages
used). As noted, we computed averaged index scores
for each year and country for the proposed predictors,
individualist practices, and individualist values after the
scores for the individual measures were standardized.
To standardize the scores, we calculated z scores using
the grand means and standard deviations across all
years and countries in the sample (as opposed to cal-
culating them within each country or year) because we
were interested in countries’ level of individualism and
socioeconomic development relative to one another
and in how these levels changed over time (Hox, 2002).
Following recommendations for longitudinal analyses,
we set the first time point to zero.
We performed multilevel modeling (MLM) with the
lme4 and lmerTest packages for R, because differences
between countries explained a significant part of the
variance in individualism: 54% of the variance for prac-
tices and 30% of the variance for values (intraclass
correlations = .73 and .54, respectively). This variance
pattern necessitated the use of MLM to control for these
differences (Hox, 2002).
To estimate how the data for each country shifted
over time, we nested data per year within countries and
treated the proposed predictors as fixed effects, control-
ling for differences between countries (i.e., random
effects; Hox, 2002). Because we expected countries to
vary in their starting values, we allowed the intercepts
to be random in our analyses. Following the procedure
used by other statistical programs (e.g., SPSS, SAS), we
estimated statistical significance using the Satterthwaite
approximation for denominator degrees of freedom. To
estimate the relative effect size of main effects, we
chose to use marginal R2 (R2m), which estimates the
proportion of residual variance explained by the pre-
dictors only (i.e., irrespective of the variance explained
by between-country differences; Nakagawa & Schiel-
zeth, 2013), using the MuMIn package for R.
Caution should be taken when interpreting the R2m
term for the interaction between two variables in a
multilevel model. This is because R2m does not estimate
the effect size for the interaction term per se. Rather, it
estimates the effect size for the whole model, which
includes the main effects. Therefore, to clarify the incre-
mental effect of interactions, we used Akaike’s informa-
tion criterion (AIC), which allows for exact model
comparisons (Hox, 2002). A lower AIC value indicates
a better model. To evaluate an interaction effect, we
subtracted the AIC of the model with the interaction
effect from the AIC of the model with only main effects.
If the resulting ΔAIC value was greater than 2, that
indicated that the interaction model was the superior
model (i.e., it explained additional variance, compared
with a model including only main effects).
Change in individualism over time
We modeled the rate of change in individualism over
time by adding year (from 1960 through 2011) as a pre-
dictor in the model. Results revealed increased individual-
ism over time, when we examined both practices, b =
0.02, SE = 0.001, t(142.03) = 13.54, p < .001, R2m = .12,
and values, b = 0.03, SE = 0.004, t(191.88) = 9.76, p <
.001, R2m = .12 (see Fig. 1). The models suggested that
since 1960, individualism has increased by about 12%
Supplemental regional and country-specific analyses
indicated that individualism rose in all the regions and
most of the countries we examined (see Fig. 2 and Table
S5 in the Supplemental Material for the results of regional
analyses). For cultural practices, only 4 countries
(Cameroon, Malawi, Malaysia, and Mali) showed a non-
negligible decrease in individualism over time, whereas
34 out of the 41 countries exhibited a substantial increase
1234 Santos et al.
in individualism (see Table S6 in the Supplemental
Material). For values, only 5 countries (Armenia, China,
Croatia, Ukraine, and Uruguay) showed a nonnegligible
decrease in individualism, whereas 39 out of the 53 coun-
tries exhibited a substantial increase in individualism (see
Table S7 in the Supplemental Material). In the Discussion
section, we consider a possible reason why a handful of
countries showed a different trend than the rest of the
world for each measure. In summary, we observed
increasing individualism in the vast majority of sampled
countries. Notably, despite dramatic shifts toward greater
individualism around the world, Figure 1 suggests that
cultural differences remained sizable for any given year
up through 2011.
