Xiaoye Xu

Publication Date


Document Type

Honors Thesis




Language and culture, East Asians-Ethnic identity, Whites-Race identity, Ethnopsychology, East Asians-Psychology, Whites-Psychology, Culture, Language


Culture may be an influential factor in differentiating between the psychology of Caucasian and East Asian ethnics. Three aspects of cultural psychology (self-identity, regulatory focus and language use) were tested in this thesis for both Caucasian and East Asian ethnics. In terms of self-identity, I hypothesized that Caucasian ethnics are more independent while East Asian ethnics are more interdependent. In terms of regulatory focus, Caucasian ethnics are more oriented towards a promotion focus and East Asian ethnics are more oriented towards a prevention focus. In terms of language use, since Caucasian ethnics appreciate defining and controlling the world (Ji, Peng and Nisbett, 2000), Caucasian ethnics understand realities through science, reason and analysis, and they should prefer straightforward and direct expressions like positive characterizations. In contrast, since seeking interpersonal harmony is an important virtue in East Asian culture (Hamamura and Heine 2008), East Asian ethnics are socialized to avoid conflicts, and they should prefer reserved and indirect ways of communication and description through negative characterizations. These three hypotheses were tested through a survey including both multiple choice questions on regulatory focus and open-ended questions on both daily and esoteric topics. In my research I found that East Asian ethnics were more interdependent than Caucasian Americans only when they talked about daily topics. Both ethnic groups were similar in independent and interdependent identity when they talked about esoteric topics. Caucasian Americans were more promotion-focused than East Asian Ethnics but the two ethnic groups showed similar preference on the prevention-focus subscale. The two ethnic groups used negative characterizations in a similar way which was that they used more negative characterizations when they described esoteric topics than when they described daily topics. Findings showed that East Asian ethnics did not always show their interdependent identity under all circumstances. Whether they become more interdependent or not could influence their regulatory focus on the prevention-focus subscale. Since negative characterizations may not symbolize indirectness in language use, it was unknown whether compared to Caucasians, East Asians preferred reserved and indirect ways of communication and description. The findings may be influenced by limitations in recruiting participants, designing the survey, distributing the survey, and the measures.




45 pages. Honors Project-Smith College, 2014. Includes bibliographical references (pages 36-38)