ArticlePDF Available

In Search of East Asian Self-Enhancement

Authors:

Abstract

A meta-analysis of published cross-cultural studies of self-enhancement reveals pervasive and pronounced differences between East Asians and Westerners. Across 91 comparisons, the average cross-cultural effect was d = .84. The effect emerged in all 30 methods, except for comparisons of implicit self-esteem. Within cultures, Westerners showed a clear self-serving bias (d = .87), whereas East Asians did not (d = -.01), with Asian Americans falling in between (d = .52). East Asians did self-enhance in the methods that involved comparing themselves to average but were self-critical in other methods. It was hypothesized that this inconsistency could be explained in that these methods are compromised by the "everyone is better than their group's average effect" (EBTA). Supporting this rationale, studies that were implicated by the EBTA reported significantly larger self-enhancement effect for all cultures compared to other studies. Overall, the evidence converges to show that East Asians do not self-enhance.
http://psr.sagepub.com
Personality and Social Psychology Review
DOI: 10.1177/1088868306294587
2007; 11; 4 Pers Soc Psychol Rev
Steven J. Heine and Takeshi Hamamura
In Search of East Asian Self-Enhancement
http://psr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/11/1/4
The online version of this article can be found at:
Published by:
http://www.sagepublications.com
On behalf of:
Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
can be found at:Personality and Social Psychology Review Additional services and information for
http://psr.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Email Alerts:
http://psr.sagepub.com/subscriptions Subscriptions:
http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.navReprints:
http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.navPermissions:
http://psr.sagepub.com/cgi/content/refs/11/1/4
SAGE Journals Online and HighWire Press platforms):
(this article cites 104 articles hosted on the Citations
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
4
In Search of East Asian Self-Enhancement
Steven J. Heine
Takeshi Hamamura
University of British Columbia, Canada
oneself and positive words than between oneself and
negative words (Greenwald & Farnham, 2000). The
importance of self-enhancement motivations to the field
is evident in that these motivations have been integral to
theories regarding a wide array of human behavior, for
example, prejudice (e.g., Noel, Wann, & Branscombe,
1995), aggression (Baumeister, Smart, & Boden, 1996),
relationships (e.g., Murray, Holmes, & Griffin, 1996),
mental health (e.g., Taylor & Brown, 1988), self-efficacy
(DiPaula & Campbell, 2002), and cognitive dissonance
(Steele, Spencer, & Lynch, 1993), to name a few.
The apparent ubiquity of the self-enhancement motive
has led to various discussions and theories regarding its
adaptive significance. For example, Barkow (1989) sub-
mitted that self-esteem was selected to serve as a gauge of
subtle changes of the individual’s status within dominance
hierarchies. Terror management theory (Pyszczynski,
Greenberg, & Solomon, 2004) posits that the self-
enhancement motive emerged as an adaptation that serves
to stave off the debilitating existential anxieties that come
from our fears of our own mortality. Leary and colleagues
(e.g., Leary & Baumeister, 2000) proposed that self-
esteem is an adaptation that functions as an indicator to
detect when our social relationships with others are vul-
nerable. These divergent theories share a common theme:
The pervasive tendencies for people to view themselves
positively must serve to increase our fitness, especially
Authors’ Note: This research was funded by grants from the National
Institute of Mental Health (R01 MH060155-01A2) and the Social
Sciences and Humanities Research Council (410-2004-0795). We
would like to thank the members of the Culture and Self Lab for their
insightful comments on this work. Please address correspondence to
Steven J. Heine, Department of Psychology, University of British
Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4 Canada; e-mail:
heine@psych.ubc.ca.
PSPR, Vol. 11 No. 1, February 2007 4-27
DOI: 10.1177/1088868306294587
© 2007 by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.
A meta-analysis of published cross-cultural studies of
self-enhancement reveals pervasive and pronounced dif-
ferences between East Asians and Westerners. Across
91 comparisons, the average cross-cultural effect was
d = .84. The effect emerged in all 30 methods, except for
comparisons of implicit self-esteem. Within cultures,
Westerners showed a clear self-serving bias (d = .87),
whereas East Asians did not (d = –.01), with Asian
Americans falling in between (d = .52). East Asians did
self-enhance in the methods that involved comparing
themselves to average but were self-critical in other
methods. It was hypothesized that this inconsistency
could be explained in that these methods are compro-
mised by the “everyone is better than their group’s aver-
age effect” (EBTA). Supporting this rationale, studies
that were implicated by the EBTA reported significantly
larger self-enhancement effect for all cultures compared
to other studies. Overall, the evidence converges to
show that East Asians do not self-enhance.
Keywords: culture/ethnicity; self-presentation; self/identity
T
he notion that people are motivated to view them-
selves positively, that is, to self-enhance, is one of the
most widely embraced assumptions regarding the self-
concept (e.g., James, 1890/1950; Maslow, 1943; Rogers,
1951; Taylor & Brown, 1988). Decades of research with
Western participants document that this is a deeply
rooted and pervasive motivation. Evidence for self-
enhancement, operationalized as tendencies to dwell on
and elaborate positive information about the self relative
to negative information, has emerged in a variety of
diverse methods, such as tendencies to recall information
about successes better than failures (Crary, 1966), ten-
dencies to think of oneself as better than average (Alicke,
Klotz, Breitenbecher, Yurak, & Vredenburg, 1995), and
tendencies to have stronger implicit associations between
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
given the potential costs that individuals must sometimes
bear for holding these motivations (e.g., Baumeister et al.,
1996; Paulhus, 1998).
However, discerning the adaptive significance of any
psychological process is rendered more difficult if the
process shows evidence for systematic cross-cultural
variability. Cross-cultural variation in the manifestation
of a psychological process suggests that theories regard-
ing that process’s universality or adaptive significance
need to be targeted at a different level of analysis
(Norenzayan & Heine, 2005). There recently has been
much research suggesting that self-enhancing motiva-
tions might be weaker, if not largely absent, among
people of East Asian descent (specifically, those that par-
ticipate in Confucian cultures, such as Chinese, Koreans,
and Japanese) compared with Westerners (e.g., Heine,
Lehman, Markus, & Kitayama, 1999; Kitayama,
Markus, Matsumoto, & Norasakkunkit, 1997; Markus
& Kitayama, 1991). This research has emerged from a
research tradition in cultural psychology that maintains
culture is implicated in psychological processes at a far
more fundamental level than what was previously con-
sidered (e.g., Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Nisbett, Peng,
Choi, & Norenzayan, 2001). The most common pattern
of results identified by this research is that Westerners
self-enhance significantly more than East Asians and
that Westerners show a clear tendency for self-enhance-
ment, whereas East Asians do not. For example, the false
uniqueness effect, where people view themselves as
uniquely talented, finds clear support with Americans
but not with Japanese (e.g., Markus & Kitayama, 1991).
Likewise, whereas American students tend to evaluate
themselves more positively than they are evaluated by
others, Japanese students view themselves significantly
less positively than they are viewed by others (Heine &
Renshaw, 2002).
Findings such as these have led some researchers to
pose theories that self-enhancement motivations might
not be psychological universals at the level that they are
typically conceptualized. Rather, Heine and colleagues
(Heine, 2005a, 2005b; Heine et al., 1999; Norenzayan &
Heine, 2005) have suggested that the search for universals
needs to be directed at a different level; that is, perhaps
people universally have a desire to be viewed as appropri-
ate, good, and significant in their own culture. However,
this common underlying motivation may be expressed in
Western contexts as a desire for self-esteem and in East
Asian cultural contexts as a desire for maintaining face.
A clear challenge to this notion that the self-enhance-
ment motive manifests differently across cultures comes
from studies that do not find this general pattern of an
absence of self-enhancement among East Asians. For
example, Heine and Lehman (1995) identified a highly
pronounced unrealistic optimism bias among Japanese in
two studies when they made estimates of the relative like-
lihood that they would experience a list of future negative
life events (although an optimism bias was not evident
among Japanese with the other measures in those studies).
Kurman (2001) found a clear tendency for Singaporeans
to rate themselves as better than the average student
from their school with respect to a list of traits. Brown
and Kobayashi (2002) and Sedikides, Gaertner, and
Toguchi (2003) have also found evidence for a strong self-
enhancing bias among Japanese using a similar method.
Hence, although much research with East Asians fails to
identify self-enhancing motivations, or find pronounced
self-critical tendencies, some studies do find striking evi-
dence for East Asian self-enhancement. These findings for
East Asian self-enhancement have been interpreted by
some as providing evidence that the self-enhancement
motive is a universal concern (e.g., Brown & Kobayashi,
2002) and have been used as a springboard for discussions
of the evidence for the heritability of self-enhancement or
for theories regarding the adaptive significance of this
motivation (see Sedikides et al., 2003).
The inconsistent pattern of results that these different
studies reveal warrants further consideration. The notion
that the self-enhancement motive is not as strong in East
Asia is important given the centrality of this motive to
Western social psychology. To the extent that this cul-
tural variability is robust and reliable, it suggests that an
understanding of self-enhancing motivations must also
hinge on cultural variables that are more pronounced in
the West than in East Asia (for a review, see Heine,
2003). The existence of a contradictory pattern of
results, however, should give us pause in evaluating the
question of cultural diversity in motivations.
One alternative account that has emerged in the litera-
ture is that the cultural differences in self-enhancement
are artifacts because of Western biases in the selection
of domains that have been studied (e.g., Brown &
Kobayashi, 2002; Heine et al., 1999; Heine & Lehman,
1999; Kobayashi & Brown, 2003; Sedikides et al., 2003;
Sedikides, Gaertner, & Vevea, 2005). Specifically, this
explanation suggests that East Asians have strong self-
enhancing motivations; however, it is evident only in
domains that are of sufficient importance to them. One
reason why studies rarely find evidence of East Asian self-
enhancement, therefore, could be that researchers have
tended to fail to ask East Asians about what really matters
to them. Although much other research contradicts this
alternative explanation (i.e., East Asians show less evi-
dence of self-enhancement in domains that are more
important to them; e.g., Heine, Kitayama, Lehman,
Takata, et al., 2001; Heine & Lehman, 1999; Heine &
Renshaw, 2002; Kitayama et al., 1997), some studies find
that East Asians self-enhance more in domains that are of
especial importance to them (e.g., Brown & Kobayashi,
Heine, Hamamura / EAST ASIAN SELF-ENHANCEMENT 5
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
6 PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY REVIEW
2002; Ito, 1999; Kobayashi & Brown, 2003; see Sedikides
et al., 2003, for parallel results with Americans). The
apparently incompatible results of these studies have led
to a conflicting series of articles with bold titles such as
“Is There a Universal Need for Positive Self-Regard?”
(Heine et al., 1999), “The Self-Enhancement Motive in
Collectivistic Cultures: The Rumors of My Death Have
Been Greatly Exaggerated” (Brown, 2003), “Pancultural
Self-Enhancement” (Sedikides et al., 2003), “Where Is the
Evidence for Pancultural Self-Enhancement?” (Heine,
2005b), and “Pancultural Self-Enhancement Reloaded”
(Sedikides et al., 2005). A controversy, thus, has arisen in
the literature.
At present, therefore, when considering the question
of whether East Asians self-enhance, we are left with a
puzzling picture of some studies that find evidence in sup-
port of this and some studies that do not. Thus far, there
has been no explanation offered for why East Asians self-
enhance in some designs and not in others or for evaluat-
ing the validity of the different experimental designs.
We reasoned that in investigating the question of
whether East Asians self-enhance, it is necessary to review
the entire published database on this topic. Such a review
would provide the potential of identifying patterns of East
Asians’ self-enhancement that might emerge with the dif-
ferent methods that have been explored in past research.
META-ANALYSIS OF CROSS-CULTURAL
STUDIES OF SELF-ENHANCEMENT
Inclusion Criteria
We conducted a meta-analysis of the published cross-
cultural studies that have been conducted on self-
enhancement between Westerners and East Asians. We
entered the terms Asian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, or
Asian-American and self-esteem, optimism, self-serving
biases, self-discrepancies, or self-enhancement into
PsycINFO and retrieved all of the articles that made it
clear in the abstract that they were contrasting Western-
ers and East Asians on a measure of self-enhancement.
The literature search was conducted in July of 2005.
Studies that are not included in this review are those
that were conducted within a single culture as they do
not allow us to investigate effect sizes regarding cultural
differences.
A number of the studies include samples of East
Asians who were living in the West at the time. There
are good theoretical reasons to examine this group sep-
arately from the other cultural groups of East Asians
living in East Asia and Westerners living in the West, as
this sample would seem to have exposure to both East
Asian and Western cultural influences. Indeed, much
acculturation research demonstrates that with time
spent in a new culture, people come to adopt the ways
of thinking of the host culture (e.g., Heine & Lehman,
2004; Kitayama, Duffy, & Kawamura, 2003).
Moreover, recent research reveals that when people are
primed with ideas from Western culture, they are more
likely to think in Western ways (e.g., Hong, Morris,
Chiu, & Benet-Martinez, 2000; A. Y. Lee, Aaker, &
Gardner, 2000). It would seem that living in a Western
culture at the time of the study would expose individu-
als to an abundant source of Western primes. For the
sake of expositional clarity, we refer to the East Asians
living in East Asia as East Asians, the East Asians living
in the West as Asian Americans, and the Westerners liv-
ing in the West as Westerners, although we recognize
that each of these labels has its own shortcomings.
Calculations of Effects
The effect size calculated was d, which represents the
standardized mean difference between two samples. In
most of the studies, we were able to obtain sufficient
information from the original articles to calculate d. In
those that did not, we contacted the authors of the arti-
cles to request it, and if they were unable to provide it,
we estimated the standard deviations either from
reported t or F values with degrees of freedom or from
other studies that use comparable methods. Mean dif-
ferences between two cultural groups were standardized
by pooled within-culture standard deviations (Morris &
DeShon, 2002). Each of the calculations for d was
checked by both authors. In all studies, a positive value
for d for the between-culture analyses indicates that the
“more Western” group self-enhanced more than the
“more East Asian” group, and a negative value for d
indicates that the more East Asian group self-enhanced
more than the more Western group.
In studies that allowed us to calculate an effect size
for self-enhancement within cultures, a positive value for
d indicates self-enhancement and a negative value indi-
cates self-criticism. Some of the within-culture effects for
self-enhancement were derived from between-subject
comparisons (e.g., experiment and control groups) and
some were derived from within-subject comparisons
(e.g., rating of self and average student). Mean differ-
ences were standardized by pooled standard deviations
both for the between-subject and within-subject designs
(Morris & DeShon, 2002).