Predictors of change in individualism
Next, we examined how socio-ecological changes
affected shifts in individualism. Prior work (e.g.,
Grossmann & Varnum, 2015; Inglehart & Baker, 2000)
suggested that increases in socioeconomic develop-
ment, increases in disaster frequency, and decreases in
pathogen prevalence accompany increases in individu-
alism. As shown in Table 2, these previous findings
were mostly supported: Increases in socioeconomic
development predicted increases in individualist prac-
tices, R2m = .58, and values, R2m = .35, and decreases in
pathogen prevalence predicted increases in individual-
ist practices, R2m = .03, and values, R2m = .02. Increases
in disaster frequency led to increases in individualist
practices, R2m = .09, but not values, R2m = .01. In addi-
tion, climate and socioeconomic development had a
significant interaction effect on individualist practices,
ΔAIC = 7.30, but not values, ΔAIC = 0.40. Specifically,
the harsher the climate, the more strongly socioeco-
nomic development was associated with individualist
practices (see Fig. 3). This finding is partially consistent
with the climato-economic theory of cultural change
Fig. 1. Overall change in individualist practices (left) and values (right) over time. Each plotted point
represents the score from a single country in the year indicated. The lines represent the slopes from
the multilevel models, and the gray bands represent the 95% confidence intervals.
Global Increases in Individualism 1235
(Van de Vliert, 2013), which predicts that harsher cli-
mate promotes less individualism in less developed
countries, whereas harsher climate promotes more indi-
vidualism in more developed countries. We observed
that changes in climate were related to decreases in
individualism in countries with low socioeconomic
development, but were not related to individualism in
countries with high socioeconomic development.
Of all the factors, socioeconomic development had
the strongest effect; between 35% and 58% of the change
in individualism over time can be attributed to shifts in
socioeconomic development (almost 4 times as much
as can be attributed to the predictor with the next largest
effect). The effect of socioeconomic development on
individualism held when we controlled for year, disaster
frequency, pathogen prevalence, and climate.
Looking more closely at the individual measures of
socioeconomic development, we found that increase in
the proportion of white-collar relative to agricultural
jobs was related to increases in individualist practices,
R2m = .42, and values, R2m = .42; increase in occupational
prestige was related to increases in both individualist
practices, R2m = .33, and values, R2m = .25; increase in
educational attainment was related to increases in both
individualist practices, R2m = .60, and values, R2m = .46;
and increase in income was related to increases in both
individualist practices, R2m = .40, and values, R2m = .38
(see Table 3). Increase in urbanization was associated
with increase in individualist practices, R2m = .25, but
we did not have enough data to examine the relation-
ship between urbanization and individualist values. In
summary, although all five measures of socioeconomic
development were strong correlates of cultural change,
the proportion of white-collar jobs, education, and
income were particularly powerful factors.
Socioeconomic development
as a mediator
Although the MLM analyses we have reported show a
correlation between socio-ecological factors and individu-
alism, they do not necessarily imply a causal relationship.
Given that socioeconomic development was the only non-
negligible correlate of individualism, we focused on this
factor in subsequent analyses of lagged effects and media-
tion (see Supplementary Analyses in the Supplemental
Material for mediation analyses with the other factors).
Table 2. Effects of Socio-Ecological Factors on Individualist Practices and Values
Individualist practices Individualist values
b t b t
Socioeconomic development 0.66 (0.04)** t(181.22) = 15.46 0.59 (0.06)** t(188.64) = 9.51
Disaster frequency 0.58 (0.10)** t(114.31) = 5.81 0.19 (0.13) t(178.85) = 1.46
Pathogen prevalence −0.18 (0.05)* t(116.22) = −3.25 −0.19 (0.07)* t(221.32) = −2.71
Climate × Socioeconomic
0.02 (0.007)* t(181.79) = 3.13 0.02 (0.01) t(156.49) = 1.58
Note: The table presents estimates from a multilevel-model analysis with annual data nested within country data. Standard
errors for the coefficients are given in parentheses. We calculated these standard errors using the data for all countries and
years in the sample.
*p < .01. **p < .001.
Slope –0.07 –0.042 –0.014 0.014 0.042 0.07
Slope –0.07 –0.042 –0.014 0.014 0.042 0.07
Change in Individualist Values (z score)
Change in Individualist Practices (z score)
Fig. 2. Slopes for change in individualist practices (top) and values
(bottom) in the countries analyzed. The slopes are from the linear
regression of standardized individualism scores on time (year). Exact
regression estimates and standard errors for each country are pre-
sented in Tables S6 and S7 in the Supplemental Material.
