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Psicothema, 2000. Vol. Vol. 12 (Suplem.1). 34-44


J. Francisco Morales, Elena Gaviria, Fernando Molero*, Ana Arias** and Darío Paez***

UNED Madrid, * University of Almería, ** University of Jaén and *** Basque Country University

It is contended that Individualism is something more than one of the poles of the I-C dimension. Furthermore: a) its meaning cannot be reduced to that of a mere self-ingroup conflict, and b) its function cannot be reduced to establishing crosscultural comparisons since it is also present at the subcultural level. 20 groups of about 10-12 subjects from eight different Autonomous Communities (regions) of Spain participated in the first phase of the research. They discussed freely on several I-C issues proposed by an interviewer (a member of the research team) in a semi-directed interview during an hour and a half. Eventually, a list of different statements was compiled from them and two equivalent pilot scales of about 164 items each were generated (forms A and B). 997 subjects (724 female, 273 male) participated in a second phase. Most of them were University students (age mean of 22,6 years) and came from 8 different spanish regions. In group’s discussions appeared many issues different from those implied by the I-C dimension. The answers to the scales, in spite of the high homogeneity of the sample, reflected differences due to sex, age, geographical origin, intensity of religious feeling and position along the ideological continuum, among others. Several cluster analyses uncovered different combinations of answers to the Individualism facets, suggesting that Individualism is best conceived as a «multifaceted» phenomenon. In the light of these results, implications for further research are discussed.

Individualismo: uno o muchos. Se plantea que el individualismo es uno más de los polos de la dimensión I-C. Aun más, su sentido no se puede reducir al de un mero conflicto entre el individuo y el grupo y su función tampoco puede reducirse a las comparaciones transculturales, ya que las diferencias en individualismo están presentes a nivel subcultural. 20 grupos de alrededor 10-12 sujetos de 8 Comunidades Autónomas de España participaron en la primera fase de esta investigación. Discutieron libremente varias problemáticas del individualismo- colectivismo propuestas por un entrevistador del grupo de investigación en una entrevista semiestructurada durante una hora y media. Una lista de las diferentes afirmaciones formulada por los grupos se utilizo para conformar dos escalas piloto de alrededor 164 ítems cada una, formas A y B. 997 personas (724 mujeres, 273 hombres) participaron en una segunda fase. La mayoría de ellos eran estudiantes universitarios (media de edad 22,6 años) y provenían de 8 regiones españolas diferentes. En las discusiones de grupo emergieron diferentes problemáticas muy distintas de las implicadas por la dimensión Individualismo- Colectivismo. Las respuestas a las escalas, a pesar de la alta homogeneidad de la muestra reflejaron diferencias asociadas al sexo, la edad, el origen geográfico, la intensidad del sentimiento religioso y las posiciones ideológicas entre otras. Varios análisis de conglomerados descubrieron diferentes combinaciones de respuesta a las facetas del individualismo, lo que sugiere que el individualismo se puede concebir mejor como un fenómeno de «múltiples facetas». En base a estos resultados se analizan las implicaciones para posteriores estudios.


The mainstream view on Individualism within Social Psychology, transparent in Markus and Kitayama (1991), Markus, Kitayama and Heiman (1996), Páez and colls. (1998), Kim and colls. (1994) and MacDonald (1998), among others, is represented by Hofstede’s (1980) and Triandis and colls’. (1988) works. In fact, Hofstede introduced a way of studying cultural differences via comparisons among cultures as wholes, dismissing or showing no interest in possible subcultural differences, which has met considerable success. In addition, since 1980 scores of studies have focused on Individualism-Collectivism (I-C), Hofstede’s most important dimension, analysed its meaning in samples from many different cultures and have explored its relationships with an overwhelming number of variables, such as gender stereotypes, emotional expression, personality traits, explanations of poverty, illness symptoms, insults, assertiveness and self-confidence, equity and distributive justice, uses of time and homesickness, to name but a few. See Figure 1 for a selection of some of these variables and Smith and Bond (1993) for a thorough review of this type of research.

More recently, and along with the development of his «Value Survey Instrument», Schwartz (1992, 1994) has launched a new, vigorous approach to the study of Individualism, uncovering some of the difficulties that beset the mainstream (here, for reasons of brevity, the «Hofstede-Triandis’ approach»), specifically its assumption of zero subcultural variation and the location of Individualism at one of the poles of the I-C dimension with the consequent restriction of its meaning to that of a value orientation necessarily opposed to Collectivism.

The assumption of zero subcultural variation

As is known (see, for instance, Morales, López-Sáez and Vega, 1998, p. 201), Hofstede’s multicultural study, called «the HERMES project», involved participants from 40 different countries, all of them working for the same multinational corporation. The I-C factor identified by this author was obtained from subjects’ answers to 14 work goals via an «ecological» (Hofstede’s term) factor analysis, where «ecological» means that «the loading of each goal is the correlation coefficient between each country’s factor score and its mean score in that goal. This correlation is calculated across all 40 countries». In other words, subcultural variation is assumed to be non existent.