Effect sizes were weighted and aggregated by a ran-
dom effect model, with the software program Compre-
hensive Meta-Analysis (Borenstein & Rothstein, 1999).
With a random effect model, each study in the meta-
analysis is seen as a random observation of a population
of studies; in this case, cross-cultural studies of self-
enhancement. Hence, a random effect model allows us
to generalize the findings of the meta-analysis not just to
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
those studies that are included in the meta-analysis but
also to any studies that are drawn from the same popu-
lation of studies (Rosenthal, 1995).
Aggregated effect sizes were followed up by test for
moderator variables. This analysis was carried out by
categorizing effect sizes and then comparing their effect
sizes. The analysis was conducted by computing hetero-
geneity statistics (Q
b
) that have a chi-square distribution
with p – 1 degree of freedom, where p is the number of
groups being compared (Hedges & Becker, 1986). This
analysis indicates the extent to which categories differ
from one another, a procedure analogous to that of a
t test or ANOVA.
RESULTS
A total of 131 cross-cultural effect sizes and 101
within-culture effect sizes involving more than 33,000
participants and using 31 different methods met these
criteria and were included in the meta-analysis. The
appendix provides a brief description of the different
kinds of methods employed in those studies.
Cross-Cultural Effect Sizes
The effect sizes for the individual studies and the
different methods are summarized in Table 1. Cohen
(1988) offered the conventions that effect sizes less than
.4 are considered small, .4 to .7 are moderate, and those
greater than .7 are large. Large effects, he noted, are rel-
atively rare in psychological studies.
First, we considered the effect sizes for the individual
studies for the two cultural groups that are most repre-
sented in the literature: East Asians versus Westerners.
These effects are presented in a funnel plot in Figure 1.
The weighted average effect across all 91 comparisons
was d = .84 (see Table 2). Of the 91 cross-cultural com-
parisons, 88 were in the direction of Westerners’ self-
enhancing more than East Asians. Of these 88 effects,
53 were large in size, 28 were moderate, and 7 were
small. Eighty-five of these 88 effect sizes were statisti-
cally significant, or the corresponding Z value exceeded
1.96. Three effect sizes were in the negative direction,
and 1 of them was statistically significant.
1
Looking
across methods, the effects were positive for 29 of the 30
different methods. The 1 method that yielded a negative
effect size (although nonsignificant) was comparisons of
implicit self-esteem using the Implicit Associations Test
(Greenwald & Farnham, 2000). The shape of the fun-
nel plot in Figure 1 does not suggest a publication bias
for studies that find cultural differences (i.e., a publica-
tion bias would be indicated by an asymmetrical funnel
and by a trend of the average effect size dropping as
sample size increased). Furthermore, we conducted a
file drawer analysis to determine how many studies that
were not included in the current meta-analysis would
need to be included for the overall effect size to become
statistically insignificant, known as the fail-safe N
(Rosenthal, 1991). In the present meta-analysis, the fail-
safe N was 89,879, which is highly unlikely. In sum,
cultural differences in self-enhancement between East
Asians living in Asia and Westerners living in the West
tend to be large and consistently observed.
Examining the cross-cultural comparisons between
the Asian Americans and the other two cultural groups
revealed substantial evidence that this sample does
occupy an intermediate position. In 14 of the 16 com-
parisons that included all three cultural groups, the
degree of self-enhancement among Asian Americans fell
in between that of the other two samples. Of the 22
contrasts between Asian Americans and Westerners, 18
revealed evidence for greater self-enhancement among
the Westerners (of which 12 were statistically signifi-
cant). The average effect size between these two groups
was d = .33. Of the 18 contrasts between Asian
Americans and East Asians, all revealed greater self-
enhancement among Asian Americans (average d = .45).
Among the 18 effect sizes, 11 were statistically signifi-
cant. Asian Americans, thus, appear to fall intermediate
to East Asians and Westerners in terms of their self-
enhancing motivations and are slightly closer to the
Western mean than to the East Asian one.
Within-Culture Effect Sizes
Table 1 also provides the effect sizes from within
each cultural group. We cannot calculate effect sizes
within each cultural group for the measures that do
not have a clear benchmark with which to compare
(e.g., dispositional measures). The within-culture effects
demonstrate the strength of self-enhancing and self-
critical motivations within each culture. These effects
are presented in funnel plots in Figure 2.
First, we can consider the question of whether
Westerners self-enhance. The evidence for Western
self-enhancement is quite clear, as 45 of the 48 studies
yielded a positive effect, of which 44 were statistically
significant. In 1 of the studies, there was no effect, and
in 2, there were nonsignificantly negative effects (both
ds = –.10). The weighted average self-enhancement
effect across all 48 comparisons yielded a strong effect
of d = .87. In sum, we can claim with confidence that
Westerners tend to self-enhance, and they do so rather
consistently across methods. Such a conclusion is, of
course, in line with what much of the Western literature
on self-enhancement has been maintaining for some
time (e.g., Dunning, 1995; Taylor & Brown, 1988).
Heine, Hamamura / EAST ASIAN SELF-ENHANCEMENT 7
(text continues on p. 15)
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
8
TABLE 1: Effect Sizes (d) From Cross-Cultural Studies of Self-Enhancement
Studies That Contrast Measures of Self-Enhancing Biases
Cross- Cross- Cross-cultural
East Asian in Cultural Effect Cultural Effect effect (Asian East Asian
East Asian North America (Westerners– (Westerners– Americans–East Asian American Western
Article Sample and n Sample and n Western Sample and n East Asians) Asian Americans) Asians) Bias Bias Bias
Better-than-average effect (BAE) studies
Brown & Kobayashi, 23 Japanese college 28 Asian American 35 Euro-American .63 .47 .19 .75 1.16 1.94
2002 (Study 1) students college students college students
Crystal, 1999 166 Japanese elementary 169 American elementary .74 .23 .98
school students school students
Endo, Heine, & Lehman, 222 Japanese college 111 Asian Canadian 98 Euro-Canadian 1.25 .14 1.08 –.94 .22 .35
2000 (Study 2) students college students college students
Heine & Lehman, 1999 161 Japanese college 151 Asian Canadian 90 Euro-Canadian .81 .60 .23 –.31 –.09 .52
students college students college students
Kobayashi & 54 Japanese college 59 American college .49
a
.80 1.86
Brown, 2003 students students
Kurman, 2001 (Study 1) 143 Singaporean 129 Israeli Jewish .20 1.20 1.74
college students college students
Kurman, 2001 (Study 2) 115 Singaporean high 144 Israeli Jewish high .31 .75 1.22
school students school students
Kurman, 2003 243 Singaporean high 227 Secular Israeli high .70 .54 1.60
(Study 1a) school students school students
Kurman, 2003 155 Singaporean 144 Israeli college 1.13 .46 1.94
(Study 1b) college students students
Kurman & Sriram, 130 Singaporean high 144 Urban Israeli high .80 .38 1.18
2002 school students school students
Sedikides, Gaertner, & 40 Japanese college 40 American college –.08 .82 1.07
Toguchi, 2003 students in students in
(Study 1) United States United States
Weighted average BAE .71 .29 .52 .38 .50 1.31
False uniqueness effects
Heine, Kitayama, & 76 Japanese college 58 Euro-Canadian .97
b
–.47 .52
Lehman, 2001 students college students
Heine & Lehman, 82 Japanese college 44 Asian Canadian 75 Euro-Canadian 1.43 .46 .92 .30 1.22 1.89
1997 (Study 1) students college students college students
Markus & Kitayama, Japanese college students American college students 1.08
c
.04 1.21
1991 (estimated at 100) (estimated at 100)
Norasakkunkit & 150 Asian American 135 Euro-American .55 .63 1.36
Kalick, 2002 college students college students
Weighted average false uniqueness 1.16 .53 .92 –.04 .91 1.25
Relative likelihood optimism bias for positive events
Chang, Asakawa, & 241 Japanese college 236 Euro-American .44 –.44 .00
Sanna, 2001 (Study 1) students college students
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
9
Chang, Asakawa, & 249 Japanese college 220 Euro-American .39 –.49 –.10
Sanna, 2001 (Study 2) students college students
Chang & Asakawa, 160 Japanese college 140 Euro-American .50 .03 .65
2003 (Study 1) students college students
Chang & Asakawa, 133 Japanese college 181 Euro-American .51 –.08 .44
2003 (Study 2) students college students
Heine & Lehman, 196 Japanese college 90 Euro-Canadian 1.34 .02 1.12
1995 (Study 1) students college students
Weighted average relative likelihood optimism for positive events .63 –.20 .42
Relative likelihood optimism bias for negative events
Chang, Asakawa, & 241 Japanese college 236 Euro-American .57 .42 .95
Sanna, 2001 (Study 1) students college students
Chang, Asakawa, & 249 Japanese college 220 Euro-American .88 .22 1.10
Sanna, 2001 (Study 2) students college students
Chang & Asakawa, 160 Japanese college 140 Euro-American .99 –.63 .36
2003 (Study 1) students college students
Chang & Asakawa, 133 Japanese college 181 Euro-American .67 –.43 .24
2003 (Study 2) students college students
Heine & Lehman, 196 Japanese college 90 Euro-Canadian .65 1.15 1.81
1995 (Study 1) students college students
Heine & Lehman, 105 Japanese college 110 Euro-Canadian 1.18 .78 1.78
1995 (Study 2) students college students
Ji, Zhang, Usborne, & 104 Chinese college 35 Euro-Canadian –.49 1.22 .61
Guan, 2004 students college students
Weighted average relative likelihood optimism for negative events .66 .39 .98
Absolute likelihood optimism bias for positive events
Heine & Lehman, 1995 196 Japanese college 90 Euro-Canadian .91 .15 .63
(Study 1) students college students
Absolute likelihood optimism bias for negative events
Heine & Lehman, 1995 196 Japanese college 90 Euro-Canadian .52 –.01 .34
(Study 1) students college students
Heine & Lehman, 1995 105 Japanese college 110 Euro-Canadian 2.21 –1.20 .45
(Study 2) students college students
Ji, Zhang, Usborne, & 104 Chinese college 35 Euro-Canadian .20 .27 .18
Guan, 2004 students college students
Weighted average absolute likelihood optimism for negative events .98 –.31 .37
Internal (ability) attributions for successes and failures
Anderson, 1999 198 Chinese college 193 American .60 –.18 .42
students college students
Endo & Meijer, 2004 35 Japanese college 37 American .65 .50 1.45
(Study 2) students college students
Weighted average internal attributions for successes and failures .61 .14 .93
(continued)
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
10
TABLE 1: (continued)
Studies That Contrast Measures of Self-Enhancing Biases
Cross- Cross- Cross-cultural
East Asian in Cultural Effect Cultural Effect effect (Asian East Asian
East Asian North America (Westerners– (Westerners– Americans–East Asian American Western
Article Sample and n Sample and n Western Sample and n East Asians) Asian Americans) Asians) Bias Bias Bias
Influence of success and failure on self-esteem
Kitayama, Markus, 63 Japanese college 88 Japanese 102 American .86 .60 .23 –.41 –.18 .44
Matsumoto, & students exchange college students
Norasakkunkit, students
1997 (Study 1)
Kitayama, Markus, 143 Japanese college 124 American .49 –.30 .19
Matsumoto, & students college students
Norasakkunkit,
1997 (Study 2)
Kurman, 2003 104 Japanese college 105 Israeli 1.70 –.49 1.23
(Study 1c) students college students
Kurman, Yoshihara- 106 Japanese college 104 Israeli 1.94 –.58 1.37
Tanaka, & Elkoshi, students college students
2003
Weighted average influence of success and failure on self-esteem 1.24 .60 .23 –.44 –.18 .81
Academic self-enhancement
Kurman, 2001 (Study 1) 143 Singaporean 129 Israeli Jewish .82 –.54 .29
college students college students
Kurman, 2001 (Study 2) 115 Singaporean high 144 Israeli Jewish high .94 –.65 .27
school students school students
Kurman, 2003 (Study 1a) 243 Singaporean high 227 Secular Israeli high .48 .42 .96
school students school students
Kurman, 2003 (Study 1b) 155 Singaporean 144 Israeli college .51 .68 1.28
college students students
Kurman, 2003 (Study 1c) 104 Japanese college 105 Israeli 1.02 –.04 1.16
students college students
Weighted average academic self-enhancement .74 –.02 .79
Persistence following success or failure
Heine, Kitayama, 76 Japanese college 58 Euro-Canadian 1.48 –.80 .70
Lehman, Takata, et al., students college students
2001 (Study 1)
Heine, Kitayama, 84 Japanese college 64 Euro-American 1.29 –.82 .47
Lehman, Takata, et al., students college students
2001 (Study 2)
Weighted average persistence following success or failure 1.38 –.81 .59
Self–peer evaluations
Heine & Renshaw, 2002 50 Japanese college 58 American 1.06 –.70 .33
students college students
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
11
Amount of information necessary to evaluate performance
Heine, Takata, & 80 Japanese college 95 Euro-Canadian .82 –.46 .34
Lehman, 2000 students college students
Memories for successes and failures
Endo & Meijer, 77 Japanese college 100 American 1.09 –.17 .92
2004 (Study 1) students college students
Compensatory self-enhancement
Heine, Kitayama, & 76 Japanese college 58 Euro-Canadian .54 –.59 –.10
Lehman, 2001 students college students
Studies That Compare Dispositional Measures
Cross- Cross- Cross-Cultural
Cultural Effect Cultural Effect Effect (Asian
East Asian in North (Westerners– (Westerners– Americans–East
Article East Asian Sample and n America Sample and n Western Sample and n East Asians) Asian Americans) Asians)
Rosenberg Self-Esteem
Abe, 2004 161 Japanese college students 165 American college students .63
Bush, 2000 480 Chinese high school students 419 American high school students .45
Campbell et al., 1996 365 Japanese college students 283 Euro-Canadian college students .77
d
Chung & Mallery, 1999-2000 157 Chinese college students 78 American college students 1.38
Endo, Heine, & Lehman, 173 Japanese college students 124 Asian Canadian 76 Euro-Canadian college students 1.10 –.02 1.20
2000 (Study 1) college students
Endo, Heine, & Lehman, 222 Japanese college students 111 Asian Canadian 98 Euro-Canadian college students 1.21 .47 .69
2000 (Study 2) college students
Feather & McKee, 1993 112 Japanese college students 127 Australian college students 1.32
Heine & Lehman, 1997 82 Japanese college students 44 Asian Canadian 75 Euro-Canadian college students .84 .50 .37
college students
Heine & Renshaw, 2002 50 Japanese college students 58 American college students 1.14
