The goal of the planned investigation is to examine cultural influences on the motivation to be responsive to the needs of others. The research will be conducted in the United States and India - cultures emphasizing qualitatively distinct interpersonal moral codes and views of the self. The long term objectives of the project are: (a) to identify culural differences in interpersonal motivation linked to the more individually-oriented conceptions of responsibilities emphasized in American culture as contrasted with to the more duty-based conceptions of interpersonal responsibilities emphasized in Hindu Indian culture; (b) to further knowledge regarding the cross-cultural applicability of the views of internalization forwarded in psychological theories of motivation; (c) to enhance current understanding of the role of enculturation processes in the development of interpersonal motivation; and (d) to examine some of the adaptive consequences and mental health implications of the contrasting motivational orientations emphasized in American and Hindu Indian cultures. The research is expected to demonstrate that, reflecting their contrasting culturally based views of interpersonal morality, Americans maintain a more extrinsic motivational orientation toward interpersonal responsibilities than do Indians. Thus, it is hypothesized that whereas among Americans, normative expectations to help others will lead to the diminishing of endogenous forms of motivation and will be associated with less adaptive behavioral functioning, they will not have such effects among Indians. The research is also expected to document respects in which the dominant psychological theories of internalization are culturally-bound. These theories link acting out of a perceived sense of obligation to feelings of pressure or coercion. However, such a linkage is hypothesized not to occur among Indians whom it is anticipated do not perceive an antithetical relationship between self-determined forms of motivation and social duty. Finally, the project is anticipated to document that the direction of developmental change in interpersonal motivation is culturally variable, with Americans developing a relatively exogenous view of interpersonal responsibilities and Hindu Indians retaining a relatively endogenous view. The experimental hypotheses are to be tested in three studies, conducted among samples of American and Hindu Indian adults and elementary-school aged children. The first study examines the relationship between individuals' perceived reasons for being responsive to the needs of others and their socio- emotional functioning. The second study assesses whether the presence of role-related interpersonal responsibilities reduces endogenous motivation for helping behavior and degrades its quality. Finally, the third study evaluates the impact of normative expectations to render aid on intrinsic motivation.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
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University of Michigan Ann Arbor
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Ann Arbor
United States
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