Culture is a belief about ethics, behaviors and values that are held by a majority of people within a society. The culture of which we are a part impacts our identity and even our beliefs about the nature of life. The type of culture either Individualistic or Collective into which a person is born affects and influences what that person believes and how that person behaves. For example, someone growing up in a “tight” (Collective) culture, where rules are strongly enforced, does not support individualistic thought or behavior.

However, persons who are raised in a “loose” (Individualistic) culture have more latitude in how they behave and what they believe. Loose cultures are more prominent in western societies like America. These cultures are based on the belief that a person’s life belongs to that person, which is in alignment with the founding fathers’ Bill of Rights.

On the other hand, Collective cultures believe a person’s first obligation is to society. And, they must sacrifice their needs to benefit the greater good. When rules of thought and behavior are more rigid, it is a Collective society.

Every culture has aspects of Individualistic and Collectivistic beliefs, but in Individualistic cultures more value is placed on being extroverted. Individualistic cultures find people to be more open than Collectivistic cultures. And, Collectivistic cultures support a more introverted personality style and encourage behaviors that are representative of the majority of people. Collectivistic cultures are good at seeing other people’s perspective to foster group harmony, whereas there is not as much in Individualistic cultures.

The personality trait of extroversion motivates people’s individualistic thought and behavior so there are more differences in the population. If culture fosters a more extroverted personality style, we can expect more need for social interaction. Additionally, Individualistic cultures foster more assertive and outspoken behavior. When the general population encourages these gregarious behaviors, more ideas are exchanged and self-esteem increases.

The opposite of extroversion is not introversion. More correctly, people who are low in extroversion are more likely to be less socially inclined, but that doesn’t mean that they do not enjoy socializing. They may like to socialize in smaller groups or one on one. They can be less assertive. Additionally, a person who is low in extroversion tends to be less energetic and less active.

Another difference can be noted by comparing the moods of extroverts with those who have less extroversion. People who come from loose cultures seem to be happier. This may be because they get more attention. Being noticed is a psychological reward.

Culture also reinforces certain religious beliefs. Some countries are predominantly Catholic while others may be Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist. Each religion carries its own set of standards for personal conduct. For example, consider how these cultures limit the choices people have in choosing a profession, a spouse, women’s roles and the garments they wear and behave.

Some cultures encourage close physical proximity when in conversation, while others foster loud, even argumentative verbal exchanges, and some may prize soft-spoken, polite conversation.

Emotional well-being is generally more evidenced in cultures that promote belief in facts and not theories because there is more emotional security in reality. Greater emotional well-being was noted in immigrants whose personality characteristics were more congruent with the cultural norms of the new country to which they migrated. There are fewer adjustments to be made in similar cultures.

Consider your culture. What beliefs, attitudes and behaviors have you adopted from your culture? How would you change it? What are you doing to improve it?

Dr. Lynda M. Gantt, Ph.D.,  LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Santa Maria.