1236 Santos et al.
First, we looked at the lagged effects of socioeco-
nomic development, as previous work has suggested that
cultural change due to ecological change may happen
later than the ecological change that caused it (e.g.,
Grossmann & Varnum, 2015). We expected changes in
socioeconomic development to be associated with cor-
responding shifts in individualism 10 years later (i.e., a
10-year lead), which would suggest a causal path from
the former variable to the latter. We chose to model the
data using a lead of 10 years because most census data
are collected by the decade (we obtained similar findings
with shorter leads; see Supplementary Analyses). An
MLM analysis revealed that increases in socioeconomic
development resulted 10 years later in increases in
individualist practices, b = 0.59, SE = 0.04, t(154.03) =
13.55, p < .001, R2m = .48, and values, b = 0.46, SE = 0.09,
t(36.70) = 5.27, p < .001, R2m = .43.
Next, we tested whether socioeconomic develop-
ment could explain the effect of time on individualism.
Using the mediation package in R, we conducted an
MLM analysis with socioeconomic development as a
mediator of the association between time (in years) and
individualist practices and values 10 years later (see
Fig. 4). The conditions for establishing mediation were
met, as the 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of the indi-
rect effects did not include zero for either individualist
practices, 95% CI = [0.01, 0.02], or individualist values,
95% CI = [0.003, 0.01]. These results suggested that the
rise of individualism was in part explained by an
increase in socioeconomic development (see Supple-
mentary Analyses for similar mediation results without
a 10-year lead). Taken together, the lagged and media-
tion analyses lend support to the hypothesis that there
is a causal relationship between socioeconomic devel-
opment and individualism.
Is the rise of individualism a global phenomenon? Our
analysis of data across 51 years and 78 countries suggests
that the answer is yes. Thirty-four (out of 41) countries
showed a substantial rise in individualist practices. Thirty-
nine (out of 53) countries showed a similar rise on a subset
of markers assessing individualist values. The increases for
practices and values were similar, at around 12%. Overall,
these results show that the shift toward greater individual-
ism is not confined to the developed world.
Increasing individualism appears to be linked to sev-
eral previously theorized sources of cultural variation,
including socioeconomic development, disaster fre-
quency, pathogen prevalence, and climatic variations.
Optimal Climate
(±0 °C)
Less Optimal
Climate (±30 °C)
Individualist Practices (z score)
Low Socioeconomic Development
High Socioeconomic Development
Fig. 3. Results illustrating the interaction effect of climate and socio-
economic development on individualist practices (with data per year
nested within countries). The graph shows estimated levels of indi-
vidualist practices for countries with an optimal mean temperature
(22 °C) and with a mean temperature 30 °C from the optimal tem-
perature. High and low socioeconomic development refer to the 25th
and 75th percentiles, respectively.
Table 3. Effects of Individual Measures of Socioeconomic Development on Individualist Practices
and Values
Individualist practices Individualist values
b t b t
White-collar vs.
agricultural jobs
1.22 (0.12)** t(148.55) = 9.81 1.38 (0.30)** t(19.30) = 4.55
Occupational prestige 0.19 (0.02)** t(155.81) = 8.45 0.10 (0.03)* t(25.68) = 3.34
Educational attainment 1.16 (0.07)** t(179.73) = 16.09 0.83 (0.15)** t(27.28) = 5.53
Income 0.69 (0.05)** t(158.58) = 13.15 0.87 (0.09)** t(182.74) = 10.03
Urbanization 1.52 (0.24)** t(119.00) = 6.44
Note: The table presents estimates from a multilevel-model analysis with annual data nested within country data.
Standard errors for the coefficients are given in parentheses. We calculated these standard errors using the data for
all countries and years in the sample. There were not enough data to conduct multilevel-modeling analyses on the
association between urbanization and individualist values.
*p < .01. **p < .001.