Despite the clear advantages of such a procedure for multicultural comparisons, the assumption of zero subcultural variation is not without problems. Smith and Bond’s warning is unequivocal: «We should bear in mind that differences found between any two cultures might well also be found between carefully selected subcultures within these countries ... Within any national culture there will be all manners of divergences in the experiences of the individuals constituting that culture» (1993, p. 17). Obviously, the inability to draw a clear distinction between the cultural and the subcultural levels may lead to the «ecological» fallacy, i.e., to interpret a given relation between two variables at the subcultural level extrapolating it from data obtained at the cultural level (Kim, 1994). An example of the «ecological» fallacy would be to conclude that since France is, by all accounts, more individualistic than Venezuela, any French person should be more individualistic than any Venezuelan one.

It is worth mentioning, in this respect, that many researchers have found I-C useful to explain subcultural differences, be they the traditional individual differences, for example, in personality traits, or differences due to the social position of subjects, such as age, residence, income, education, and so on. Hui (1988), arguing that I-C must also cover the individual tendency or predisposition, and that Hofstede’s procedure is by no means suitable for understanding subcultural variations, developed the INDCOL scale which measures I-C at the individual level. Other studies, reviewed by Smith and Bond (1993), have explored differences within a single culture (or country). For instance, Semin and Rubini (1990) focused on the differences in language use (preferred types of insults) between samples from the North and South of Italy. According to popular wisdom, the Northeners are individualistically oriented while the Southerners show collectivistic tendencies. Along the same lines, Cox, Lobel and McLeod (1991) studied differences in cooperation among four ethnic samples of students within the US (anglos, hispanics, black and asiatic).

More recently, Mishra (1994) contends that in Indian society differences in I-C are a function of three sociodemographic variables, i.e., age, education and residence. He presents data in support of his contention, the implication being that I-C should not be considered stable across sections of Indian society. Cha’s (1994) data from Korean samples goes in the same direction. In his study, age is the focal variable of interest, gender, education and residence being controlled statistically. All his subjects turn out to be collectivistic. However, his «old» group (50 or more years) is more collectivistic than his «young» one (around 20 years). In addition, the factor structure of I-C is different between both groups.

Subcultural variation in the I-C dimension is, then, not only a theoretical requirement but a robust empirical finding as well. And it helps to understand more fully the psychosocial function of Individualism. This point is emphasized by Triandis himself in his «theory of the self in relation to the culture» (1994), according to which collectivistic societies may include some individualistic components and viceversa. The fact that a culture is collectivistic does not mean that it lacks individualistic components. It simply means that collectivistic ones are more prevalent. This explains why it is possible for them to be individualistic people in collectivistic societies and collectivistic people in individualistic ones: people learn how to adjust to the demands of different contexts. Triandis’ own example is that of the Professor who, after being elected by his/her University, acts as a representative of it in a national meeting. By defending the interests of his/her colleagues, employers and students, the Professor behaves in a collectivistic way, in spite of being considered individualistic by most of the people who know him/her.

The issue of bipolarity

Bipolarity lies at the very heart of the I-C dimension. While in Hofstede’s early work it was a consequence of the methodology employed (the «ecological» factor analysis), in later research it acquired a rather different character, that of an unchallenged theoretical assumption. Indeed, in all the developments of the «Hofstede-Triandis’» approach, with the only exception of the recently added dimension of vertical vs horizontal I-C (see Triandis and Gelfand, 1998), the I-C opposition stands for a self-ingroup conflict. Yamaguchi’s work (1994) represents the clearest example of it, insofar as his scale consists of 10 items, all of them dilemmas of choice between self and ingroup goals intended to elicit either individualistic or collectivistic answers. Yamaguchi’s scale, however, cannot be considered the only example of bipolarity. Another is provided by Mishra’s (1994) instrument. It covers six decisions and incorporates six groups of people of (potential) interest for the subjects (parents, spouse and so on). The decisions adopted independently by subjects, i.e., without paying attention to the opinion of these groups, fall in the «I» pole. The «C» pole, on the other hand, is represented by a high degree of dependence on the same groups. Triandis’ (1994) 28 «Defining Attributes of Allocentrics and Idiocentrics», in spite of their wide range of content, are also centered on the issue of self-ingroup conflict, and constitute another example of bipolarity.

Recently, bipolarity has been attacked on several grounds. For one, Kim and colls. (1994) contend that individualism implies the rejection of the traditional social order, a point of view well beyond the self-ingroup conflict. Other authors have warned against conceiving I-C merely as a self-ingroup conflict, since it amounts to equate collectivism and cohesion, excluding on an «a priori» basis the possibility that individualistic persons may form cohesive groups, which is contrary to all evidence (see Cha, 1994, pp. 173-174). Bierbrauer and colls. (1994) argue that I-C has to do not only with (individual) values but with (societal) norms, like the ones concerned with social justice or peace. This convergence among authors with respect to the need to leave behind the restrictive conception of the I-C dimension as nothing more than a «self-ingroup conflict» opens the way to a new, multidimensional view of Individualism.