Heine, Takata, & 80 Japanese college students 95 Euro-Canadian college students 1.69
Lehman, 2000
Jackson, Flaherty, & 35 Japanese college students 47 American college students 1.93
Kosuth, 2000
Kang, Shaver, Sue, Min, & 141 Japanese college students 150 Asian American 170 Euro-American college students .82 .65 .07
Jing, 2003 college students
Kang, Shaver, Sue, Min, & 179 Korean college students 150 Asian American 170 Euro-American college students .74 .14
Jing, 2003 college students
Kobayashi & Brown, 2003 54 Japanese college students 59 American college students 1.53
e
Kwan, Bond, & Singelis, 1997 194 Hong Kong college students 183 American college students .53
Lennon, Rudd, Sloan, & 202 Korean college students 286 American college students .80
Kim, 1999
Lennon, Rudd, Sloan, & 99 Singaporean college students 286 American college students .94
Kim, 1999
(continued)
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
12
TABLE 1: (continued)
Studies That Compare Dispositional Measures
Cross- Cross- Cross-Cultural
Cultural Effect Cultural Effect Effect (Asian
East Asian in North (Westerners– (Westerners– Americans–East
Article East Asian Sample and n America Sample and n Western Sample and n East Asians) Asian Americans) Asians)
Ross, Xun, & Wilson, 2002 79 Chinese college 32 Euro-Canadian college students .19
students living
in Canada
f
Singelis, Bond, Sharkey, & 271 Hong Kong college students 146 Hawaiian 232 Mainland U.S. college students .64 .23 .45
Lai, 1999 Asian American
Spencer-Rodgers, Peng, Wang, 153 Chinese college students 195 Asian American 166 European American college .67 .50 .14
& Hou, 2004 (Study 1) college students students
Spencer-Rodgers, Peng, Wang, 153 Chinese college students 299 Asian American 115 European American college .47 .18 .30
& Hou, 2004 (Study 3) college students students
Zhang & Norvilitis, 2002 273 Chinese college students 302 American college students .82
Weighted average Rosenberg Self-Esteem .94 .32 .43
Twenty Statements Test
Bond & Cheung, 1983 137 Hong Kong college students 169 American college students .77
g
327 Japanese College Students 169 American college students 1.36
g
Ip & Bond, 1995 89 Hong Kong college students 93 American college students .48
Kanagawa, Cross, & 128 Japanese college students 133 American college students 1.08
Markus, 2001
Spencer-Rodgers, Peng, Wang, 95 Chinese college students 100 Asian American 110 European American .57 .48 .13
& Hou, 2004 (Study 2) college students college students
Weighted average Twenty Statements Test .86 .48 .13
Self-description task
Arnault, Sakamoto, & 79 Japanese college students 50 American college students 1.41
Moriwaki, 2005
Ross, Xun, & Wilson, 2002 79 Chinese college 32 Euro-Canadian college students .95
students living
in Canada
f
Index of Self-Esteem
Davis & Katzman, 1998 309 Hong Kong college students 192 Asian American .41
college students
Coopersmith Self-Esteem
Chan, 2000 360 Hong Kong elementary 362 U.K. Chinese 381 U.K. White elementary school .62 –.19 .80
school students elementary school students
students
Chiu, 1987 438 Taiwanese 4th to 6th graders 258 U.S. 4th to 6th graders .40
Chiu, 1992-1993 432 Taiwanese elementary 446 American elementary .41
school students school students
Weighted average Coopersmith Self-Esteem .48 –.19 .80
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
13
Satisfaction with self
Diener & Diener, 1995 1,200 Japanese college students 1,234 North American college .90
students
Diener & Diener, 1995 241 Korean College Students 1,234 North American college .84
students
Weighted average satisfaction with self .88
Actual–ideal self-discrepancies
Heine & Lehman, 1999 161 Japanese college students 151 Asian Canadian 90 Euro-Canadian college students .53 .10 .45
college students
Self-placement evaluations
Hymes & Akiyama, 1991 116 Japanese college students 125 American college students .84
Explicit self-evaluations
Kitayama & Uchida, 2003 46 Japanese college students 40 American college students 1.01
(Study 1)
Self-Criticism Questionnaire
Kurman & Sriram, 2002 130 Singaporean high school 144 Urban Israeli high school .45
students students
Explanatory style optimism
Lee & Seligman, 1997 312 Chinese college students 44 Chinese American 257 White American college .75 .33 .24
college students students
Tennessee Self-Concept Scale
Mahler, 1976 490 Japanese college students 75 American college students 1.92
Marsh Self-Esteem Scale
Rogers, 1998 390 Chinese high school students 64 U.K. high school students 1.42
General Self-Worth
Stigler, Smith, & Mao, 1985 714 Chinese elementary school 400 American elementary school 1.43
students students
Self-Competence Scale
Lockwood, Marshall, & 47 Asian Canadian 45 European Canadian college .37
Sadler, 2005 (Study 2) college students students
Tafarodi & Swann, 1996 302 Chinese college students 343 American college students 1.16
(continued)
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
14
TABLE 1: (continued)
Studies That Compare Dispositional Measures
Cross- Cross- Cross-Cultural
Cultural Effect Cultural Effect Effect (Asian
East Asian in North (Westerners– (Westerners– Americans–East
Article East Asian Sample and n America Sample and n Western Sample and n East Asians) Asian Americans) Asians)
Self-Liking Scale
Lockwood, Marshall, & 47 Asian Canadian 45 European Canadian college –.05
Sadler, 2005 (Study 2) college students students
Tafarodi & Swann, 1996 302 Chinese college students 343 American college students .20
Studies that compare implicit self-esteem
Kitayama & Uchida, 46 Japanese college students 40 American college students –.23
2003 (Study 1)
Kitayama & Uchida, 121 Japanese college students 40 American college students .10
2003 (Study 2)
Kobayashi & Greenwald, 56 Japanese college students 45 American college students –.29
2003
Weighted average implicit self-esteem –.12
NOTE: Positive values for cross-cultural effects indicate that the Western sample was more self-enhancing than the East Asian one, whereas negative values indicate that the East Asian
sample was more self-enhancing than the Western one. Positive values for enhancement bias indicate overall self-enhancement, whereas negative values indicate overall self-criticism.
a. The samples include only participants who scored in the top or bottom third on self-esteem in their culture.
b. The two conditions were collapsed together.
c. The standard deviations for this analysis were estimated from the comparable analyses from Heine and Lehman (1997).
d. The standard deviations for this analysis were estimated from the comparable analyses from Heine and Lehman (2004).
e. In studies where the same Western sample was compared against multiple East Asian samples (e.g., Diener & Diener, 1995), the size of the Western sample was divided among the indi-
vidual comparisons in calculating the weighted average.
f. Chinese Canadians born in Canada, Chinese Canadians born in China assigned to English, and Chinese language conditions are all combined together.
g. The standard deviations for this analysis were estimated from the comparable analyses from Ip and Bond (1995).
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Heine, Hamamura / EAST ASIAN SELF-ENHANCEMENT 15
Second, we can consider the question of whether
Asian Americans self-enhance. In five of the seven stud-
ies, there was evidence for significant self-enhancement,
whereas in two of the studies, there was nonsignificant
evidence for self-criticism. The weighted average effect
size was d = .52, and this was marginally significantly
1
0.5
0
0.5
1
1.5
2
2.5
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400 1600 1800 2000
Sample Size
Effect Size (d)
Studies that are not implicated by the EBTA effect
Studies that are implicated by the Everybody is Better than Their Group’s Average (EBTA) effect
Figure 1 Funnel plots of within-culture effect sizes for measures of self-enhancement biases.
TABLE 2: Summary of the Meta-Analysis
kN
a
SE
d
95% CI d
a
Magnitude enhancement bias among East Asians 46 6,290 .09 –.18 .16 –.01
Magnitude of enhancement bias among Asian Americans 7 612 .19 .15 .90 .52
Magnitude enhancement bias among Westerners 48 5,698 .08 .70 1.03 .87
Magnitude of cultural differences between East Asians and Westerners for
All measures 91 30,075 .04 .76 .92 .84
Enhancement bias 46 11,813 .06 .71 .95 .83
Dispositional measures 42 17,914 .06 .79 1.02 .91
Implicit self-esteem 3 348 .13 –.37 .13 –.12
Magnitude of cultural differences between Asian Americans and Westerners for
All measures 22 4,930 .07 .20 .46 .33
Enhancement bias 7 1,188 .09 .23 .60 .41
Dispositional measures 15 3,742 .08 .14 .46 .30
Magnitude of cultural differences between Asian Americans and East Asians for
All measures 18 5,402 .08 .30 .61 .45
Enhancement bias 5 973 .21 .13 .96 .54
Dispositional measures 13 4,529 .09 .25 .59 .42
NOTE: CI = confidence interval.
a. In studies where the same Western sample was compared against multiple East Asian samples (e.g., Diener & Diener, 1995), the size of the
Western sample was divided among the individual comparisons in calculating the weighted average.
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
16 PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY REVIEW
smaller than that of Westerners (Q
b
= 2.65, p = .10). In
sum, Asian Americans appear to self-enhance some-
what, although they do so less consistently, and consid-
erably less in magnitude, than do Westerners.
Next, we can question whether East Asians self-
enhance. The answer to this question appears more com-
plicated than it was for the Westerners. Overall, the
weighted average of the effect sizes from the 46 studies
with East Asians was d = –.01, suggesting that they do not
self-enhance. Moreover, this effect size was significantly
smaller compared to the effect sizes for Westerners (Q
b
=
53.76, p < .001) or Asian Americans (Q
b
= 6.38, p < .01).
However, this weighted average obscures the great deal of
variability in East Asian self-enhancement that existed
across methods. Of the 46 comparisons with East Asians,
24 yielded a self-critical effect (of which 20 were statisti-
cally significant), whereas 22 yielded a self-enhancing
effect (of which 19 were statistically significant). Some-
times East Asians demonstrated very strong effects for
self-criticism (the strongest effect being d = –1.20), and
sometimes they demonstrated very strong effects for self-
enhancement (the strongest effect being d = 1.22).
Although the East Asian pattern is more variable
than the Western one in terms of the percentage of stud-
ies in which the effect is positive or negative, East Asian
self-enhancement is not more variable than it is for
Westerners when considering the variability of the
effects (the standard error for East Asians was .09, and
for Westerners it was .08), suggesting that there was as
much variability in the magnitude of the Western self-
enhancement effect across studies as there was for the
East Asian effect. The reason, therefore, why the East
Asian effect appears more variable is that it is close
enough to 0 that in methods that relatively amplify the
magnitude of the effect, it is positive; in those methods
that relatively reduce the magnitude of the effect, it is
negative—this point is evident in Figure 2. In contrast,
the Western effect is so pronounced that it tended to
emerge as positive even in the methods that yielded the
weakest effects.
The two cultures tended to respond quite similarly in
each study; the correlation of the two cultures’ effect
sizes was r = .70 across the different studies. This sug-
gests that the magnitude of the cross-cultural effect
remains quite constant, regardless of method. It is
important to note that although the different methods
that were used across the different studies had relatively
little impact on the magnitude of the cross-cultural
effects, the different methods had a pronounced impact
on the magnitude of the within-culture effects. This sug-
gests that the choice of method has an enormous impact
on whether a researcher will detect evidence of self-
enhancement in his or her study. In short, the pattern of
data warrants a search for moderator variables.
In What Measures Do East Asians Self-Enhance?
There appears to be a pattern for which methods yield
the greatest amount of self-enhancement for both cul-
tures. A close inspection of Figure 2 reveals that there
were seven instances in which East Asians showed a
strong self-enhancement effect (i.e., d > .70). All of these
2
1.5
1
0.5
0
0.5
1
1 50 100 150 200 250 300
1.5
2
Effect Size (d)
Sample Size
East Asians
2
1.5
1
0.5
0
0.5
1
1 50 100 150 200 250 300
1.5
2
Effect Size (d)
Sample Size
Westemers
Studies that are implicated by the Everybody is Better than Their Group’s Average (EBTA) effect
Studies that are not implicated by the EBTA effect
Figure 2 Funnel plot of cross-cultural effect sizes of comparisons of measures of self-enhancement between Westerners and East Asians.
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
were restricted to 2 specific methods: the “better-than-
average effect” (BAE; also known as the self–other bias;
e.g., Brown & Kobayashi, 2002) and relative likelihood
estimate measures of the “future-is-better-than-average
effect” (FBAEN) for negative future life events.
Moreover, the weighted average effect size for East Asian
self-enhancement was positive for each of these methods
(d = .38 and .39 for the BAE and the FBAEN, respec-
tively
2
). The only other instance of a method yielding a
nominally positive effect size for East Asian self-enhance-
ment was in the single study of absolute likelihood esti-
mates of positive future life events (d = .15; Heine &
Lehman, 1995). All of the other methods yielded a null
effect or an overall self-critical tendency for East Asians.
The weighted average effect for East Asian self-criticism
for the 12 methods (k = 29) other than the BAE and the
FBAEN was d = –.24, which was significantly smaller
compared to the effect size obtained from studies that use
either the BAE or FBAEN method (k = 17), Q
b
= 12.75,
p < .001. In sum, East Asians tend to self-enhance in the
BAE and FBAEN but not in other designs. Figure 2 does
not reveal the typical funnel-shaped pattern of findings
for any of the cultural groups, unlike the between-
cultural effects summarized in Figure 1. This is likely
because of the large variety of the different methods that
were used to study self-enhancement that are summarized
in Table 1. The different shapes of the patterns of find-
ings in Figures 1 and 2 are further evidence that the
choice of method dramatically affects the amount of
self-enhancement that is detected but has less impact on
the magnitude of the cross-cultural difference in self-
enhancement. Moreover, the shape of the plots in
Figure 2 does not suggest a publication bias for findings
of self-enhancement or self-criticism in any of the cultural
groups (i.e., the effects did not vary systematically by
sample size; nor are either of the two plots asymmetrical).