Global Increases in Individualism 1237
Notably, disaster frequency and climatic variations
affected only individualist practices, not individualist
values. Of these ecological dimensions, socioeconomic
development emerged as the key predictor, explaining
between 35% and 58% of the variance in change in
individualism over time. Moreover, we found that
changes in socioeconomic development mediated the
effect of time on individualism, and increases in socio-
economic development preceded increases in individu-
alism. Future research could examine how regional
variations in these predictors might influence the rate
of cultural change.
We observed a few exceptions to the global rise in
individualism. Cameroon, Malawi, Malaysia, and Mali
showed a nonnegligible decline in individualist prac-
tices, and Armenia, China, Croatia, Ukraine, and
Uruguay showed a nonnegligible decline in individual-
ist values. Also, several countries did not change much
over time (see Supplementary Analyses in the Supple-
mental Material). The fact that most of the countries
that did not show an increase in individualist values
were among the lowest in socioeconomic development
over the time period examined is consistent with the
observation that socioeconomic development drove the
rise in individualism. China is an exception to this pat-
tern, showing a decrease in individualist values even
though the country has experienced economic growth.
Notably, China has a complex socioeconomic history,
so it will be worthwhile to investigate this country in
more detail in future research.
In the current work, cultural changes in individualism-
collectivism were viewed mostly as evoked responses;
that is, we conceptualized environmental cues or condi-
tions as leading to adaptive behavioral and psychologi-
cal responses. However, cultural transmission likely
played a role in the phenomena we observed. That is,
changes in how individuals interact with one another
may lead to shifts in norms and institutions that reflect
and promote an individualist orientation. The notion
that cultural transmission is involved in cultural changes
in individualism-collectivism is consistent with Newson
and Richerson’s (2009) proposal that close interaction
with kin promotes social learning about reproductive
fitness. They argued that the transmission of this infor-
mation encourages traditional and collectivist values.
In this view, individualism should increase with the rise
of modern economies because they lead to greater
contact with nonkin relative to kin. An important future
direction in the study of cultural change will be inte-
grating theory and research on cultural evolution,
which tend to focus on processes of cultural transmis-
sion, with work (such as the present study) on how
specific ecological changes may lead to specific pat-
terns of cultural change.
Before concluding, we consider some caveats. First,
the present study focused on the role of relatively prox-
imal ecological factors in promoting changes in
individualism-collectivism. Researchers have also
advanced several distal historical explanations of varia-
tions in individualism-collectivism, including explana-
tions hinging on modes of subsistence (e.g., Talhelm
etal., 2014) and migration to frontiers (Kitayama etal.,
2010). Ecological factors might drive such trends or
mediate their effects on individualism-collectivism. A
key future direction in studying cultural change will
involve theoretical or modeling-based (cf. Oishi &
Kesebir, 2012) integration of proximal and distal expla-
nations. Further, though our study focused on overall
shifts in common features of individualism-collectivism
over time, some aspects of individualism may deviate
b = 0.02**, SE = 0.002
(b = 0.003, SE = 0.003)
b = 0.02**, SE = 0.004
(b = 0.02*, SE = 0.005)
Values or Practices
b = 0.46**, SE = 0.09
b = 0.59**, SE = 0.04
b = 0.03**, SE = 0.001
b = 0.03**, SE = 0.0003
Fig. 4. Indirect effect of time on individualist values (solid lines) and practices (dashed
lines) 10 years later as mediated by socioeconomic development. The values in parentheses
show the relationship between time and individualism after controlling for socioeconomic
development. Asterisks indicate significant coefficients (*p < .01, **p < .001).
1238 Santos et al.
from these general patterns (Hamamura, 2012; Kashima,
2014; Kitayama etal., 2010). Indeed, there is emerging
evidence that individualism-collectivism may be more
multifaceted than previously believed (Vignoles etal.,
2016). Moreover, we had a limited number of data
points available per country, and our analyses were
constrained to linear models of change. With the pros-
pect of greater availability of cross-temporal data, future
work may explore more fine-grained models integrating
social ecology and a multifaceted individualism-
collectivism construct. These methodological advances
will make the study of cultural change an exciting sci-
entific endeavor in the years ahead.
Action Editor
Ayse K. Uskul served as action editor for this article.
