Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

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What causes national differences in culture? Past attempts to answer this question take insufficient account of how slowly culture changes or of the fact that culture itself influences the social structural, political, and demographic variables identified as causes. Convincing causes of cultural differences must meet three criteria: They should reflect the formative historical experiences of societies, they should not be influenced reciprocally by culture, and theoretically plausible process should explain their impact on culture. I propose and explain causes of national differences in cultural embeddedness, a value orientation that calls upon people to find meaning in life through identifying with their in-group, participating in its shared way of life, and striving toward its shared goals. Analyses of data from 77 cultural groups (74 countries) demonstrate that cultural embeddedness is greater in ethnically heterogeneous societies, with a relatively short history of viable state institutions, whose historically dominant religion was Islam rather than Protestantism or Roman Catholicism. These causal findings are not due to diffusion of culture to nearby countries or colonies. They hold up even when predicting differences in cultural embeddedness among eight world regions or within Eastern and within Western Europe. This research can be a model for investigating causes of various cultural differences among nations and other groups.

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