Culture moderates the self-serving bias: Etic and emic features of causal attributions in India and in Canada

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Nancy C. Higgins
Gira Bhatt
Cite this article:  Higgins, N., & Bhatt, G. (2001). Culture moderates the self-serving bias: Etic and emic features of causal attributions in India and in Canada. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 29(1), 49-62.


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In this study the hypothesis that individuals from a collectivist culture explain life events using more contextual causes than do those from an individualistic culture was tested. Undergraduates’ causal attributions about positive and negative life events were assessed in India (n = 195) and Canada (n = 162) using a revised Attributional Style Questionnaire. Analyses revealed the Indian participants generated more contextual causes for events, but also had a stronger self-serving bias than did the Canadian participants. Further, each cultural group viewed achievement events as more controllable than interpersonal events, but the Canadian sample differentiated between achievement and interpersonal events more strongly than did the Indian sample. The findings demonstrate that causal explanations for life events in the two cultures possess both etic (i.e., universal) and emic (i.e., culture-specific) features.

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