Theses Doctoral

Harm in Harmony: A Socioecological Perspective on East Asian Collectivism

Liu, Shi

Decades of research have described East Asian cultures as collectivistic, often characterized by ingroup relationships that are harmonious and cooperative. I propose an alternative account of East Asian Collectivism—the Harm-in-Harmony Theory. Specifically, I propose that East Asian culture can be better understood as a tension between high levels of cooperation and competition within groups. The co-existence of cooperation and competition drives competition covert. To cope with covert competition, people in East Asia develop a heightened threat-detection system—ingroup vigilance—a cognitive tendency to perceive ingroup members as hostile and threatening. The Harm-in-Harmony theory provides an alternative account for a number of cross-cultural differences (i.e., East Asians being more responsive and attentive to others) that have previously been explained through harmonious interdependence. This work contributes to a more balanced view of collectivism, revealing its interpersonal tensions in the forms of covert competition and ingroup vigilance.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Morris, Michael W.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 10, 2020