Given the high correlation between the two cultures’
effect sizes, it is not surprising that Westerners also self-
enhance more in the BAE and the FBAEN methods (see
Figure 2). These 2 methods yielded some of the
strongest effects for Westerners (d = 1.31 and .98, for
the BAE and FBAEN, respectively). The weighted aver-
age self-enhancement effect for Westerners for the other
12 methods (k = 30) was significantly smaller (d = .68,
Q
b
= 9.83, p < .01). The BAE and the FBAEN yield
stronger self-enhancement effects than the other methods,
for both cultures.
Considering the BAE and the FBAEN Methods
In evaluating the question of whether East Asians
self-enhance, the particular method, thus, is an impor-
tant variable for consideration. Why do East Asians
show clear evidence for self-enhancement in the BAE
and FBAEN paradigms but not in other ones? One pos-
sibility is that the BAE and the FBAEN are reasonably
accurate methods to determine the strength of self-
enhancement, whereas the other methods are artificially
suppressing the full extent of individuals’ self-enhancing
motivations. This possibility would suggest that East
Asians genuinely possess self-enhancing motivations,
albeit weaker than those of Westerners, and the BAE
and the FBAEN are the only methods that are sensitive
enough to reliably detect them. Although we submit
that none of the self-enhancement measures are prob-
lem free (e.g., one could challenge the validity of the
benchmark of peer evaluations used in Heine &
Renshaw, 2002, or one could question whether persis-
tence on tasks that lead to success, as used in Heine,
Kitayama, Lehman, Takata, et al., 2001, is a strong test
of self-enhancement), it seems unlikely to us that the
divergent set of methods that have been applied to the
question are systematically underestimating the degree
of self-enhancement. An alternative possibility is that
the BAE and the FBAEN are artificially inflating
people’s self-enhancement, whereas the other methods
are providing reasonably accurate assessments of
people’s motivations (despite these methods’ idiosyn-
cratic shortcomings). To the extent this possibility is
true, it suggests that East Asians do not possess self-
enhancing motivations, and they appear to possess them
only in the BAE and the FBAEN methods because of the
artifacts inherent in these designs.
Everyone is better than their group’s average (EBTA).
Some research maintains that the BAE and the FBAEN
designs do not measure self-enhancing motivations per
se but instead reveal cognitive biases regarding how
people process singular versus distributional information
(cf., Kahneman & Tversky, 1973). Klar, Giladi, and col-
leagues (Giladi & Klar, 2002; Klar & Giladi, 1997,
1999; Klar, Medding, & Sarel, 1996) have proposed one
cognitive mechanism that plays an important role in the
BAE and the FBAEN designs. This is the tendency for
people to believe that EBTA. That is, it is not just the case
that people view themselves to be better than average;
they also view randomly chosen specific others as better
than average (e.g., Klar & Giladi, 1997, 1999). Klar and
Giladi (1997) argued that in making a comparative judg-
ment between a singular target and a generalized target,
people fail to adequately consider the qualities of the
more abstract, generalized target. As such, people’s com-
parative evaluations reflect their absolute evaluations of
the singular target, which is themselves in the BAE and
FBAEN designs. This means that people will tend to view
desirable objects as better than average, whereas they
view undesirable objects as worse than their group’s aver-
age (Giladi & Klar, 2002; Klar & Giladi, 1997). Their
Heine, Hamamura / EAST ASIAN SELF-ENHANCEMENT 17
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
evaluations largely ignore the distributional target to
which they are supposed to compare themselves.
The potential cognitive biases associated with the BAE
have been known for some time. Sears (1983) identified
a “person positivity bias” in which any randomly chosen
individual was seen to be better than average. Alicke et al.
(1995) found that the BAE was attenuated dramatically
if instead of comparing themselves to a generalized tar-
get, people instead compared themselves to a randomly
chosen singular target. Giladi and Klar (2002) demon-
strated that this EBTA effect is not restricted to social
judgments. For example, people view a randomly selected
soap fragrance to be more desirable than its group aver-
age. It would be absurd to conclude that people are view-
ing randomly selected objects and others to be better than
average because of self-enhancing motivations. Although
the EBTA effect is implicated in BAE studies, it is not the
sole cause of significant effects in those studies. In addi-
tion to this cognitive component, there is a motivational,
self-enhancing component that is involved in judgments
that the self is better than average. For example, although
the BAE is reduced when individuals compare themselves
with specific others, Americans still tend to view them-
selves more positively than they view specific others
(Alicke et al., 1995). Judgments of how the self is better
than average, thus, can be seen as being composed of the
cognitive bias involved in comparing a singular target to
a distributed one and a motivational bias to view the self
positively (Giladi & Klar, 2002).
Similar to the BAE method, the FBAEN method
requires participants to evaluate themselves (this time in
terms of their likelihood of experiencing future negative
life events) in contrast to a generalized target, usually
the average person from their school. As such, the same
cognitive difficulties in comparing a singular target to
the generalized target should contaminate people’s rela-
tive likelihood estimates of future life events. That is,
people should view unlikely events to be unlikely to
happen to them, leading them to indicate that their like-
lihood is “less than average.” For example, Klar et al.
(1996) found that people viewed a randomly chosen
specific target to be less likely to experience a future
negative event than the generalized target of the average
peer. Furthermore, because the optimism bias in relative
likelihood estimates of future life events is negatively
correlated with event frequency (this is because people
base their relative likelihood estimates on their own
perceived likelihood and largely ignore the likelihood
of others; Klar et al., 1996; Price, Pentecost, & Voth,
2002), the EBTA effect is much weaker for estimates of
positive future life events (which tend to be much more
common kinds of events; the average likelihood esti-
mates are greater than 50%; e.g., Heine & Lehman,
1995; Price et al., 2002; Weinstein, 1980).
Consistent with the reasoning that the FBAEN
method contains an important cognitive component (the
EBTA effect) that is not implicated in other methods of
unrealistic optimism (for a discussion, see Heine &
Lehman, 1995; Price et al., 2002), other research on
unrealistic optimism reveals a much weaker bias for
members of both cultures. Although Table 1 reveals that
the weighted average effects in the FBAEN design were
d = .39 and .98 for East Asians and North Americans,
respectively, the effects were smaller for the other mea-
sures of unrealistic optimism (the weighted average
effects across the other unrealistic optimism studies were
d = –.19 and .41 for East Asians and North Americans,
respectively). These differences were significant, Q
b
=
4.26, p < .05 for East Asians and Q
b
= 4.78, p < .05 for
Westerners. East Asians have demonstrated significant
unrealistic optimism biases using FBAEN methods only.
They have not been found to show significant unreal-
istic optimism for positive events (E. C. Chang &
Asakawa, 2003; E. C. Chang, Asakawa, & Sanna, 2001;
Heine & Lehman, 1995) or for absolute likelihood esti-
mates of future life events (Heine & Lehman, 1995). In
contrast, Westerners have been found to show unrealis-
tic optimism for not only negative events but also posi-
tive ones (E. C. Chang & Asakawa, 2003; Heine &
Lehman, 1995; Weinstein, 1980; but see E. C. Chang
et al., 2001, for a curious exception), as well as for both
relative likelihood and absolute likelihood estimates
(Heine & Lehman, 1995; Weinstein, 1980).
Some evidence that the EBTA effect is behind the sig-
nificant self-enhancing tendency among East Asians for
the FBAEN design can be seen in two studies in the meta-
analysis. Unlike the other cross-cultural studies of the
FBAEN, E. C. Chang and Asakawa (2003) had partici-
pants evaluate their relative likelihood of experiencing
future events compared with a sibling, rather than the
average student from their school. Although a sibling is
not a random target, as has been explored in other stud-
ies of the EBTA effect, it is a specific target. Consistent
with the predictions that East Asian self-enhancement in
the FBAEN is driven by the EBTA effect, and not a moti-
vation for self-enhancement, East Asians demonstrated
evidence for unrealistic pessimism when comparing
themselves to a sibling (average d = –.53), although they
were unrealistically optimistic in the studies that had them
compare themselves to the average student (average d =
.76), and the difference was significant, Q
b
= 32.37, p <
.001. The Westerners showed a similar pattern in that their
self-enhancement was much weaker when comparing
themselves to a sibling (average d = .29) than when com-
paring themselves to the average student (average d =
1.26), and the difference was significant, Q
b
= 21.42, p <
.001. These findings are consistent with the notion that the
EBTA effect amplifies the FBAEN bias, and it raises the
18 PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY REVIEW
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
possibility that East Asians do not show self-enhancement
in the FBAEN when they compare themselves with a con-
crete target. It remains to be seen, however, whether East
Asians would show a significant optimism bias in the
FBAEN when they compare themselves to a concrete tar-
get with whom they do not have a relationship.
In sum, significant East Asian self-enhancement has
thus far been observed only in studies that use the BAE
and FBAEN methods. Although the possibility exists
that the BAE and the FBAEN are especially sensitive
measures of self-enhancement motivations, this conclu-
sion loses plausibility given that the BAE and the FBAEN
are the only two methods shown to be influenced by the
EBTA effect. We submit that the magnitude of East
Asian self-enhancement using these methods would be
more accurately estimated if we adjusted these methods
so that they no longer implicated the EBTA effect.
Is the EBTA Effect Driving the Self-Enhancement
of East Asians in the BAE and FBAEN?
In a preliminary effort to address this question,
Hamamura, Heine, and Takemoto (2006) sought to test
whether self-enhancement effects in studies employing
the BAE and FBAEN methods are artificially inflated by
the EBTA effect. In two studies, Japanese and Canadians
were asked to evaluate themselves and the average other
with respect to a list of positively valenced traits (using
the identical list of traits that were employed by Brown
& Kobayashi, 2002), as well as to estimate their likeli-
hood of experiencing a number of negative life events
(using the same events from Heine & Lehman, 1995).
Replicating the findings of the meta-analyses, in both
studies, all cultural groups showed significant self-
enhancement in both methods. However, Hamamura
et al. also asked participants to make comparable evalu-
ations for a random stranger. Participants here showed
evidence for the EBTA effect, as they viewed the random
other in more positive terms than the average other.
When the EBTA effect was circumvented, however,
Japanese were no longer self-enhancing but were sig-
nificantly self-critical. That is, they evaluated themselves
less positively than the random other. The European
Canadians were also less self-enhancing when the EBTA
effect was circumvented than when it was not; however,
they remained significantly self-enhancing.
In a related manner, research reveals conflicting results
on whether East Asians tend to self-enhance more for
important compared with unimportant traits. Those
studies that employ the BAE methodology (e.g., Brown
& Kobayashi, 2002; Kurman, 2001; Sedikides et al.,
2003; Sedikides et al., 2005) find evidence that there is
a positive correlation between the importance of a trait
and the degree to which East Asians self-enhanced,
whereas studies that employ other methodologies tend
to show significant negative correlations (for a meta-
analysis of all relevant studies, see Heine, Kitayama, &
Hamamura, in press). Hamamura et al. (2006) also
tested whether the positive correlations between impor-
tance and self-enhancement found in BAE studies were
driven by the EBTA effect. Their reasoning was that to
the extent people view specific others as better than
average because of the EBTA effect, they should rate
specific others as better than average especially for those
traits that are most positive. Positive evaluations of
people and objects are most afforded by traits that are
especially valenced, and this suggests that the EBTA
effect should be especially pronounced for the most pos-
itive traits. In support of this reasoning, Hamamura et al.
found that although there was a positive correlation
between trait importance and self-enhancement in BAE
studies, it was significantly reduced when the EBTA
effect was controlled for. It is notable that the positive
correlation remained significant for European Canadians
after the EBTA effect was controlled, but the Japanese
correlation was no longer significant.
GENERAL DISCUSSION
The question of whether people self-enhance to a
similar extent across cultures is an important one for
any theory regarding why people are motivated to view
themselves positively. The extent of this cultural varia-
tion is striking: 88 of 91 studies in the present meta-
analysis reveal that East Asians self-enhanced less than
Westerners, and the effect sizes were large (d > .70) for
58% of those comparisons. The cultural differences
emerged across all of the 30 different methods except
for an implicit measure of self-esteem using the Implicit
Associations Test. Although the magnitude of the within-
culture effects varied enormously across method, the
magnitude of the effect for East Asians was strongly
correlated (r = .70) with the magnitude of the effect for
Westerners. This correlation demonstrates that the
divergent methods are tapping into similar processes in
both cultural groups and that the cultural differences
remain robust despite method variance. That Asian
Americans tended to display self-enhancing tendencies
in between the other cultural groups is further evidence
that culture shapes these motivations.
Although the meta-analysis revealed that Westerners
self-enhance more than East Asians, it is possible that
East Asians show a significant and reliable motivation to
self-enhance as well, albeit in attenuated form. Such a
pattern would suggest that the self-enhancement motive
is indeed universal but that its magnitude is influenced by
cultural factors (cf. Brown & Kobayashi, 2002; Sedikides
Heine, Hamamura / EAST ASIAN SELF-ENHANCEMENT 19
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
et al., 2003). Clear evidence for East Asian self-
enhancement emerged in only two of the methods that
have been explored in past research: the BAE and the
FBAEN. The other methods that have been employed
have revealed either null effects or significant self-criti-
cism among East Asians. That East Asian self-enhance-
ment emerged only in the BAE and the FBAEN methods,
and not in other designs, suggests that the effects might
not be because of self-enhancing motivations, as both of
these methods have been shown to be confounded by a
significant cognitive component, namely, the EBTA effect
(Giladi & Klar, 2002; Klar & Giladi, 1997, 1999; cf.
Sears, 1983). Indeed, when the EBTA effect was circum-
vented in two studies by Hamamura et al. (2006), East
Asians no longer showed significant self-enhancement in
either the BAE or the FBAEN designs, although we
acknowledge that it is certainly possible that there is
more to the East Asian self-enhancement effect in these
designs than the EBTA effect. We welcome further
research on the topic of the specific methods in which
East Asians show significant self-enhancement.
Alternative Accounts for East Asian
Self-Enhancement
The studies presented in the meta-analysis converge
on the finding that East Asians self-enhance significantly
less than Westerners and that East Asian self-enhancement
appears in a limited number of methods. However, the
challenges inherent in operationalizing self-enhancement,
and in conducting meaningful cross-cultural compar-
isons, behooves us to be cautious before accepting the
conclusion that self-enhancing motivations are weaker,
or largely nonexistent, among East Asians. Below we
discuss three alternative accounts for why East Asians
self-enhance so much less than Westerners.