Sinha and Tripathi’s (1994) work can serve as an illustration of this. They ask their subjects to choose among three alternatives to a series of dilemmas people face in their daily lives. The first two alternatives represent the I-C poles. The third is a «mixture» of them. Interestingly enough, this is the alternative most frequently chosen. Similar to this, Bierbrauer and colls. (1994) present their subjects with a list of items to be answered twice, the first time indicating their own personal preference, the second the (perceived) societal norm. The similarity between the two measures is then taken as in index of the subjects’ closeness to their own culture and is used to develop different profiles of I-C. We will refer finally to Ho and Chiu’s (1994) scale, which has three factors that cover I-C but in different ways, since they do not show high intercorrelations. And, of course, it is empirically found that there are different I-C profiles. In sum, multidimensionality is emphasized in different ways: through the so-called «Model of Coexistence» of collectivism and individualism in subjects’ minds, as proposed by Sinha and Tripathi (1994); expanding its scope so as to embody societal norms, as argued by Bierbrauer, Meyer and Wolfradt (1994); or calling attention to the existence of empirically different profiles of I-C (Ho and Chiu, 1994).

Other approaches to individualism

A recent book by Ester, Halman and de Moor (1994), entitled «The Individualizing Society: Value Change in Europe and North America», presents Individualism under a different light. The book begins with a definition of the process of individualization: «the growing autonomy of individuals in developing their own values and norms, which increasingly deviate from traditional, institutionalized value systems». When individualization occurs, «self-actualization and personal happiness have become the core of value development and norm selection» (1994, p. 1). The essence of the process of individualization seems to be the fact that «values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors are increasingly based on personal choice and are less dependent on tradition and social institutions. Thus, individualization points to an increase in room for individual choice at the expense of the predominance of traditional and institutional orientations over a person’s values» (1994, p. 72). With individualization, one might expect an increased liberalization of lifestyle in society, especially within domains such as religion, morality, sexuality, primary relations, and leisure time (among others). The common denominator to this «increased liberalization» is the relative prevalence of personal choices as opposed to choices dictated by tradition or institutions (see Ester and colls., 1994, p. 1).

There is a connection between individualism and the ethic of commitment. «Growing individualism could very well evoke a greater concern for ‘collectiva’. According to Yankelovich (1981), individualism does not necessarily lead to hedonism and consumerism. It may lead instead to the ‘ethic of commitment’». The argument goes like this: precisely because of the process of increased individualization, the need for personal contacts and mutual involvement is reinforced (1994, p. 8). Individualism has also to do with Inglehart’s (1977, 1990) silent revolution. This author refers to «a silent revolution (which) is going on (and) reveals a shift from materialistic values to postmaterialist ones stressing individual freedom and personal development ... These values accentuate non-materialistic goals such as individual growth and quality of life (1994, p. 8)». Individualism, in fact, contributes to the development of societal values such as personal freedom, self-development, self- expression, equality and democracy (1994, p. 8).

One may wonder if Individualization is something more than just a convenient label for a more or less heterogeneous set of social processes. Ester and colls. (1994) suggest, contrary to this idea, that it could well be the «ultimate goal of democratic societies». Since they prefer not to assert it, they resort to an interrogative construction: «is that ultimate goal not found in the very source of democratic values, the supreme value of each individual?». The answer they provide is clear: «certainly, this value is an important reference point for all kinds of behavior», though cautious: «but it has also to be acknowledged that it is a very generalized and vague value, in modern culture mostly translated as personal happiness and self-determination, which turn it into a multi-interpretable concept» (1994, p. 17).

As a matter of fact, these authors make use of two mutually related «interpretations». The first is «the predominant importance of the personal happiness and personal interest value», the second «an enlargement of the free-choice space of behavior» (1994, p. 17). So, individualization of values may refer either to values which define certain behavior as a matter of free choice, or to values which define the individual’s happiness, self-development and self-determination as the prime goal of behavior (1994, p. 18)

A final reference should be made to the relation between the process of individualization and confidence in institutions and tolerance. (With individualization), «a decrease in confidence in democratic and especially in authoritative institutions may emerge since institutions restrict the freedom of individual behavior» (1994, p. 72). With respect to tolerance, with individualization, «tolerance towards various groups in society may be expected to increase as such tolerance expresses the right to individualism at a higher level of abstraction» (1994, p. 72).

The Ester and colls’. approach is somewhat convergent with that of moral philosophy (see, for example, Muguerza, 1998). Ethics must be individualistic, since «the units of the content of morality as well as its agents are individual human beings and that, as far as judgements of moral order are concerned, each individual must be taken as such, i.e., as an individual» (p. 18). In fact, where the community as a whole seems unable to trascend its own cultural horizon and becomes a «closed society», unconformable individuals and groups of individuals could contribute from the inside to break such a closure (p. 20). The history of the conquest of human rights can be described properly as a history written by dissenting individuals and groups of individuals (p. 28).