Author Contributions
I. Grossmann developed the study concept. All the authors
contributed to the study design. Data analysis was conducted
by H. C. Santos under the supervision of I. Grossmann. H. C.
Santos and I. Grossmann drafted the manuscript, and M. E. W.
Varnum provided critical revisions. All the authors approved
the final version of the manuscript for submission.
We thank Sylvia Cheng, Jacklyn Koyama, and Reanne Howard
for providing research assistance.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with
respect to their authorship or the publication of this article.
Work on this manuscript was supported by Insight Grant
435-2014-0685 from the Social Sciences and Humanities
Research Council of Canada to I. Grossmann.
Supplemental Material
Additional supporting information can be found at http://
Open Practices
All code and data have been made publicly available at the Open
Science framework and can be accessed at The
complete Open Practices Disclosure for this article can be
found at
797617700622. This article has received the badge for Open Data.
More information about the Open Practices badges can be found
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Introduction Parental phubbing refers to the act of parents using mobile phones in the presence of their children instead of engaging with them. With increasing smartphone use in many households, parental phubbing is a potential threat to children’s healthy development. This meta-analysis synthesized the existing evidence on the impact of parental phubbing on children’s social-emotional development to examine the effect sizes and identify the moderators. Methods Following the PRISMA guidelines, we conducted a systematic search across multiple electronic databases (Web of Science, EBSCO, ProQuest, Springer, and China National Knowledge Infrastructure) from 2012 to May 2023. Our search included both English and Chinese literature, encompassing published journal articles as well as thesis. To assess the risk of bias, we utilized the Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies. Publication bias was evaluated using funnel plot interpretation and Egger’s regression intercept. Results Our comprehensive search identified 42 studies with 56,275 children and 59 effect sizes. A random-effects meta-analysis revealed that parental phubbing was positively associated with children’s internalizing problems (r = 0.270; 95% CI [0.234, 0.304]) and externalizing problems (r = 0.210; 95% CI [0.154, 0.264]), while negatively correlated with children’s self-concept (r = −0.206; 95% CI [−0.244, −0.168]) and social-emotional competence (r = −0.162; 95% CI [−0.207, −0.120]). Furthermore, the parental phubbing group moderated the association between parental phubbing and internalizing problems, when both parents engage in phubbing, there is a stronger association with children’s externalizing problems compared to when only one parent is engaging in phubbing. Discussion The findings of this meta-analysis provide strong evidence supporting the detrimental effects of parental phubbing on child social-emotional adjustment. Consequently, parents, researchers, and the government must collaborate to mitigate parental phubbing and promote the healthy development of children’s social-emotional abilities.
... Those aspects are interrelated. Economic prosperity fosters individualism, independence, and self-focus, while economic hardship demands interdependence and humility and emphasizes communal values (Greenfield, 2009;Santos et al., 2017). ...
Which domain-specific self-evaluations are most central to children’s global self-worth? And does this differ between countries with different levels of collectivism–individualism? We conducted a preregistered cross-cultural meta-analysis to address these questions. We included 141 independent samples (21 countries/regions, 584 cross-sectional effect sizes), totaling 33,120 participants in middle to late childhood, a critical age for self-worth development. Overall, global self-worth was most strongly correlated with self-evaluations in the domain of physical appearance ( r = .64), followed by behavioral conduct, peer relations, academic competence, athletic competence, and parent relations ( rs = .39 to .54). Global self-worth was equally strongly correlated with agentic and communal self-evaluations ( r = .51 and .52, respectively). The strength of these associations did not vary significantly by country-level collectivism–individualism. These findings reveal the robust correlates of self-worth across cultures and raise important new questions about when and how culture shapes the development of children’s global self-worth.
One of the key sociological aspects of the transformation of Central and Eastern Europe after communism was a shift from collectivistic to individualistic orientations. This article observes trends in individualism, operationalized as self-orientation, in Poland and Germany, with the latter further dissected into western and eastern part of the country. While western Germany was originally contrasted with former communist countries in this respect, a growing and stable convergence was later generally assumed. This is verified in the form of a lagged comparison between two birth cohorts, one that reached adulthood in the late 1980s and another born at that time. Data from the German Socio-Economic Panel along with two complementary Polish surveys are used in the analysis. The results show no presumed linear convergence in individualism and instead a consistent “post-individualistic” turn led by western Germany. This trend is less pronounced in women as there seem to be counterbalancing processes at play.