Self-enhancement of individuals or groups? One
account not addressed in any of the analyses included in
the meta-analysis was whether East Asians might
enhance a different kind of self than Westerners. For
example, the relatively more collectivistic nature of East
Asians raises the possibility that East Asians focus their
self-enhancing motivations toward their groups rather
than toward their individual selves. This reasoning
suggests that East Asians should show more group
enhancement than their more individualistic North
American counterparts. This alternative account suggests
that the magnitude of the motivation to self-enhance
might not vary much across cultures; rather, the target
of the motivations might be what differs.
A number of studies have been conducted to investi-
gate this question. Two cross-cultural studies reveal evi-
dence of no cultural differences in levels of group
enhancement between East Asians and Westerners.
Brown and Kobayashi (2002) found no cultural differ-
ence in the extent to which Japanese and Americans
evaluated their best friends relative to other students,
and Endo, Heine, and Lehman (2000) found that
Japanese and Canadians view the quality of their rela-
tionships with their families and friends in equally posi-
tive terms. These findings are somewhat consistent with
this alternative account (i.e., in contrast to most other
cross-cultural studies of self-enhancement, these two
analyses do not reveal that the Westerners were more
self-enhancing than the East Asians). However, a number
of other studies find that Westerners enhance their
groups significantly more than do East Asians. Heine
and Lehman (1997) found that Canadians viewed their
family members, universities, and social groups more
positively than did Japanese. Snibbe, Kitayama, Markus,
and Suzuki (2003) found that Americans showed in-
group favoritism toward their school’s football teams,
whereas Japanese did not. Endo et al. found that
Canadians viewed the quality of their romantic relation-
ships more positively than did Japanese and evaluated
their family members, friends, and romantic partners
more positively than did Japanese as well. Crocker,
Luhtanen, Blaine, and Broadnax (1994) found that
Americans of European descent had higher collective
self-esteem than Asian Americans. Bond, Hewstone,
Wan, and Chiu (1985) found that American students
displayed a more pronounced group-serving bias for sex-
typed behaviors than did Chinese. Kitayama, Palm,
Masuda, Karasawa, and Carroll (1996) found that
Japanese viewed their own cities to be more vulnerable
to earthquakes than a neighboring city, whereas the
opposite pattern was found for Americans. Stevenson
and Stigler (1992) found that East Asian parents were
more critical of their children’s school performance than
were American parents. And cross-national studies of
national pride find that Americans have more positive
views of their country than do East Asians (Rose, 1985).
We do not know of any studies that find evidence that
East Asians enhance their groups significantly more than
Westerners.
In sum, East Asians sometimes show evidence for
significant group enhancement in some studies (e.g.,
Brown & Kobayashi, 2002; Endo et al., 2000), and in
some contexts, East Asians enhance their group selves
more than their individual selves (see Muramoto &
Yamaguchi, 1997). However, in some studies, East
Asians show evidence for critical views of their groups
(e.g., Bond et al., 1985; Stevenson & Stigler, 1992) in
contrast to the consistent group-enhancing pattern seen
among Westerners. Furthermore, the most common
pattern to emerge from cross-cultural studies is that
East Asian group-enhancing tendencies appear to be
20 PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY REVIEW
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
weaker than those of Westerners. We suggest that the
evidence for group enhancement among East Asians is,
at best, mixed, and does not provide much evidence in
support of this alternative hypothesis.
Do East Asians self-enhance in domains that are espe-
cially important to them? A second alternative account
that warrants consideration is the possibility that East
Asian self-enhancement might appear to be weaker than
that of Westerners because the studies do not focus on
the domains in which East Asians self-enhance. That is,
it is possible that East Asians self-enhance in domains
that are especially important to them, for example, with
respect to interdependent or collectivistic traits.
A number of articles raise this as an alternative expla-
nation of the identified cultural differences in self-
enhancement (Brown & Kobayashi, 2002; Heine et al.,
1999; Kurman, 2001; Sedikides et al., 2003). In particu-
lar, Sedikides et al. (2005) recently conducted a meta-
analysis of studies that investigated this hypothesis and
concluded that East Asians do self-enhance in interde-
pendent domains and for traits that they view to be espe-
cially important. Meta-analyses often allow for clear
conclusions to be drawn, and theirs is a compelling claim.
However, the inclusion criteria of the Sedikides et al.
meta-analysis apparently omits a number of relevant
studies and, thus, we have doubts about the conclusions
they drew regarding “pancultural self-enhancement.” As
Sedikides et al. stated in a footnote,
These criteria identify a subset of studies that are relevant
to our framing of the research question. There are other
studies on this general topic that are not included, such as
Heine and Lehman (1995), Heine, Kitayama, Lehman,
et al. (2001), and Kitayama, Markus, Matsumoto, and
Norasakkunkit (1997). (p. 540)
The conclusions from this meta-analysis that included
only a subset of the relevant studies might change if the
other studies (which obtained opposite effects) were
also included. To test this idea, Heine et al. (in press)
also conducted a meta-analysis on this same topic with
broader inclusion criteria. Their inclusion criteria cap-
tured the same eight articles included by Sedikides et al.
plus six additional articles that also investigate this
alternative account. The results of that meta-analysis
are strikingly at odds with the one conducted by
Sedikides et al. The meta-analysis of Heine et al.
revealed that East Asians (and Westerners) do not self-
enhance more in interdependent domains than indepen-
dent ones and that East Asians do not self-enhance
more for important traits than for unimportant ones,
whereas Westerners do—the precise opposite conclu-
sions drawn by Sedikides et al. Heine et al. submitted
that the evidence for East Asians’ self-enhancing more
in domains that are important to them is largely con-
fined to studies of the BAE (see also Hamamura et al.,
2006) and that studies using alternative methods largely
yield the opposite pattern of results. We suggest that the
evidence that East Asians self-enhance more in domains
that are especially important to them is dependent on
the method that is used and, overall, does not provide
clear support for this alternative hypothesis. We invite
readers to compare the meta-analyses by Sedikides et al.
and Heine et al. and draw their own conclusions regard-
ing the evidence for pancultural self-enhancement.
Do the cultural differences in self-enhancement reflect
participants’ true feelings? A third alternative account to
consider is the possibility that the obtained cultural
differences in self-enhancement might reflect different
motivations for self-presentation. Although East Asians
and Westerners evaluate themselves quite differently in
questionnaires, perhaps their private thoughts are more
similar. That is, we can question whether the methods
used in the various studies in the meta-analysis tap into
people’s genuine motivations for self-enhancement.
To us, this is the most challenging of the alternative
accounts to consider. It challenges what our measures are
really measuring, and it raises the intriguing question of
what the “true self” is that is being enhanced. There is
little dispute that modest self-presentations are valued in
much of East Asia and that often people will publicly
describe themselves more modestly than they truly feel
(e.g., Barnlund, 1975). However, the germane question is
whether East Asians feign modesty when evaluating
themselves privately on psychological measures, as this is
how the self-evaluations were obtained in the studies in
Table 1. It is plausible that the tendency to feign modesty
is so firmly entrenched among East Asians that it shapes
their responses to anonymous questionnaires. Of course,
a possibility that is less discussed is equally plausible:
The cultural differences in self-enhancement are because
of Westerners’ feigning self-confidence when completing
anonymous surveys (e.g., Shedler, Mayman, & Manis,
1993). Either way, an important challenge to the argu-
ment that there are cultural differences in self-enhance-
ment is that the questionnaire evidence does not capture
people’s true feelings. We draw on a number of sources
of evidence from the meta-analysis that can address this
difficult and provocative alternative account.
Two of the articles in the meta-analysis measure self-
enhancement in ways that are protected from self-
presentational concerns. Heine, Takata, and Lehman
(2000) found that participants’ performance on a math-
ematical task was affected by whether the data they
were calculating indicated that their own performance
was strong or weak. Specifically, Japanese needed to
view more data before being able to reach a conclusion
Heine, Hamamura / EAST ASIAN SELF-ENHANCEMENT 21
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
when the data suggested that they were doing better
than the comparison target (indicating that they were
reluctant to accept these data) than when the data sug-
gested they were doing worse than the target (also see
Takata, 1987), whereas Canadians needed to view more
data when the data suggested they were doing poorly
than when the data indicated they were doing well.
Likewise, Heine, Kitayama, Lehman, Takata, et al.
(2001) investigated people’s reactions to private success
and failure feedback when they were alone in a room.
The studies reveal that Japanese responded to the feed-
back in a self-improving way (they devoted their time to
tasks that would increase the likelihood that they would
identify their weaknesses), whereas North Americans
responded to the feedback in a self-enhancing way (they
devoted their time to tasks that would be more likely to
identify their strengths). It is difficult to mount a self-
presentational account for these findings. Yet Japanese
showed less evidence for self-enhancement in the stud-
ies in these two articles (average d = –.69) than they did
in studies that were conducted with questionnaires
(average d = .04). These studies challenge the notion
that the cultural differences in self-enhancement are
because of differences in self-presentation.
However, an important finding that the meta-analysis
revealed is that there was one method that did not reveal
evidence for less self-enhancement among East Asians
compared with Westerners. This method assesses implicit
self-esteem as measured by the Implicit Associations Test
(also note that Kitayama & Karasawa, 1997, found that
Japanese showed evidence for implicit self-enhancement
in that they liked the characters in their names more than
those characters not in their names and had preferences
for numbers that were in their birthdays). What does it
mean to say that East Asians are similar to Westerners
in measures of implicit self-enhancement but not in mea-
sures of explicit self-enhancement?
To us, the most compelling interpretation of the
divergent findings from the explicit and implicit mea-
sures is that they are importantly tapping into different
constructs. Indeed, the measures do not correlate highly
with each other (average r = .13; Hofmann, Gawronski,
Gschwendner, Le, & Schmitt, 2005; see also Bosson,
Swann, & Pennebaker, 2000). We suggest that the
implicit measures of self-esteem are assessing the extent
to which people have warm feelings about themselves,
such as feelings of self-liking or sympathy (see Kitayama
& Uchida, 2003), in contrast to assessments of their
competence, which we submit that the explicit measures
are more directly targeting. In this regard, it is notewor-
thy that the explicit measure that yielded the smallest
between-culture effect size in our meta-analysis came
from a measure of self-liking (Tafarodi & Swann, 1996).
To the extent this interpretation is correct, it would
suggest that the relatively self-critical attitudes that East
Asians maintain toward their assessments of their com-
petence are not particularly associated with feelings of
dislike for themselves. In support of this reasoning,
Heine and Lehman (1999) found that depression did not
correlate as strongly with actual–ideal discrepancies
among Japanese as it did among Canadians.
People from East Asian and Western cultures diverge
quite strongly with regard to their evaluations of their
competence, with East Asians maintaining a self-improv-
ing orientation by which they strive to correct their iden-
tified weaknesses (e.g., Kitayama et al., 1997). These
pronounced cultural differences highlight the role that
cultural experiences play in shaping people’s assessments
of their own competence. However, perhaps because
East Asians tend to view shortcomings as ultimately cor-
rectable, a recognition of weaknesses is not as problem-
atic for them, and is not as associated with a negative
affective state, as it is for Westerners (see Heine,
Kitayama, Lehman, Takata, et al., 2001). At present, the
cross-cultural findings of implicit self-enhancement sug-
gest that there are negligible cultural differences in the
extent to which people have warm feelings toward them-
selves (i.e., these effects may prove to meet the criteria of
accessibility universals; see Norenzayan & Heine, 2005),
indicating that such kinds of warm self-feelings might
unfold largely independently of cultural experiences. We
suggest that findings with implicit self-enhancement
stand to greatly elucidate the nature of East Asian self-
enhancement when it becomes clearer what these mea-
sures are actually assessing.
Why Do Westerners Self-Enhance
but Not East Asians?
Given the results of the meta-analysis, we need to con-
sider why a motivation that is so clearly present in
Western samples is simultaneously so strikingly elusive in
East Asian samples. Our reasoning for the cultural differ-
ence is that both self-enhancing and self-improving moti-
vations reflect a similar underlying motivation, that is, a
desire to be a good person. By being a good person we
mean that individuals desire to be viewed as appropriate,
good, and significant in their own culture. The strategies
for how to go about being a good person depend on the
kind of self that one prioritizes. In a highly individualistic
environment such as North America, becoming a good
person is importantly tied to the pursuit of self-esteem.
People participating in individualistic cultures will stand
to fare well by viewing themselves as competent and tal-
ented, capable of taking care of themselves, and able to
compete successfully in the meritocratic worldview that is
largely embraced (Crocker & Park, 2004; Heine, 2003;
Heine et al., 1999).
22 PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY REVIEW
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Heine, Hamamura / EAST ASIAN SELF-ENHANCEMENT 23
Elsewhere we reasoned, and provided empirical evi-
dence in support, that the pursuit of self-esteem is facili-
tated by self-enhancing motivations, an internal frame of
reference, entity theories of abilities, a promotion focus,
and independent views of self (see Heine, 2003, 2005a;
Heine et al., 1999; Heine, Kitayama, Lehman, Takata,
et al., 2001). The relations between these constructs and
self-enhancement appear to be largely similar across cul-
tures. For example, those East Asians who are especially
independent are most likely to show clear evidence for
self-enhancement (e.g., Heine et al., 1999). Motivations
for self-enhancement are, thus, in principle available to
people from all cultures (i.e., they are existential univer-
sals; see Norenzayan & Heine, 2005), and they emerge
with the presence of other facilitating constructs (viz.,
internal frames of reference, entity theories of abilities, a
promotion focus, and independent views of self). Because
cultures tend to vary in the extent to which these facilitat-
ing constructs are present, however, cultures vary in the
extent to which they prioritize self-enhancing motivations.