Objectives of this work

The elaboration of a set of items adapted to the Spanish population in order to measure Individualism at the subcultural level in our country was our first objective. It has been found repeatedly (for instance, Morales, López-Sáez and Vega, 1992) that Triandis’ 3-Factor Questionnaire items produce very asymmetrical distributions in Spanish samples, so that almost all respondents tend to choose the collectivistic pole of the scale. While this could be interpreted as simple lack of subcultural variation on Individualism in Spain, we think that this is not the case. Our second objective was closely linked to the first one: to uncover facets of Individualism different from the traditional self-ingroup conflict. Reaching both objectives should then lead to the elaboration of a new scale of Individualism, which, in turn, would allow us to obtain different profiles of Individualism and, eventually, to trace their social antecedents and consequences.


First phase

Our starting point was a series of group interviews on a wide repertoire of I-C issues presented to the subjects for discussion. 20 groups of about 10-12 participants were used. I-C issues were proposed by an interviewer (a member of the research team) in a semi-directed interview during an hour and a half. The groups came from different Autonomous Communities (i.e., regions) of Spain. All group interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed and content-analyzed. One of the main purposes of group interviews was to explore the possibility that issues related to civil, moral or ethic values were raised in the context of a debate on I-C. That was, indeed, the case. Eventually, we compiled about 300 different statements. They were written in an item-like format and distributed in two equivalent pilot scales of about 164 items each (our forms A and B).

Second phase


997 subjects (724 female, 273 male), most of them University students, with an age mean of 22,6 years, and belonging to 8 different regions of Spain («Autonomous Communities»), namely Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla-León, Catalonia, Galicia, Madrid, Basque Country and Valencia, participated in the study.


They were asked to answer a Questionnaire form (A or B) using a five-point scale (1 = total agreement; 5 = total disagreement). These two forms did not include only the 164 items related to Individualism, but also

a) a list of items tapping variables used by studies establishing comparisons between individualistic and collectivistic countries, according to Smith and Bond (1993), specifically, interest in learning about «agreeableness and conscientiousness» of others, altruistic and egotistic motivation, punctuality and time management, homesickness, sincerity and negotiating styles, the «Just World Hypothesis», and restraining social expression of anger and distress

b) a list of «instrumental» (form A) or «expressive» (form B) values of Schwartz’s (1992, 1994) «Value Survey Instrument», taken from its Spanish version by Ros and Grad (1991).

c) a list of sociodemographic variables: Sex, Age, Number of people living currently with subject in his/her permanent residence, Father’s years of formal education, Mother’s years of formal education, Employment (yes/no), Place of residence/ place of birth/ place of residence during childhood (village, small town, middle town, city), Weekly leisure activities (alone/in company of other people), Ideological position (self-placement on the left-right continuum), Religious feeling and Political Preference (Party voted in the last general elections).


While many of the items turned out to be consensual and elicited a «cultural» response, a substantial part of them showed subcultural variation and a normal distribution around the mean of the scale. Overall there were 65 of those items, 37 in form A and 28 in form B: they did not evoke «cultural» or consensual answers from our subjects and were raised in a context of group discussion on Individualism.

Dimensions of Individualism: Factor Analyses

Form A of the questionnaire had an acceptable reliability of .64 (Cronbach’s alpha) and included 7 factors: 1, High versus low criticism of Nationalism and Economic Conservatism (8,8% of explained variance), 2, High versus low Solidarity (6%), 3, High versus Low Pragmatic Realism (5,2%), 4, High versus Low Emotional Independence (4,2%), 5, High versus Low Negative Reactions to individual success (3,8%), 6, Individualism versus Cooperation in Group Tasks (3,6%) and 7, Negative versus Positive effects of Living with parents (3,4%). (The corresponding items are shown in the APPENDIX).

Since 1 = total agreement and 5 = total disagreement, high scores, i.e., scores above the theoretical mean of the scale (> 3), indicated:

a) low criticism towards Nationalism and Economic Conservatism in Factor 1,

b) low Solidarity in Factor 2,

c) low Pragmatic Realism in Factor 3,

d) low Emotional Independence in Factor 4,

e) low negative reactions to Individual Success in Factor 5,

f) Cooperation in Group Tasks in Factor 6,

g) Positive Effects of Living with Parents in Factor 7.

Form B had an acceptable reliability of .62 (Cronbach’s alpha) and included 5 factors: 1, High versus low negative effects of Family, (10,5% of explained variance), 2, High versus low Group Cooperation (7,7%), High versus Low Openness in personal relationships (5,2%), 4, High versus low Individual responsibility (4,9%), and 5, High versus Low Sociopolitical Conformism (4,6%). (The corresponding items are shown in the APPENDIX).

As in the case of Form A, and due to similar reasons, scores above the theoretical mean of the scale (> 3) indicated:

a) low Negative Effects of Family in Factor 1,

b) high Group Cooperation in Factor 2,

c) high Openness in Personal Relationships in Factor 3,

d) high Individual Responsibility in Factor 4,

e) high Sociopolitical Conformism in Factor 5.