In this chapter, I narrate a real corporate story about the American telecommunications company, Pacific Bell in the 1980s. This choice is based on the organizational changes they implemented in the 1980s, reflecting societal changes in transitioning from modernity to late modernity. There was a shift from focusing on work and work identity to focusing on individual and personal identity. I will explain how the language of work in companies, particularly Pacific Bell, changed from a fundamental, unambiguously work-oriented language to a more abstract management-oriented one. These changes led to communication gaps between managers and employees and organizational inefficiencies.
Phil-Suk Kim and Yun-Suk Lee examines the changes in familism in South Korea. They found that the support for traditional family values that prioritize the whole family over individual family members gradually weakened through the decades. Moreover, they found significant gender and generation gaps in familism; women are more likely to disagree with traditional family values and expectations of having a son, but older people tended to strongly agree with these attitudes than younger people.
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Although the individualism–collectivism dimension is usually examined in a U.S. versus Asian context, there is variation within the United States. The authors created an eight-item index ranking states in terms of collectivist versus individualist tendencies. As predicted, collectivist tendencies were strongest in the Deep South, and individualist tendencies were strongest in the Mountain West and Great Plains. In Part 2, convergent validity for the index was obtained by showing that state collectivism scores predicted variation in individual attitudes, as measured by a national survey. In Part 3, the index was used to explore the relationship between individualism–collectivism and a variety of demographic, economic, cultural, and health-related variables. The index may be used to complement traditional measures of collectivism and individualism and may be of use to scholars seeking a construct to account for unique U.S. regional variation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Markus and Kitayama's (1991) theory of independent and interdependent self-construals had a major influence on social, personality, and developmental psychology by highlighting the role of culture in psychological processes. However, research has relied excessively on contrasts between North American and East Asian samples, and commonly used self-report measures of independence and interdependence frequently fail to show predicted cultural differences. We revisited the conceptualization and measurement of independent and interdependent self-construals in 2 large-scale multinational surveys, using improved methods for cross-cultural research. We developed (Study 1: N = 2924 students in 16 nations) and validated across cultures (Study 2: N = 7279 adults from 55 cultural groups in 33 nations) a new 7-dimensional model of self-reported ways of being independent or interdependent. Patterns of global variation support some of Markus and Kitayama's predictions, but a simple contrast between independence and interdependence does not adequately capture the diverse models of selfhood that prevail in different world regions. Cultural groups emphasize different ways of being both independent and interdependent, depending on individualism-collectivism, national socioeconomic development, and religious heritage. Our 7-dimensional model will allow future researchers to test more accurately the implications of cultural models of selfhood for psychological processes in diverse ecocultural contexts. (PsycINFO Database Record
Çiğdem Kağitçibaşi's influential volume was a work of masterful scholarship and field-defining thought that challenged the existing assumptions in mainstream western psychology about the nature of individuals. During the past two decades since its publication, cultural and cross-cultural research and theory on the self, family, and human development have expanded greatly, developing fruitfully from the basic issues and paradigms Kağitçibaşi explored. This Classic Edition provides a critical assessment, consideration, and reflection of recent scholarship in this field. It brings this essential work up to date and appraises it in the light of current prevailing perspectives.
The authors of this article, who are also the guest editors for this issue on multilevel analysis, give an overview and brief history of multilevel analysis and present the following four research articles. Multilevel Analysis - Overview. Methods. History.
Continuing a long-standing trend in the U.S. Social Security Administration database of first names (N = 358 million), American parents were less likely to choose common names for their children between 2004 and 2015, including the years of the Great Recession (2008–2010). These trends were similar in California (severely affected by the recession) and Texas (less affected). Over a longer time period (1901–2015), cyclical economic indicators were either not correlated with common names (e.g., stock market performance) or worse economic times predicted fewer common names. The results are consistent with increasing individualism, with limited support for the idea that economic threat leads people to embrace uniqueness and no real support for the idea that economic deprivation leads to more communal name choices.