What Do Cross-National Comparisons of Personality Traits Tell Us?

  title={What Do Cross-National Comparisons of Personality Traits Tell Us?},
  author={Steven J. Heine and Emma E. Buchtel and Ara Norenzayan},
  journal={Psychological Science},
  pages={309 - 313}
Much research contrasts self-reported personality traits across cultures. We submit that this enterprise is weakened by significant methodological problems (in particular, the reference-group effect) that undermine the validity of national averages of personality scores. In this study, behavioral and demographic predictors of conscientiousness were correlated with different cross-national measures of conscientiousness based on self-reports, peer reports, and perceptions of national character… 

Tables from this paper

Revealed Traits: A Novel Method for Estimating Cross-Cultural Similarities and Differences in Personality
Cross-cultural research on personality has often led to surprising and countertheoretical findings, which have led to concerns over the validity of country-level estimates of personality (e.g.,
The validity and structure of culture-level personality scores: data from ratings of young adolescents.
Aggregate scores were generalizable across gender, age, and relationship groups and showed convergence with culture-level scores from previous studies of self-reports and observer ratings of adults, but they were unrelated to national character stereotypes.
One of Jüri Allik’s major, pioneering contributions to psychology is the assessment of personality across numerous cultures. His contributions have inspired many other large collaborations of
Reference Group Effects in the Measurement of Personality and Attitudes
It is illustrated that a reference-group effect can be induced by small changes to instruction sets, changes that mirror the instruction sets of commonly used measures of personality.
Assessing Personality Using Self-Report Measures with Asians and Asian Americans
The reliability and validity of commonly used personality self-report measures have been investigated among different Asian groups internationally, but there is a dearth of studies among
Comparability of Self–Reported Conscientiousness across 21 Countries
In cross–national studies, mean levels of self–reported phenomena are often not congruent with more objective criteria. One prominent explanation for such findings is that people make self–report
The Effect of Response Style on Self-Reported Conscientiousness Across 20 Countries
The findings suggest that the puzzling country rankings of self-reported Conscientiousness may to some extent result from differences in response styles.
Accuracy of United States regional personality stereotypes


Personality profiles of cultures: aggregate personality traits.
Aggregate scores on Revised NEO Personality Inventory scales generalized across age and sex groups, approximated the individual-level 5-factor model, and correlated with aggregate self-report personality scores and other culture-level variables, suggesting that aggregate personality profiles provide insight into cultural differences.
National Character Does Not Reflect Mean Personality Trait Levels in 49 Cultures
Perceptions of national character appear to be unfounded stereotypes that may serve the function of maintaining a national identity.
National Character and Personality
People in all cultures have shared perceptions about the personality characteristics of the typical member of their own culture and of typical members of other cultures. Recent collaborative work has
Toward a Geography of Personality Traits
It has long been believed that personality traits vary by geographicallocation, but few studies have examined the worldwide distribution of personality profiles. Using the five-factor model of
Trait psychology and culture: exploring intercultural comparisons.
  • R. McCrae
  • Psychology
    Journal of personality
  • 2001
This conceptualization provides a new framework for studying personality and culture at three levels, and shows that Trait psychology can serve as a useful complement to cultural perspectives on human nature and personality.
Personality in cultural context: methodological issues.
Core methodological issues are bias and equivalence: a taxonomy and a brief overview of statistical procedures to examine equivalence are presented, with a focus on procedures for assessing structural equivalence.
The Geographic Distribution of Big Five Personality Traits
The Big Five Inventory (BFI) is a self-report measure designed to assess the high-order personality traits of Extraversion, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness. As part of the
What's wrong with cross-cultural comparisons of subjective Likert scales?: The reference-group effect.
Although cultural experts agreed that East Asians are more collectivistic than North Americans, cross-cultural comparisons of trait and attitude measures failed to reveal such a pattern, the problematic nature of this reference-group effect was demonstrated.
The Power of Personality: The Comparative Validity of Personality Traits, Socioeconomic Status, and Cognitive Ability for Predicting Important Life Outcomes
The influence of personality traits on important life outcomes is demonstrated, the need to more routinely incorporate measures of personality into quality of life surveys is highlighted, and further research is encouraged about the developmental origins of personality trait and the processes by which these traits influence diverse life outcomes.
The Five-Factor Model of Personality Across Cultures
Preface A.J. Marsella. Introduction R.R. McCrae, J. Allik. Section I: Trans- and Intercultural Studies. The Cross-Cultural Generalizability of the Five-Factor Model of Personality J.-P. Rolland.