A growing body of theoretical and empirical cross-cultural research is showing that people from different cultures appear to be motivated in distinct ways. This research has shown that North Americans, generally speaking, tend to be motivated to focus on what is positive about themselves. This is known as self-enhancement. Positive self-views serve to inspire North Americans to do more. In contrast, recent research has revealed that Japanese, in general, tend to be motivated to focus on what is unsatisfactory about themselves and then to work towards correcting these deficiencies. This is known as self-improvement. That is, negative information about the self motivates Japanese to do more. The proposed research program seeks to demonstrate how and under what conditions Japanese and North Americans are motivated to do their best. Potential applications of this research could be extended to clinicians motivating patients to persevere through a difficult treatment procedure. A series of cross-cultural laboratory studies are proposed to investigate self-enhancing and self-improving motivations in Japan and North America. In many of these studies, subjects will encounter either positive or negative information about themselves and their reactions to this feedback will be assessed. Specific questions that will be explored are: a) what kinds of circumstances are most motivating for subjects? b) what are the mechanisms underlying these motivations; and c) how do North American and Japanese cultures sustain such different motivational systems.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-RPHB-4 (01))
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Riley, William T
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University of British Columbia
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V6 1-Z3
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