The answer to the question on the existence of different types of individualism must then be affirmative. Some of the factors resemble those involved in the I-C dimension, for example, Factors 4 (Emotional Independence), 5 (Reactions to individual success) and 6 (Cooperation in Group Tasks) of the A form; Factors 1 (Negative Effects of Family) and 2 (Group Cooperation) of form B. But the remaining factors are totally different and closer to alternative conceptions of Individualism. For instance, Solidarity, Pragmatic Realism (Factors 2 and 3 of form A), Openness in personal relationships, Individual responsibility and Sociopolitical Conformism (Factors 3, 4 and 5 of form B) have more to do with the conception implicit in the theoretical developments of Ester and colls. (1994) regarding the process of individualization.

Concurrent validity of individualism-collectivism factors: correlations between factors and individualistic beliefs in motivation, social perception and behavior

Most of the factors correlate with one or more variables of Figure 1, i.e., with variables used by studies establishing comparisons between individualistic and collectivistc countries (Smith and Bond, 1993), as shown in Table 1.

As can be seen in Table 1, all factors of Form A and three out of five factors of form B correlate with at least one of the cross-cultural variables related to the I-C dimension, which can be considered an indication of the convergent validity of our data.

Results support the hypothesis that individualism was related to just world beliefs: agreement with the just world ideas was related to high criticism toward nationalism and economic conservatism (Form A factor 1,r=-0,17,p<0,05), high pragmatism (Form A factor 3,r=-0,14,p<0,05), high emotional independence of groups (Form A factor 4,r=-0,16,p<0,05) and individualism in group tasks (Form A factor 6,r=-0,14,p<0,05).

Results also support the hypothesis that individualism was related to Punctuality and strict Time management. Importance of punctuality and Time management was related to high pragmatism (Form A factor 3,r=-0,11p<0,05) and high criticism toward nationalism and economic conservatism (Form A factor 1,r=-0,12,p<0,05) - it is important to remember that correlations are negative because lower scores mean high individualistic responses in these subscales.

Our results support the concurrent validity of these subscales and are congruent with the idea that time punctuality is associated to some aspects of individualism. However, time management was also related to high group solidarity (Form B factor 2,r=-0,10,p<0,05) and high group cooperation (Form A factor 2,r=-0,11,p<0,05) and to low individual responsability (Form B factor 4,r=-0,12,p<0,05). These results suggest that some aspects of collectivism, or at least allocentrism, in a developed and relatively individualistic country like Spain are also related to agreement with time management.

Also as expected, altruistic motivation was related to collectivistic subscales: high solidarity (Form A, Factor 2, r=-0,14,p<0,05), low emotional independence (Form A, Factor 4, r=0,08,p<0,05) and high group cooperation (Form B, Factor 2, r=-0,11,p<0,05). Agreement with egotistic motivation was associated with individualistic subscales: individualism in group tasks (Form A, Factor 6,r=-0,13,p<0,05). However, it was also related with low sociopolitical conformism (Form B, Factor 5, r=-0,09,p<0,05), a dimension that can be interpreted as a critical position towards the social system.

Supporting the hypothesis of higher emotional and behavioral inhibition in collectivistic cultures (also see the Basabe et al. article in this monograph), individualistic subscales correlated with a lower restrain in social expression of anger and distress: criticism of nationalism and economic conservatism was related to lower inhibition of emotional expression (Form A, Factor 1, r=-0,20,p<0,05) and high pragmatic realism (Form A, factor 3, r=-0,16,p<0,05). In the same vein, criticism of nationalism and economic conservatism was related to confrontation in negotiation (Form A Factor 1, r=-0,20,p<0,05) and high pragmatic realism (Form A, factor 3, r=-0,16,p<0,05). In the same vein, criticism of nationalism and economic conservatism was related to confrontation in negotiation (Form A, Factor 1, r=-0,12,p<0,05).

With the relative exception of the relation between egotistic motivation and critical position towards the social systems, results show the concurrent validity of subscales. The Individualistic subscale was related to agreement with the just world ideas (4 correlations), importance of time management (2 correlations), higher emotional expression (2 correlations), confrontational styles and egotistic motivation (both 1 correlation).

Just world ideas appear as more related to cultural subscales, and in a lower extent time management, emotional expression and motivation, than the other domains of personal perception and homesickness. In fact importance of agreeableness was related to a more or less individualistic scale about the negative effects of living with parents, was associated to interest in learning about agreeableness and conscientiousness of others (Form A, Factor 7,r=-0,11,p<0,05). Moreover, the importance of agreeableness was also related to high pragmatic realism, a more individualistic style subscale (Form A, Factor 3, r=-0,18, p<0,05). Finally, homesickness was related only to negative effects of living with parents, an individualistic statement (Form A, Factor 7, r=-0,12,p<0,05). Personal perception and homesickness did not show concurrent validity with our subscales.

In sum, eight out of twelve factors show partial concurrent validity.

Subcultural Variation: Cluster Analyses

We succeeded in demonstrating the existence of subcultural variation on Individualism. First, by performing several ANOVAs significant differences among subjects from different regions of Spain were obtained. Next, through resorting to Cluster Analysis, we intended to achieve a more detailed information on the nature of this subcultural variation. Specifically, we were interested in learning if there were subsets of subjects with equal or similar answers to the Questionnaire and, in addition, if these answers represented specific patterns of reaction to the different Índividualism factors.