In contrast, in hierarchical interdependent societies
such as East Asia, becoming a good person is impor-
tantly tied to the maintenance of face (e.g., H. C. Chang
& Holt, 1994; Ho, 1976). Success in such cultures
comes not so much from individuals’ beliefs that they
are good but by having significant others believe that
they are meeting the consensual standards associated
with their roles. The pursuit of face is facilitated by self-
improving motivations, an external frame of awareness,
incremental theories of abilities, a prevention focus, and
an interdependent view of self; characteristics that are
all more associated with views of self common in East
Asia (for in-depth discussions of theoretical arguments
and empirical evidence, see Hamamura & Heine, in
press; Heine, 2003, 2005a). The relations between these
constructs appear to be similar across cultures, such
that, for example, Americans who adopt an incremental
view of abilities become more similar to East Asians in
their demonstrated motivations for self-improvement
(Heine, Kitayama, Lehman, Takata, et al., 2001). In
sum, when concerns with face are prioritized, as they
are in Confucian cultures, individuals will fare better by
being vigilant of any weaknesses that would jeopardize
their ability to maintain face and work toward correct-
ing them. Similar to self-enhancing motivations in cul-
tures that valorize self-esteem, these self-improving
motivations serve the important goal of becoming a
good person. The different psychological processes
associated with self-enhancing and self-improving moti-
vations conceal the common underlying motivations for
people to view themselves in ways consistent with their
respective cultural ideals for becoming good people.
APPENDIX
DESCRIPTIONS OF DIFFERENT METHODS USED IN THE META-ANALYSIS
Better-than-average effect
False uniqueness effects
Relative likelihood optimism bias for
positive events
Relative likelihood optimism bias for
negative events
Absolute likelihood optimism bias for
positive events
Absolute likelihood optimism bias for
negative events
Internal (ability) attributions for
successes and failures
Influence of success and failure on
self-esteem
Academic self-enhancement
Persistence following success or failure
Self–peer evaluations
Amount of information necessary to
evaluate performance
Memories for successes and failures
Compensatory self-enhancement
Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale
(Rosenberg, 1965)
Participants evaluated themselves and the average person on Likert-type scales and these
evaluations were compared.
Participants estimated the percentage of people who were more talented than them on a variety of
dimensions.
Participants evaluated whether they were more or less likely than the average person to experience
a list of positive future life events.
Participants evaluated whether they were more or less likely than the average person to experience
a list of negative future life events.
Participants estimated the percentage chance that they would experience a list of positive future life
events, and they estimated the percentage of their peers who would also experience those events.
Participants estimated the percentage chance that they would experience a list of negative future life
events, and they estimated the percentage of their peers who would also experience those events.
Participants indicated how much their successes and failures were because of their own abilities on
Likert-type scales and these scores were compared.
Participants rated how much a situation would enhance or decrease their self-esteem on Likert-type
scales.
The residual from regressing participants’ self-report of their academic performance (relative to
average) onto their actual grades.
The amount that participants persist on a task following success or failure.
Participants’ self-evaluations compared to how a group of peers evaluates them.
The amount of information that participants needed to see before being able to decide whether
their performance was better or worse than that of a target.
The number of memories that participants listed for their successes and failures.
Participants’ self-evaluations in other domains after receiving either success or failure feedback on a
creativity measure.
Total score.
(continued)
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
24 PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY REVIEW
NOTES
1. The single study that yielded a significant negative effect was a
study of unrealistic optimism comparing Chinese and Canadians during
the SARS epidemic (Ji, Zhang, Usborne, & Guan, 2004). In that study,
Chinese showed more unrealistic optimism than Canadians regarding
their estimates of their own relative likelihood of catching SARS.
2. We note that two studies using the Better-Than-Average Effect
(BAE) yielded dramatically reduced self-enhancement effects for
members of all cultural groups (Endo, Heine, & Lehman, 2000; Heine
& Lehman, 1999). Unlike the other studies of the BAE, these studies
had people evaluate statements that included the word extremely
(e.g., “I am extremely intelligent”).
REFERENCES
References with an asterisk indicate studies included in the meta-analysis.
*Abe, J. A. (2004). Self-esteem, perception of relationships, and emo-
tional distress: A cross-cultural study. Personal Relationships, 11,
231-247.
Alicke, M. D., Klotz, M. L., Breitenbecher, D. L., Yurak, T. J., &
Vredenburg, D. S. (1995). Personal contact, individuation, and the
better-than-average effect. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 68, 804-825.
*Anderson, C. A. (1999). Attributional style, depression, and loneli-
ness: A cross-cultural comparison of American and Chinese
students. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 482-499.
*Arnault, D. S., Sakamoto, S., & Moriwaki, A. (2005). The associa-
tion between negative self-descriptions and depressive symptomol-
ogy: Does culture make a difference? Archives of Psychiatric
Nursing, 19, 93-100.
Barkow, J. H. (1989). Darwin, sex, and status: Biosocial approaches
to mind and culture. Toronto, ON, Canada: University of Toronto
Press.
Barnlund, D. C. (1975). Public and private self in Japan and the
United States. Tokyo: Simul Press.
Baumeister, R., Smart, L., & Boden, J. M. (1996). Relation of threat-
ened egotism to violence and aggression: The dark side of high
self-esteem. Psychological Review, 103, 5-33.
*Bond, M. H., & Cheung, T. (1983). College students’ spontaneous
self-concept. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 14, 153-171.
Bond, M. H., Hewstone, M., Wan, K.-C., & Chiu, C.-K. (1985).
Group-serving attributions across intergroup contexts: Cultural
differences in the explanation of sex-typed behaviors. European
Journal of Social Psychology, 15, 435-451.
Borenstein, M., & Rothstein, H. (1999). Comprehensive Meta-
Analysis: A computer program for research synthesis [Computer
software]. Englewood, NJ: Biostat.
Bosson, J. K., Swann, W. B., & Pennebaker, J. W. (2000). Stalking the
perfect measure of implicit self-esteem: The blind men and the ele-
phant revisited? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79,
631-643.
Brown, J. D. (2003). The self-enhancement motive in collectivistic cul-
tures: The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 34, 603-605.
*Brown, J. D., & Kobayashi, C. (2002). Self-enhancement in Japan
and America. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 5, 145-168.
*Bush, K. R. (2000). Separatedness and connectedness in the parent-
adolescent relationship as predictors of adolescent self-esteem in US
and Chinese samples. Marriage & Family Review, 30, 153-178.
*Campbell, J. D., Trapnell, P., Heine, S. J., Katz, I. M., Lavallee, L. F.,
& Lehman, D. R. (1996). Self-concept clarity: Measurement, per-
sonality correlates, and cultural boundaries. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 70, 141-156.
*Chan, Y. M. (2000). Self-esteem: A cross-cultural comparison of
British-Chinese, White British, and Hong Kong Chinese children.
Educational Psychology, 20, 59-74.
*Chang, E. C., & Asakawa, K. (2003). Cultural variations on opti-
mistic and pessimistic bias for self versus a sibling: Is there evi-
dence for self-enhancement in the West and for self-criticism in the
East when the referent group is specified? Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 84, 569-581.
*Chang, E. C., Asakawa, K., & Sanna, L. J. (2001). Cultural varia-
tions in optimistic and pessimistic bias: Do Easterners really
expect the worst and Westerners really expect the best when pre-
dicting future life events? Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 81, 476-491.
Chang, H.-C., & Holt, G. R. (1994). A Chinese perspective on face as
inter-relational concern. In S. Ting-Toomey (Ed.), The challenge of
facework: Cross-cultural and interpersonal issues (pp. 95-132).
Albany: State University of New York Press.
Twenty Statements Test (Kuhn &
McPartland, 1954)
Self-description task
Index of Self-Esteem (Hudson, 1982)
Coopersmith Self-Esteem Scale
(Coopersmith, 1967)
Satisfaction with self
Actual–ideal self-discrepancies
Self-placement evaluations
Explicit self-evaluations
Self-Criticism Questionnaire (Ishiyama
& Munson, 1993)
Explanatory style optimism
Tennessee Self-Concept Scale (Fitts,
1965)
Marsh Self-Esteem Scale
General Self-Worth
Self-Competence Scale (Tafarodi &
Swann, 1995)
Self-Liking Scale (Tafarodi & Swann,
1995)
Implicit self-esteem
Ratio of positive to negative statements about the self that participants spontaneously listed.
Ratio of positive to negative statements about the self that participants spontaneously listed.
Total score.
Total score.
Response to item regarding satisfaction with self.
Total discrepancy between evaluations of actual and ideal self-statements on Likert-type scales.
Participants’ estimates of the degree to which they possess several socially desirable traits.
Total score regarding how applicable a series of positive self-statements were.
Total score.
Participants’ mean composite score on the Attribution Styles Questionnaire (Peterson & Seligman,
1984).
Total positive score.
Total general Self-Esteem subscale from the Marsh Self-Description Questionnaire II (Marsh, 1990).
Total score on the General Self-Worth subscale of the Perceived Competence Scale for Children
(Harter, 1982).
Total score.
Total score.
Measure of the Implicit Association Test adapted for self-evaluations (Greenwald & Farnham, 2000).
APPENDIX (continued)
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
*Chiu, L. H. (1987). Sociometric status and self-esteem of American
and Chinese school children. Journal of Psychology, 121, 547-552.
*Chiu, L. H. (1992-1993). Self-esteem in American and Chinese
(Taiwanese) children. Current Psychology, 11, 309-313.
*Chung, T., & Mallery, P. (1999-2000). Social comparison, individu-
alism-collectivism, and self-esteem in China and the United States.
Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social,
18, 340-352.
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences
(2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
*Coopersmith, S. (1967). The antecedents of self-esteem. San Francisco:
Freeman.
Crary, W. G. (1966). Reactions to incongruent self-experiences.
Journal of Consulting Psychology, 30, 246-252.
Crocker, J., Luhtanen, R., Blaine, B., & Broadnax, S. (1994). Collective
self-esteem and psychological well-being among White, Black, and
Asian college students. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,
20, 503-513.
Crocker, J., & Park, L. E. (2004). The costly pursuit of self-esteem.
Psychological Bulletin, 130, 392-414.
*Crystal, D. S. (1999). Attributions of deviance to self and peers by
Japanese and U.S. students. Journal of Social Psychology, 139,
596-610.
*Davis, C., & Katzman, M. A. (1998). Chinese men and women in
the United States and Hong Kong: Body and self-esteem ratings as
a prelude to dieting and exercise. International Journal of Eating
Disorders, 23, 99-102.
*Diener, E., & Diener, M. (1995). Cross-cultural correlates of life sat-
isfaction and self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 68, 653-663.
DiPaula, A., & Campbell, J. D. (2002). Self-esteem and persistence in
the face of failure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
83, 711-724.
Dunning, D. (1995). Trait importance and modifiability as factors
influencing self-assessment and self-enhancement motives.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 21, 1297-1306.
*Endo, Y., Heine, S. J., & Lehman, D. R. (2000). Culture and positive
illusions in relationships: How my relationships are better than
yours. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 1571-1586.
*Endo, Y., & Meijer, Z. (2004). Autobiographical memory of success
and failure experiences. In Y. Kashima, Y. Endo, E. S. Kashima,
C. Leung, & J. McClure (Eds.), Progress in Asian social psychol-
ogy (Vol. 4, pp. 67-84). Seoul, Korea: Kyoyook-Kwahak-Sa.
*Feather, N. T., & McKee, I. R. (1993). Global self-esteem and atti-
tudes toward the high achiever for Australian and Japanese
students. Social Psychology Quarterly, 56, 65-76.
*Fitts, W. H. (1965). Manual for the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale.
Nashville, TN: Counselor Recordings and Tests.
Giladi, E. E., & Klar, Y. (2002). When standards are wide of the
mark: Nonselective superiority and bias in comparative judgments
of objects and concepts. Journal of Experimental Psychology:
General, 131, 538-551.
Greenwald, A. G., & Farnham, S. D. (2000). Using the Implicit
Association Test to measure self-esteem and self-concept. Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology, 79, 1022-1038.
Hamamura, T., & Heine, S. J. (in press). The role of self-criticism in self-
improvement and face maintenance among Japanese. In E. C. Chang
(Ed.), Self-criticism and self-enhancement: Theory, research, and
clinical implications. Washington, DC: American Psychological
Association.
Hamamura, T., Heine, S. J., & Takemoto, T. (2006). Why the better-
than-average effect is a worse-than-average measure of self-
enhancement. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Harter, S. (1982). The Perceived Competence Scale for Children.
Child Development, 53, 87-97.
Hedges, L. V., & Becker, B. J. (1986). Statistical methods in the meta-
analysis of research in gender differences. In J. S. Hyde & M. C.
Linn (Eds.), The psychology of gender: Advances through meta-
analysis (pp. 14-50). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Heine, S. J. (2003). An exploration of cultural variation in self-
enhancing and self-improving motivations. In V. Murphy-Berman
& J. J. Berman (Eds.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation: Vol.
49. Cross-cultural differences in perspectives on the self (pp. 101-
128). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Heine, S. J. (2005a). Constructing good selves in Japan and North
America. In R. M. Sorrentino, D. Cohen, J. M. Olson, & M. P.
Zanna (Eds.), Culture and Social Behavior: The Tenth Ontario
Symposium (pp. 115-143). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Heine, S. J. (2005b). Where is the evidence for pancultural self-
enhancement? A reply to Sedikides, Gaertner, & Toguchi. Journal
of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 531-538.
Heine, S. J., Kitayama, S., & Hamamura, T. (in press). Different meta-
analyses yield different conclusions: A comment on Sedikides,
Gaertner, & Vevea. (2005). Asian Journal of Social Psychology.
*Heine, S. J., Kitayama, S., & Lehman, D. R. (2001). Cultural differ-
ences in self-evaluation: Japanese readily accept negative self-relevant
information. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32, 434-443.
*Heine, S. J., Kitayama, S., Lehman, D. R., Takata, T., Ide, E., Leung, C.,
et al. (2001). Divergent consequences of success and failure in Japan
and North America: An investigation of self-improving motivations
and malleable selves. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
81, 599-615.
*Heine, S. J., & Lehman, D. R. (1995). Cultural variation in unreal-
istic optimism: Does the West feel more invulnerable than the
East? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 595-607.
*Heine, S. J., & Lehman, D. R. (1997). The cultural construction of
self-enhancement: An examination of group-serving biases.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1268-1283.
*Heine, S. J., & Lehman, D. R. (1999). Culture, self-discrepancies, and
self-satisfaction. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25,
915-925.
Heine, S. J., & Lehman, D. R. (2004). Move the body, change the self:
Acculturative effects on the self-concept. In M. Schaller & C. Crandall
(Eds.), Psychological foundations of culture (pp. 305-331). Mahwah,
NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Heine, S. J., Lehman, D. R., Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1999).
