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Stern, E., Welsh, R., Gonzalez, R., Fitzgerald, K., Abelson, J., & Taylor, S. (2013). Subjective uncertainty and limbic hyperactivation in obsessive-compulsive disorder. Human Brain Mapping. 34, 1956-1970. DOI: 10.1002/hbm.22038 …

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If you find a correlation at the cultural level, do you also see it at the individual level?

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What started out as a simple puzzle about a pattern of correlations turned into an interesting paper raising some questions about relations between variables at individual and cultural levels.

Na, J., Grossman, I., Varnum, M., Kitayama, S., Gonzalez, R., & Nisbett, R. (2010). Cultural differences are not always reducible to individual differences. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 6192-6197.

doi:10.1073/pnas.1001911107 (PDF)

Abstract

We show that differences in social orientation and in cognition that exist between cultures and social classes do not necessarily have counterparts in individual differences within those groups. Evidence comes from a large-scale study conducted with 10 measures of independent vs. interdependent social orientation and 10 measures of analytic vs. holistic cognitive style. The social measures successfully distinguish between interdependence (viewing oneself as embedded in relations with others) and independence (viewing oneself as disconnected from others) at the group level. However, the correlations among the measures were negligible. Similar results were obtained for the cognitive measures, for which there are no coherent individual differences despite the validity of the construct at the group level. We conclude that behavioral constructs that distinguish among groups need not be valid as measures of individual differences.