Seven clusters were needed to classify subjects who answered form A and five to classify those who answered form B. See on Table 2 the relative position of each cluster of subjects in the different Factors of form A.

As we see, each cluster has its own pattern of factor scores. In some cases, subjects share a more or less congruent set of individualistic or collectivistic beliefs. For instance, subjects of cluster 4 are low in Emotional Independence and are cooperative. However in other cases, subjects share at the same time collectivistic and individualistic beliefs. The different factors are clearly independent. Subjects of Cluster 2 and 3 are more or less collectivistic with respect to Emotional Independence but they are individualistic with respect to Cooperation in Group Tasks. Subjects belonging to clusters 1 and 5 are low in Emotional Independence but individualistic with respect to Cooperation in Group Tasks

In addition, it is possible to be high in Solidarity and Pragmatic Realism: the case of Clusters 2 and 6, low in Solidarity and high in Pragmatic Realism (Cluster 3), high in Solidarity and low in Pragmatic Realism (Cluster 5) and, finally, low in both factors (Cluster 1).

Low Solidarity is associated to high Emotional Independence in two Clusters (3 and 7), high Solidarity to low Emotional Independence in two others (4 and 5), while Cluster 2 shows a combination of high Solidarity and high Emotional Independence and Cluster 1 one of low Solidarity and low Emotional Independence.

Table 3 shows the relative position of each cluster of subjects in different Factors of form B.

As above, the independence of different factors is clear. There is a tendency towards an association between Effects of Family and Group Cooperation: Clusters 5 and 3 are above the mean of both factors, while Clusters 4 and 1 are below it, but Cluster 2, being above the mean of Factor 1, is not below it in Factor 2. As far as the other factors are concerned, their mutual independence is still clearer.

Anchoring of clusters in social and ideological positions

Important differences among subjects of the clusters emerge as a function of age, sex, religious feeling, ideological position, political preferences and endorsement of values found in Schwartz’s list. See main findings in Table 4.

As can be seen in Table 4 (Form A), age is inversely related to Factor 2. This means that older subjects tend to be higher in Solidarity (a high score in Factor 2 indicates low Solidarity). It is directly related to Factor 6, which imply that older subjects are more favorable to Cooperation in Group Tasks.

Sex is directly related to Factor 6, indicating that female subjects are more favorable than male ones to Cooperation in Group Tasks.

Ideological position is inversely related to Factors 1, 4 and 6, meaning that people close to the right end of the political continuum show high criticism towards Nationalism, high Emotional Independence and low Cooperation in Group Tasks.

Religious feeling is inversely related to Factor 1 and directly related to Factor 4. Highly religious people, then, tend to be anti-Nationalist and show low Emotional Independence.

We also see in Table 4 (Form B), that age is inversely related to Factors 1 and 3, indicating that older subjects tend to agree with high Negative effects of Family and that they are less open in Personal Relationships.

Sex is directly related to Factor 4. This means that women of our sample show a higher acceptance of Individual Responsibility.

Ideological position is inversely related to Factors 4 and 5, the implication being that subjects close to the right end of the political continuum tend to be lower in Individual Responsibility and Sociopolitical Conformism.

As we can see in Table 4, a conservative ideological position is related to Economic Conservatism and criticism of Nationalism (it is important to notice that in our questionnaire this means criticism towards peripherical Catalonian nationalism which questions Spanish patriotism), high Emotional Independence and low Cooperation in Group Tasks. These results are congruent with previous research on political ideology and individualism. However, also congruent with a holistic and anticapitalistic position of the extreme right, ideological position is inversely related to Factors 4 and 5 of Form B, the implication being that subjects close to the right end of the political continuum share more some «collectivistic» beliefs, such as that it is better for a young person to live with his/her parents, the centrality of government, blaming the capitalist system for the current lack of solidarity and at the same time an anti-normative position.

Religious feeling is inversely related to Factor 4 and directly related to Factor 5. Highly religious people, then, tend to be low in Individual Responsibility and high in Sociopolitical Conformism.

These results are coherent with the association between religiousness and traditionalism.

Looking at the data in more detail, it is possible to characterize the clusters on the basis of these variables. As an illustration, Figure 2 displays the characteristics of four clusters of Form A.

Figure 3 displays the characteristics of two clusters of Form B.


Our results confirm that individualism-collectivism is multifaceted, that these different aspects are relatively independent and related in a complex manner to psychosocial processes.