Is there a universal need for positive self-regard? Psychological
Review, 106, 766-794.
*Heine, S. J., & Renshaw, K. (2002). Interjudge agreement, self-
enhancement, and liking: Cross-cultural divergences. Personality
and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 442-451.
*Heine, S. J., Takata, T., & Lehman, D. R. (2000). Beyond self-
presentation: Evidence for self-criticism among Japanese. Person-
ality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 26, 71-78.
Ho, D. Y. F. (1976). On the concept of face. American Journal of
Sociology, 81, 867-884.
Hofmann, W., Gawronski, B., Gschwendner, T., Le, H., & Schmitt, M.
(2005). A meta-analysis on the correlation between the Implicit
Association Test and explicit self-report measures. Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin, 31, 1369-1385.
Hong, Y., Morris, M. W., Chiu, C., & Benet-Martinez, V. (2000).
Multicultural minds: A dynamic constructivist approach to culture
and cognition. American Psychologist, 55, 705-720.
Hudson, W. W. (1982). Clinical measurement package: A field man-
ual. Chicago: Dorsey.
*Hymes, R. W., & Akiyama, M. M. (1991). Depression and self-
enhancement among Japanese and American students. Journal of
Social Psychology, 131, 321-324.
*Ip, G. W. M., & Bond, M. H. (1995). Culture, values, and the spon-
taneous self-concept. Asian Journal of Psychology, 1(1), 29-35.
Ishiyama, F. I., & Munson, P. A. (1993). Development and validation
of a self-critical cognition scale. Psychological Reports, 72, 147-154.
Ito, T. (1999). Self-enhancement tendency and other evaluations: An
examination of “better-than-average effect.” Japanese Journal of
Psychology, 70, 367-374.
*Jackson, T., Flaherty, S. R., & Kosuth, R. (2000). Culture and self-
presentation as predictors of shyness among Japanese and
American female college students. Perceptual and Motor Skills,
90, 475-482.
James, W. (1950). The principles of psychology. New York: Dover.
(Original work published 1890)
*Ji, L. J., Zhang, Z., Usborne, E., & Guan, Y. (2004). Optimism
across cultures: In response to the severe acute respiratory syn-
drome outbreak. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 7, 25-34.
Heine, Hamamura / EAST ASIAN SELF-ENHANCEMENT 25
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
26 PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY REVIEW
Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1973). On the psychology of predic-
tion. Psychological Review, 80, 237-251.
*Kanagawa, C., Cross, S. E., & Markus, H. R. (2001). “Who am I?”
The cultural psychology of the conceptual self. Personality and
Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 90-103.
*Kang, S., Shaver, P. R., Sue, S., Min, K., & Jing, H. (2003). Culture-
specific patterns in the prediction of life satisfaction: Role of emo-
tion, relationship quality, and self-esteem. Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin, 29, 1596-1608.
Kitayama, S., Duffy, S., & Kawamura, T. (2003). Perceiving an object
and its context in different cultures: A cultural look at New Look.
Psychological Science, 14, 201-206.
Kitayama, S., & Karasawa, M. (1997). Implicit self-esteem in Japan:
Name letters and birthday numbers. Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin, 23, 736-742.
*Kitayama, S., Markus, H. R., Matsumoto, H., & Norasakkunkit, V.
(1997). Individual and collective processes in the construction of the
self: Self-enhancement in the United States and self-criticism in Japan.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72, 1245-1267.
Kitayama, S., Palm, R. I., Masuda, T., Karasawa, M., & Carroll, J.
(1996). Optimism in the U.S. and pessimism in Japan: Perceptions of
earthquake risk. Unpublished manuscript, Kyoto University, Japan.
*Kitayama, S., & Uchida, Y. (2003). Explicit self-criticism and
implicit self-regard: Evaluating self and friend in two cultures.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 476-482.
Klar, Y., & Giladi, E. E. (1997). No one in my group can be below the
group’s average: A robust positivity bias in favor of anonymous
peers. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73, 885-901.
Klar, Y., & Giladi, E. E. (1999). Are most people happier than their
peers, or are they just happy? Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin, 25, 585-594.
Klar, Y., Medding, A., & Sarel, D. (1996). Nonunique invulnerabil-
ity: Singular versus distributional probabilities and unrealistic
optimism in comparative risk judgments. Organizational Behavior
and Human Decision Processes, 67, 229-245.
*Kobayashi, C., & Brown, J. D. (2003). Self-esteem and self-
enhancement in Japan and America. Journal of Cross-Cultural
Psychology, 34, 567-580.
*Kobayashi, C., & Greenwald, A. G. (2003). Implicit-explicit differ-
ences in self-enhancement for Americans and Japanese. Journal of
Cross-Cultural Psychology, 34, 522-541.
Kuhn, M. T., & McPartland, T. (1954). An empirical investigation of
self-attitudes. American Sociological Review, 19, 68-76.
*Kurman, J. (2001). Self-enhancement: Is it restricted to individualis-
tic cultures? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 12, 1705-
1716.
*Kurman, J. (2003). Why is self-enhancement low in certain collec-
tivist cultures? An investigation of two competing explanations.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 34, 496-510.
*Kurman, J., & Sriram, N. (2002). Interrelationships among vertical
and horizontal collectivism, modesty, and self-enhancement.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 33, 71-86.
*Kurman, J., Yoshihara-Tanaka, C., & Elkoshi, T. (2003). Is self-
enhancement negatively related to constructive self-criticism? Self-
enhancement in Israel and in Japan. Journal of Cross-Cultural
Psychology, 34, 24-37.
*Kwan, V. S. Y., Bond, M. H., & Singelis, T. M. (1997). Pancultural
explanations for life satisfaction: Adding relationship harmony to
self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 73,
1038-1051.
Leary, M. R., & Baumeister, R. F. (2000). The nature and function of
self-esteem: Sociometer theory. In M. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in
experimental social psychology (Vol. 32, pp. 1-62). San Diego,
CA: Academic Press.
Lee, A. Y., Aaker, J. L., & Gardner, W. L. (2000). The pleasures and
pains of distinct self-construals: The role of interdependence in
regulatory focus. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
78, 1122-1134.
*Lee, Y. T., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1997). Are Americans more opti-
mistic than the Chinese? Personality and Social Psychology
Bulletin, 23, 32-40.
*Lennon, S. J., Rudd, N. A., Sloan, B., & Kim, J. S. (1999). Attitudes
toward gender roles, self-esteem and body image: Application of a
model. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 17, 191-202.
*Lockwood, P., Marshall, T. C., & Sadler, P. (2005). Promoting suc-
cess or preventing failure: Cultural differences in motivation by
positive and negative role models. Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin, 31, 379-392.
*Mahler, I. (1976). What is the self-concept in Japan? Psychologia,
19, 127-132.
*Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Cultural variation in the self-
concept. In G. R. Goethals & J. Strauss (Eds.), Multidisciplinary per-
spectives on the self (pp. 18-48). New York/Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
Marsh, H. W. (1990). A multidimensional, hierarchical self-concept:
Theoretical and empirical justification. Educational Psychological
Review, 2, 77-172.
Maslow, A. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological
Review, 50, 370-396.
Morris, S. B., & DeShon, R. P. (2002). Combining effect size esti-
mates in meta-analysis with repeated measures and independent
group designs. Psychological Methods, 7, 105-125.
Muramoto, Y., & Yamaguchi, S. (1997). Another type of self-serving
bias: Coexistence of self-effacing and group-serving tendencies in
attribution in the Japanese culture. Japanese Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology, 37, 65-75.
Murray, S. L., Holmes, J. G., & Griffin, D. W. (1996). The benefits of
positive illusions: Idealization and the construction of satisfaction in
close relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
70, 79-98.
Nisbett, R. E., Peng, K., Choi, I., & Norenzayan, A. (2001). Culture
and systems of thought: Holistic vs. analytic cognition.
Psychological Review, 108, 291-310.
Noel, J. G., Wann, D. L., & Branscombe, N. R. (1995). Peripheral
ingroup membership status and public negativity toward out-
groups. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68, 127-137.
*Norasakkunkit, V., & Kalick, M. S. (2002). Culture, ethnicity, and
emotional distress measures: The role of self-construal and self-
enhancement. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 33, 56-70.
Norenzayan, A., & Heine, S. J. (2005). Psychological universals:
What are they and how can we know? Psychological Bulletin,
131, 763-784.
Paulhus, D. L. (1998). Interpersonal vs. intrapsychic adaptiveness of
trait self-enhancement: A mixed blessing? Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 74, 1197-1208.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (1984). Causal explanations as a
risk factor for depression theory and evidence. Psychological
Review, 91, 347-374.
Price, P. C., Pentecost, H. C., & Voth, R. D. (2002). Perceived event
frequency and the optimistic bias: Evidence for a two-process
model of personal risk judgments. Journal of Experimental Social
Psychology, 38, 242-252.
Pyszczynski, T., Greenberg, J., & Solomon, S. (2004). Why do people
need self-esteem? A theoretical and empirical review.
Psychological Bulletin, 130, 435-468.
*Rogers, C. (1998). Motivational indicators in the United Kingdom
and the People’s Republic of China. Educational Psychology, 18,
275-291.
Rogers, C. R. (1951). Client-centered therapy. New York: Houghton
Mifflin.
Rose, R. (1985). National pride in cross-national perspective.
International Social Science Journal, 103, 85-96.
Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image.
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Rosenthal, R. (1991). Meta-analytic procedures for social research
(Rev. ed.). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Rosenthal, R. (1995). Writing meta-analytic reviews. Psychological
Bulletin, 118, 183-192.
*Ross, M., Xun, W. Q. E., & Wilson, A. E. (2002). Language and the
bicultural self. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28,
1040-1050.
Sears, D. O. (1983). The person-positivity bias. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 44, 233-250.
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
Heine, Hamamura / EAST ASIAN SELF-ENHANCEMENT 27
*Sedikides, C., Gaertner, L., & Toguchi, Y. (2003). Pancultural self-
enhancement. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84,
60-79.
Sedikides, C., Gaertner, L., & Vevea, J. (2005). Pancultural self-
enhancement reloaded: A meta-analytic reply to Heine (2005).
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 539-551.
Shedler, J., Mayman, M., & Manis, M. (1993). The illusion of mental
health. American Psychologist, 48, 1117-1131.
*Singelis, T. M., Bond, M. H., Sharkey, W. F., & Lai, S. Y. (1999).
Unpackaging culture’s influence on self-esteem and embarrassability:
The role of self-construals. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 30,
315-331.
Snibbe, A. C., Kitayama, S., Markus, H. R., & Suzuki, T. (2003).
They saw a game: A Japanese and American (football) field study.
Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 34, 581-595.
*Spencer-Rodgers, J., Peng, K., Wang, L., & Hou, Y. (2004). Dialectical
self-esteem and East-West differences in psychological well-being.
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 1416-1432.
Steele, C. M., Spencer, S. J., & Lynch, M. (1993). Self-image resilience
and dissonance: The role of affirmational resources. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 64, 885-896.
Stevenson, H. W., & Stigler, J. W. (1992). The learning gap: Why our
schools are failing and what we can learn from Japanese and
Chinese education. New York: Summit Books.
*Stigler, J. W., Smith, S., & Mao, L. (1985). The self-perception of com-
petence by Chinese children. Child Development, 56, 1259-1270.
Tafarodi, R. W., & Swann, W. B. (1995). Self-liking and self-competence
as dimensions of global self-esteem: Initial validation of a measure.
Journal of Personality Assessment, 65, 322-342.
*Tafarodi, R. W., & Swann, W. B. (1996). Individualism-collectivism
and global self-esteem: Evidence for a cultural trade-off. Journal of
Cross-Cultural Psychology, 27, 651-672.
Takata, T. (1987). Shakaiteki hikaku ni okeru jiko higeteki keikou
jikken shakai shinrigaku kenkyu [Self-deprecative tendencies in
self-evaluation through social comparison]. Japanese Journal of
Experimental Social Psychology, 27(1), 27-36.
Taylor, S. E., & Brown, J. D. (1988). Illusion and well-being: A social
psychological perspective on mental health. Psychological Bulletin,
103, 193-210.
Weinstein, N. D. (1980). Unrealistic optimism about future life
events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39, 806-820.
*Zhang, J., & Norvilitis, J. M. (2002). Measuring Chinese psycho-
logical well-being with Western developed instruments. Journal of
Personality Assessment, 79, 492-511.
© 2007 Society for Personality and Social Psychology, Inc.. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.
at CHINESE UNIV LIBRARY on August 19, 2008 http://psr.sagepub.comDownloaded from
... With the waning influence of traditional notions and language usage on Chinese society (K ad ar and Pan, 2011, p. 75), the traditional value of modesty gradually loses its patriarchal power in social interactions among the younger generation. Meanwhile, in the context of globalization, young Chinese are adapting their perception of politeness to foreign cultures, especially Western individualism which closely ties one's social identity to one's self-esteem (Heine and Hamamura, 2007). As a result, they become more inclined to embrace or seek positive appraisal, such as praise which justifies or enhances their self-image and social identity, while disregarding the traditional politeness norm of self-denigration. ...
Article
Full-text available
In recent years, Kuakua has gained great popularity on Chinese social networking sites. It is a popular phenomenon in which young Chinese netizens proactively request praise from others in praising groups. However, this speech act seems unconventional as it flouts Leech's (1983) modesty maxim of politeness principle and Gu's (1990) self-denigration maxim. Therefore, this study aims to investigate the self-presentation strategies employed by Kuakua users on Douban and the underlying motivation of Kuakua by analyzing 400 posts quantitatively and qualitatively. These posts were collected using netnography and analyzed via grounded theory. We found that young Chinese netizens tend to use three pragmatic strategies when proactively requesting others' praise, namely, self-praise, self-disclosure, and self-denigration, in order of decreasing frequency. The result indicates a changing perception and attitude towards Chinese politeness among young Chinese netizens. In addition, the popularity of Kuakua in China also suggests an underlying yet intense conflict between the traditional values of politeness and the growing desire of young Chinese for recognition and affection.
