Cultural Psychology: Hazel Markus-Our Cultures, Our Selves: The Sources of Belongingness


Many will find that they might like to focus on the module and in that case the  resources on this site can be read or listened to later in the programme when prompted by your tutor.

Markus discusses how  our cultures shape our selves, and our selves feed into the cultures of which we are a part.   She illustrates that belongingness requires a match between one’s view of self and the contexts in which one lives and works. Most universities, for example, promote an independent view of self. In “Our Cultures, Our Selves: The Sources of Belongingness” Hazel Rose Markus,  examines how the self is shaped by the social world and how the self organises thought, feeling, and action.

In this talk, Markus focusses on the social class divide in the United States. Social class is the topic of Module 6 so students should not be over-concerned with it.   Please note social class discussions often make people uncomfortable as we do not like to think in the late second decade of the 21 st. century that we are  confined by social class. Students should see Markus's discussion in terms of seeing that we belong to many cultures and that these experiences have an influence on the development of the self.  And often it might appear that sociologists imply that  working class norms and values as more negative than those of the middle class whereas this is not the reality. In module 6 we will be looking at social class and in particular, in terms of not stereotyping social class, there are many differences within social class as well as between them. We do not think we have the same division and portrayed by Downton Abbey or Upstairs Downstairs and there are many critiques of the tendency to stereotype the social class, yet there is much to learn from gaining insight into behaviour of difference groups. In this case take particular note of the independent and the interdependent model of self and what they both promote or foster.

In Markus’s typology of independent and interdependent selves, the “independent” self values being unique, self expression making a contribution, being heard,  achievement and influencing others. In contrast, the “interdependent” self emphasises relationships,  resilience, persistence, respect, vigilance, integrity, toughness of self, similarities to others, adjusting to others and fitting in with one’s social surroundings.

Everyone has and needs both an independent and interdependent self, Markus illustrates that our mix of cultural contexts, such as region of the world,  class and gender, influences which of the two selves is mostly likely to guide  behaviour.

Take a blank page and make two lists:  Independent and Interdependent self and list the characteristics that  you have according to whether they are fostered by independence or interdependence.

Are there any characteristics that could be enhanced by developing a more independent or interdependent self?

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