Factor analysis of 65 items, showing higher variability and normal distribution, related to Individualism-Collectivism extracted 7 and 5 factors in two different pools of questions. Some factors were not related to the opposition individual-group and were closer to the conception of individualization as parting from tradition: solidarity and trust in others, pragmatic realism, individual responsability and sociopolitical conformism. Moreover, individualistic answers in these factors were related to agreement with the just world ideas, importance of time management, higher emotional expression, confrontational styles and egotistic motivation, confirming the validity of these sub-scales. On the other hand, agreement with solidarity and pragmatic realism were both associated to punctuality, a marker of modernization. Simultaneously, low individual responsability, was also associated with punctuality, suggesting that traditionalism is related to strict Time Management in Western societies - and not only individualism. Cluster analysis shows that answers to different factors are clearly independent. In some cases, subjects share a more or less congruent set of individualistic or collectivistic beliefs (i.e. they were low in Emotional Independence and cooperative in group tasks at the same time). However in most cases, subjects share at the same time collectivistic and individualistic beliefs (e.g. clusters 1,5,6 y 7 in Form A, N=321 or 65% of the total sample). Finally, some individualistic factors, like Emotional Independence and Low Cooperation in Group Tasks were related as expected to a conservative political position - they were anchored in ideological positions congruently. However, low individual responsability and sociopolitical conformism appear as related not to left wing positions, but to right wing positions, showing that traditionalism is in some cases related to conservative collectivistic ideologies.


While recent research has found the usefulness of certain dimensions for cross-cultural comparisons, even granting the importance of such comparisons it should be emphasized that by no means do they imply a complete absence of subcultural variation. There may be cases in which variability within a given culture is reduced to a minimum. But this type of consensual uniformity is not to be expected in socially relevant or crucial issues, where disagreement and conflict are much more likely. A good example is provided by Williams and Best’s (1990) cross-cultural study of gender stereotypes in 25 countries (adult sample). On the one hand, their «item pool contained a substantial number of items associated with men and women in all countries». There was, then, a certain degree of agreement among countries, «a sine qua non for a study such as this» (Williams and Best, 1990, p. 69) aimed at establishing cross-cultural comparisons in gender stereotyping. But this was only part of the story, since the authors maintained the additional expectation that the «overall variability or dispersion» of stereotyping scores «was greater in some countries than in others» (Williams and Best, 1990, p. 70), for which, in fact, they found supporting evidence. So, the mean of a given country in gender stereotypic items will serve to determine its position relative to the rest of the countries of the sample. But this knowledge is enriched with the discovery of the country’s inner variation in the intensity of stereotyping.

In our study, participants in group discussions discovered, after having focused on topics related to the I-C dimension, that they disagreed strongly on a number of issues which emerged in a rather spontaneous fashion through the discussion. In fact, 65 out of the 300 items formulated on the basis of the transcription of discussions had a normal distribution around the theoretical mean of the scale. This subcultural variation does not exclude in any way the possibility of using the 65 items for cross-cultural comparisons. It simply means that a given culture may experience inner conflict with respect to certain issues on which disagreement prevails over consensus and conflict over harmony.

On top of that, individualism cannot be reduced to one of the poles of the I-C dimension. In the social sciences literature there are other meanings for this construct, meanings that have nothing to do with the self-ingroup conflict. Prominent among them are the pairs autonomy-rationality and responsibility-accountability. A person who tries to develop his or her own lifestyle (or, for that matter, his or her own religious feelings, or his or her own primary relations) may be considered «individualistic» in the sense that he or she is deliberately disregarding «traditional» solutions provided by his or her culture. This is not the meaning implied by the term «individualistic» when opposed to «collectivistic». In this example, the person may very well be a member of a cohesive group involved in the development of new lifestyles. Similarly, a person who claims responsibility for his or her own actions is «individualistic» in yet another sense: that of the morally autonomous person. In our study, we found several factors unrelated to the self-ingroup conflict: solidarity, pragmatic realism, living with parents, openness in personal relationships, individual responsibility and sociopolitical conformism.

The recognition of several kinds of individualism is the first step to discover different combinations of this phenomenon. Individualism is unlikely to be found «in its pure form», which in our terms would be equivalent to Individualism «in all its possible manifestations». Instead, people are expected to be individualistic in some respects but not in others, which amounts to saying that there are many ways of being individualistic. And this is what appeared in our study: this is precisely what clusters are about. They show that the subcultural differences in Individualism are organized into specific patterns. These patterns, being but the outcome of the positioning of a set of subjects in all the types (factors) of Individualism, are to be considered as specific ways of being individualistic. To illustrate this point, we will establish comparisons between two specific Clusters (1 and 3) of Form A, already presented in Table 2 and Figure 2 (the reader is invited to perform similar comparisons by him or herself with other Clusters of form A and form B). As shown in this Table, the pattern of Cluster 1 is as follows: above the mean in Factors 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7 (Criticism of Nationalism and Economic Conservatism, Solidarity, Pragmatic Realism, Emotional Independence and Living with Parents, respectively), below the mean only in Factor 6 (Cooperation in Group Tasks). The pattern of Cluster 3 is very different: below the mean in Factors 1, 3, 4, 6 and 7, above the mean only in Factor 2. Both Clusters converge, then, only in two Factors, 2 (Solidarity, above the mean) and 6 (Cooperation in Group Tasks, below the mean). They differ in the remaining four: Criticism of Nationalism and Economic Conservatism, Pragmatic Realism, Emotional Independence and Living with Parents. So, as compared with subjects of Cluster 3, Cluster 1 subjects are more «nationalist», less pragmatic, less emotionally independent, and more positive in their evaluation of living with parents.