... Together, these implications invite numerous avenues for future theorizing. Among these, reported differences for "balanced" forms self-enhancement or the primacy of self-improvement (Joshanloo et al., 2021), might be strong candidates for cultural influences on these variables within the context of Japan (e.g., Heine et al., 2000Heine et al., , 2001Heine and Hamamura, 2007 as cited in Su and Oishi, 2011;Joshanloo et al., 2021). Comparison of self-efficacy types with wellbeing measures might reveal these relationships, as indicated in a conceptual analysis of the relationships between positive psychology and foreign/second language acquisition (e.g., , and implied in work applying the framework of selfdetermination theory (e.g., McEown and Oga-Baldwin, 2019) and other comprehensive treatments that extend and integrate the perspective of teaching to the psychology of language learning (Gregersen and Mercer, 2022). ...
Article
Full-text available
Introduction Research on self–efficacy in intercultural communication (SEIC) provided validity evidence for second language (L2) self-efficacy domains. However, it lacked (1) an analysis of individual differences in personality as antecedents, (2) divergent validity from anxiety variables (i.e., foreign language classroom anxiety; FLCA), and (3) disambiguation from speaking (S-SE) and listening (L-SE) skill-specific self-efficacy types. Methods We conducted structural equation modeling of L2 self-efficacy and anxiety as response variables predicted by the Big Five model of personality in the context of Japanese undergraduate students at three university sites ( n = 373), and a geographically diverse online survey of emerging adults ( n = 1,326) throughout Japan. Results The final model for the nationally representative sample showed that SEIC was predicted by all identified personality factors. Differentially supported paths were observed linking L-SE with Conscientiousness (β = 0.24) and Extraversion (β = 0.16), and S-SE with Extraversion (β = 0.24) and Neuroticism (β = −0.12). The fear of failure factor of FLCA was predicted positively by Neuroticism (β = 0.25) and, surprisingly, Conscientiousness (β = 0.10), and negatively by Extraversion (β = −0.13). Relationships to Openness to Experience were only supported for SEIC (β = 0.17) and S-SE (β = 0.12). Discussion These findings provide specificity matching for personality and L2 self-efficacy domains as empirical advances for assessing global competence within the context of Japan. Implications for cultural influences on self-efficacy and applied educational practices in language and intercultural learning are discussed.
... (Kobayashi and Farrington, 2020). In addition, as Japanese tend to have lower self-esteem and are more self-critical than their Western counterparts (Heine et al., 1999;Heine and Hamamura, 2007), Japan is a suitable setting to assess the modifiable factors that mitigate the association between bullying experience and low self-esteem. ...
Article
Full-text available
Introduction Few studies have investigated the moderating effect of coping skills on the association between bullying experience and low self-esteem. The aim of this study was to examine whether coping skills have a moderating effect on the association between bullying experience and self-esteem among Japanese students. Methods Data from the population-based Kochi Child Health Impact of Living Difficulty (K-CHILD) study conducted in 2016 were analyzed. Participants included fifth-and eighth-grade students living in Kochi Prefecture, Japan. A questionnaire for the students ( n = 5,991) assessed the bullying experience, self-esteem (the Japanese Edition of the Harter’s Perceived Competence Scale for Children), and coping skills that comprised six types (The shortened version of coping skills for elementary school children). Multivariate linear regression analyses were conducted to examine the association between bullying experience and self-esteem and then the moderating effects of six types of coping as interaction terms on the association were considered. Results Bullying experience was inversely associated with self-esteem. All six types of coping did not moderate the relationship between bullying experience and low self-esteem even after adjusting for cofounders (all P for interaction > 0.15). Conclusion Coping skills did not moderate the association between bullying experience and self-esteem, suggesting that intervention to boost coping skills to mitigate the adverse effect of bullying experience may not be promising.
Article
After Hofstede proposed individualism-collectivism (IDV-COLL) as a dimension of national culture, numerous studies have used that name to refer to individual-level psychological constructs, based on theories and empirical operationalizations that are not necessarily compatible with the Hofstede tradition. This has created confusion. In this study, we investigate whether the two revised Minkov-Hofstede dimensions of national culture - IDV-COLL and “flexibility-monumentalism” (FLX-MON) - have individual-level counterparts and if they are isomorphic (have the same structure at both levels of analysis). We find that the three main conceptual facets of national COLL (conformism, ascendancy, and exclusionism) and the three of MON (self-esteem, self-stability, and generosity) materialize as six independent individual-level dimensions in a nationally representative sample from Mongolia ( n = 1500). This structure emerged in a confirmatory factor analysis, multidimensional scaling, and hierarchical cluster analyses. This is the first series of analyses of the structure of the individual-level ingredients of national IDV-COLL and FLX-MON
Article
Individuals with low self-esteem (LSE) may be devalued, whereas individuals with high self-esteem (HSE) are typically praised in Western society. People readily infer traits based on impressions of self-esteem. Across two studies, we address whether impressions of a hypothetical target person’s self-esteem influence judgments beyond the target’s personality. Results revealed that the target’s self-esteem influenced impressions of personality not only of the target, but of their mother and best friend. Moreover, when the target was portrayed as having LSE compared to HSE, participants made more pessimistic estimates of imagined future experiences with the target, even when the controllability of events varied. Overall, impressions of a target’s self-esteem spread beyond the target, influencing perceptions of their close associates and future events.
Article
This experiment examined how online support-seeking messages containing anticipatory apology and/or appreciation influence support provision in the U.S. and Korea. The mediating role of regard for face was also assessed. A total of 983 participants (568 in the U.S. sample, 415 in the Korean sample) read and responded to support-seeking messages posted on an interactive online platform. Results showed that support-seeking messages with anticipatory apology and/or appreciation elicited higher quality (in terms of person-centeredness) supportive messages than support-seeking messages without anticipatory apology or appreciation. Participants’ perceptions of support-seeker's regard for face mediated the effect of anticipatory apology in support-seeking messages on level of person-centeredness in received support messages. This pattern of findings was observed in both the American and Korean samples.
Article
Objective: Drawing from dual-strategies theory, leader-member exchange theory, and several theories of self-esteem, we develop and test hypotheses about how followers' self-esteem predicts their perceptions of dominant and prestigious leaders' leadership ability. Method: Across four studies (N = 1568), we tested the association between self-esteem and perceptions of leadership ability for dominant and prestigious leaders. Results: Individuals with high self-esteem perceived greater leadership ability in prestigious leaders than did those with low self-esteem, and individuals with low self-esteem perceived greater leadership ability in dominant leaders than did those with high self-esteem. These results emerged across ratings of leaders from hypothetical vignettes (Studies 1 and 4), abstract beliefs about what constitutes good leadership (Study 1), past personal experiences with leaders (Study 2), and clips of leaders from reality television (Study 3). In Study 4, we also tested potential mechanisms. Compared to followers with low self-esteem, followers with high self-esteem found prestigious leaders more trustworthy, and they anticipated feeling inauthentic around a dominant leader. Conclusions: Self-esteem is reliably and robustly related to perceived leadership ability of dominant and prestigious leaders, and these differences might stem from differences in trust in prestigious leaders and anticipated authenticity around dominant leaders.
Article
Full-text available
Empirical evidence supports the hypothesis that an individual’s position in an income stratum—more than the absolute income level—determines subjective well-being. However, studies on subjective well-being suffer from a critical methodological weakness: they use exogenously defined reference groups. Our study addresses this point by applying an innovative new survey instrument. We ask respondents to identify individual reference persons for income comparisons. We find that these reference persons come from a range of social groups. Interactions between personality traits and the direction of income comparisons lead to different levels of subjective well-being. This highlights the importance of collecting information on personality traits in research on subjective well-being. We conclude that questions about self-defined individual income comparisons can be a valuable and straightforward addition to future surveys.
Article
Purpose Although there have been considerable amounts of research documenting the effects of narcissism on workplace outcomes, studies of the impact of narcissism on job performance have produced inconclusive results. This study aims to provide insight into this issue by using a new model of narcissism, the Narcissistic Admiration and Rivalry Concept model to explore the processes by which narcissism can impact job performance. Design/methodology/approach Two studies (Study 1 with 1,176 employees and 217 managers cross-sectional data; Study 2 with 209 employees and 39 managers time-lagged data) were conducted and multilevel technique was used to test the research model. Findings Narcissistic rivalry is associated with higher levels of family–work conflict (FWC) and that these effects are magnified when narcissists also have competing demands in the form of expectations to conform to traditional values. Furthermore, this study documents that higher levels of FWC are associated with greater emotional exhaustion and lower job performance. However, narcissistic admiration only has direct effect on job performance. Originality/value This paper not only suggests that narcissism is a previously untested dispositional antecedent for FWC, but it also uses a facet-based approach to examine when and how narcissism impacts job performance.
Article
Forced‐choice format tests have been suggested as an alternative to Likert‐scale measures for personnel selection due to robustness to faking and response styles. This study compared degrees of faking occurring in Likert‐scale and forced‐choice five‐factor personality tests between South Korea and the United States. Also, it was examined whether the forced‐choice format was effective at reducing faking in both countries. Data were collected from 396 incumbents participating in both honest and applicant conditions (NSK = 179, NUS = 217). Cohen's d values for within‐subjects designs (dswithin) for between the two conditions were utilized to measure magnitudes of faking occurring in each format and country. In both countries, the degrees of faking occurring in the Likert‐scale were larger than those from the forced‐choice format, and the magnitudes of faking across five personality traits were larger in South Korea by from 0.07 to 0.12 in dswithin. The forced‐choice format appeared to successfully reduce faking for both countries as the average dswithin decreased by 0.06 in both countries. However, the patterns of faking occurring in the forced‐choice format varied between the two countries. In South Korea, degrees of faking in Openness and Conscientiousness increased, whereas those in Extraversion and Agreeableness were substantially decreased. Potential factors leading to trait‐specific faking under the forced‐choice format were discussed in relation to cultural influence on the perception of personality traits and score estimation in Thurstonian item response theory (IRT) models. Finally, the adverse impact of using forced‐choice formats on multicultural selection settings was elaborated. The benefit of using forced‐choice formats for cross‐cultural selection settings is not yet clear because there is a lack of scholarly evidence on the performance of forced‐choice formats with respect to faking occurring in different cultures. With the use of a forced‐choice format personality test, the magnitudes of faking decreased in the United States for all five personality traits, whereas the magnitudes of faking occurring in Openness and Conscientiousness increased in South Korea. Potential factors leading to trait‐specific faking under the forced‐choice format can be related to cultural influences on the perception of personality traits and score estimation in Thurstonian item response theory (IRT) models. Practitioners should consider cultural differences in how applicants view target constructs if a forced‐choice format is considered for cross‐cultural/international personnel selection settings. The benefit of using forced‐choice formats for cross‐cultural selection settings is not yet clear because there is a lack of scholarly evidence on the performance of forced‐choice formats with respect to faking occurring in different cultures. With the use of a forced‐choice format personality test, the magnitudes of faking decreased in the United States for all five personality traits, whereas the magnitudes of faking occurring in Openness and Conscientiousness increased in South Korea. Potential factors leading to trait‐specific faking under the forced‐choice format can be related to cultural influences on the perception of personality traits and score estimation in Thurstonian item response theory (IRT) models. Practitioners should consider cultural differences in how applicants view target constructs if a forced‐choice format is considered for cross‐cultural/international personnel selection settings.
Article
A culturally relevant framework was used to examine variations on optimistic and pessimistic bias in Westerners and Easterners. Study 1 showed that 136 European Americans compared with 159 Japanese were more likely to predict typical positive events to occur to self than to a sibling. The opposite pattern emerged in the prediction of typical negative events. Study 2 replicated these findings on the basis of predictions for atypical events in 175 European Americans and 130 Japanese. Across both studies, within-groups analyses indicated that European Americans held an optimistic bias in the prediction of positive and negative events, whereas Japanese held a pessimistic bias for negative events. These findings are taken to offer support for presumed cultural differences in self-enhancement and self-criticism between Westerners and Easterners, respectively.
Article
People are frequently required to judge how particular group members measure up against others in their group. According to the local-comparisons - general-standards (LOGE) approach, in these member-to-group comparisons, people fail to use the normatively appropriate local (group) standard and are infelicitously affected by a more general standard (involving instances from outside the judged group). Within positive groups, target group members are judged superior to the other members of the group, and within negative groups, inferior. To date, these nonselective superiority and inferiority biases have been demonstrated solely in judgments about human beings. In 6 experiments, nonselective biases were found in perceptual, affective, and cognitive judgments of nonhuman targets, objects, and concepts, thus supporting a cognitive rather than a social account.
Article
The culture movement challenged the universality of the self-enhancement motive by proposing that the motive is pervasive in individualistic cultures (the West) but absent in collectivistic cultures (the East). The present research posited that Westerners and Easterners use different tactics to achieve the same goal: positive self-regard. Study 1 tested participants from differing cultural backgrounds (the United States vs. Japan), and Study 2 tested participants of differing self-construals (independent vs. interdependent). Americans and independents self-enhanced on individualistic attributes, whereas Japanese and interdependents self-enhanced on collectivistic attributes. Independents regarded individualistic attributes, whereas interdependents regarded collectivistic attributes, as personally important. Attribute importance mediated self-enhancement. Regardless of cultural background or self-construal, people self-enhance on personally important dimensions. Self-enhancement is a universal human motive.
Article
The authors compared levels of optimistic and pessimistic bias in the prediction of positive and negative life events between European Americans and Japanese. Study 1 showed that European Americans compared with Japanese were more likely to predict positive events to occur to self than to others. The opposite pattern emerged in the prediction of negative events. Study 2 replicated these cultural differences. Furthermore, positive associations emerged between predictions and occurrence of life events 2 months later for both European Americans and Japanese. Across both studies, results of within-groups analyses indicated that both groups expected negative events to be more likely to occur to others than to self (optimistic bias). In addition, Japanese expected positive events to be more likely to occur to others than to self (pessimistic bias). However, European Americans failed to show the expected optimistic bias for positive events.
Article
Peripheral membership status in a desirable ingroup was predicted to elevate outgroup derogation when Ss believed other ingroup members might learn of their responses. Less negativity toward outgroups was expected when peripheral members' responses were to remain private. Core ingroup members, in contrast, were not expected to show public-private differences in derogation of out-groups. The results of 2 experiments supported these predictions, with peripheral but not core ingroup members advocating the most coercion for the outgroup under public conditions in both laboratory-created ingroups (Experiment 1) and naturally occurring groups that had meaning for the participants (Experiment 2). Thus, outgroup derogation can serve a public presentation function that allows for enhancement of an insecure status within a desirable ingroup.