But the question is: are these differences psychologically meaningful? In order to provide an answer, we tried to discover where differences between the subjects of these two Clusters came from. And we found that subjects composing the two Clusters differed in a set of variables related to their social position. Subjects of Cluster 1 have the following characteristics: they are the only ones who vote for nationalist parties, their religious feeling is rather low, they are close to the left end of the political continuum and are very low in Schwartz’s Tradition-Conventionalism value. The subjects of Cluster 3 are the youngest ones of the whole sample, they are the most religious, their position in the political continuum is the closest to its right end and they manifest clear political preferences for the political parties of the majority. Finally, they score highest in Schwartz’s Tradition-Conventionalism value. It is easy to imagine that very different behaviors are to be expected from the typical subject of each cluster. And this brings us to our theoretical conclusion: Individualism is best viewed as a social orientation which guides people through the different situations they face in their everyday life. This is why the study of this phenomenon is so necessary in Social Psychology. Indeed, it is perfectly suited to the psychosocial perspective. On the one hand, it shows how individual behavior acquires meaning in its social context. On the other, it emphasizes that the social context, far from being static, is undergoing continuous social change.

Our data are, admittedly, as yet only tentative and need confirmation by further research. We expect, however, that they will at least serve to raise doubts on a view of Individualism as «nothing more than» one of the poles of the I-C continuum, as «nothing more than» a convenient tool for establishing cross-cultural comparisons. If Individualism is an important social orientation, for sure it will be learned through social interaction, it will be dependent on the social meaning of the situation and sensitive to the winds of social change; if Individualism is to help people adapt to the ever-changing circumstances of daily life, for sure it has to be «multifaceted».


1 The study reported here was supported by the «Dirección General de la Investigación Científica y Técnica» (PB94-0387: 1995-1998).


ITEMS OF FORM A FACTORS (factor loadings in brackets)


1. Catalonia is an example of interregion insolidarity: it accepted immigrants in the sixties, when they were greatly needed, and today it complies them to use the Catalan language, which is not their native tongue. (.66)

2. Nationalism implies a denial of human rights. (.65)

3. Nationalism is but a way of emphasizing differences. (.65)

4. Unemployment reduction will not be achieved through work redistribution. (.44)

5. Conflict with friends is to be avoided at any cost. (.42)

6. If anybody tried to deprive me of my job, I wouldn’t hesitate in resorting to any means in order to keep it. (.39)


1. We must always trust other people, even though we run the risk of being proved wrong. (.59)

2. Those who participate in the activities of their own community or neighbourhood show more solidarity than those who do not. (.55)

3. All the members of one family help each other. (.52)

4. Norms are created to protect personal freedom. (.48)


1. Divergences within a family lead to the accentuation of self-interest. (.62)

2. What makes you feel at home in a neighbourhood are the advantages it has to offer. (.55)

3. Success is measured by comparison with others. (.47)

4. People are reluctant to associate with others even when their own interests are at risk. (.39)


1. The existence of a problem in a group does not worry me at all, it’s not my problem. (.75)

2. I ignore the persons of my group that I don’t like. (.55)

3. I’m ready to help other people providing it doesn’t cause me any trouble. (.49)

4. Within the family it is very often better not to talk, in order to avoid conflicts and arguments. (.39)


1. Quite often people who succeed professionally are a failure in their personal lives. (.71)

2. If I’m given the choice, I prefer to work in a group. (.32)


1. Only success achieved through one’s own effort can be considered real success. (.72)

2. Group work benefits mainly those members of the group who make less effort. (.62)

3. People are more uniform when they are in a group. (.30)


1. In general, through their protective attitude parents do not foster children’s autonomy. (.72)

2. Parents are the ones to blame when their sons do not leave home even after finding a job. (.61).

3. In a context of mutual dependence it is easier to establish interpersonal relations (.33)



1. Family interaction fosters emotional blackmail. (.73)

2. It is not unusual for parents to be too distant from their children. (.65)

3. As one grows up friends become more important than one’s own family. (.53)

4. Many parents are reluctant to help their children when they have problems. (.49)


1. Everybody must solve his/her problems by him/herself. (.70)

2. It’s usual for work mates to hide information from each other. (.52)

3. One’s own survival is more important than helping others. (.52)

4. The fewer the groups one belongs to, the deeper the relationship with them. (.20)


1. Material benefits lead many young people to stay at home with parents even after finding a job. (.63)

2. Spontaneous help in small villages is not due to a real care for others, but to gossip. (.59)

3. An externally attached label tends to become a self-imposed label and to orient behavior in the direction expected by others. (.48)


1. If a young person gets along well with his/her parents, it is better for him/her to live with them even after getting a job. (.68)

2. An association is useless unless supported by the government. (.59)


1. The capitalist system, not the people, is to blame for the current lack of solidarity. (.68)

2. Norms tend to restrain personal freedom. (.66)

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Aceptado el 20 de diciembre de 1999

Factor de Impacto 2022:  JCR WOS 2022:  FI = 3.6 (Q2);  JCI = 1.21 (Q1) / SCOPUS 2022:  SJR = 1.097;  CiteScore = 6.4 (Q1)