Getting to Know Americans

New York University has advice for international students in dealing with US Americans. A handy guide is posted on their website.
Americans generally believe the ideal person is self-reliant. Most Americans see themselves as separate individuals, not as representatives of a family, community or other group. They dislike being dependent on other people, or having others depend on them. Some people define this trait as selfishness. Others see it as a healthy freedom from the constraints of family or social class.

How is this value manifested into behavior? In individualist cultures, such as the U.S., it is assumed that people need to be alone some of the time and prefer to take care of problems by themselves. Another expectation is that people are ready to "do business" very soon after meeting, without much time spent on preliminary conversation. Also people act competitively, are proud of their accomplishments and expect others to be proud of their own accomplishments.

Reading this makes the USA seem like a strange, exotic culture. Which I suppose it is if you weren't born and raised here. Link -via Breakfast Links

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

BTW the terms I'm using are from formal psychology, but these lengthy descriptors can be snipped if translated into Christian or Buddhist philosophy. It just makes them all the more difficult to understand and accept, because many are contingent in some respect on the domain of religion, either through a positive-affect or negative-affect. Those with a positive-affect are likely to disagree because it challenges their cherished interpretation and those with a negative-affect association with religion will find ways of rejecting the translation because it does not accord with the interpretations of religious texts which they despise. Odd as that is, it is true in my experience that even presenting good evidence against the orthodox interpretation of the Bible to atheists, they respond with "Yea, but that's not what most people who call themselves 'Christian' believe."

I'd prefer to keep it as free of positive-negative-affect associations (contingencies of self-worth) as possible and unfortunately the convoluted and wordy field of academic psychology is as good as it gets. In Christianity the functional aspects of identity that are contingent on comparitive domains is called the "sinful nature". Whereas in Buddhism it is referred to as the sub-human, lower realms. Both have as their aim a dissolution of the divisive mis-identification that is carried out through contingent and comparitive domains which promote an environment attractive to enmity and strife.

This principle is up-held to its most extreme in Amish cultures who bar even the slightest individualist modification to the communities' mandatory attire. Although this seems to deprive us of our "individuality" and our "freedom" it is considered to be quite the opposite. The freedom gained by the Amish way of life is the freedom-from the desire to be someone special, and not the freedom-to-be someone special as it is in contemporary American culture. In the past this has proven an effective means of mitigating culture-wide neuroses that culminate as the destruction of the society.

To some extent the founders of the United States, in particular Washington and Jefferson were wise to the sub-conscious neuroses that affect a populus within a certian culture. Of course, they had fled such a society and dreamt of starting something different, warning us repeatedly against these positive and negative-affect attachments on the individual level, the level of political parties and on the level of foreign national interests (See: George Washington's Farewell Address 1967).
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
@ Splint Chesthair

You are welcome. With regards to human psychology we tend to dwell on the surface. We are unaware of the processes underpinning the most salient of our phenomenal experience. As a result, many neurotic processes dwell beneath that veil.

Quite often when we reflect on a proposition we look to our self-hood and evaluate the validity of the proposition by how it makes us feel. If the proposition induces negative feelings we engage in ratiocination for the purpose of justifying ourselves. If the proposition induces positive feelings we tend to engage in rationcination supportive of the proposition and ourselves.

Often whether the proposition induces positive or negative effects directly correlates with the intensity with we identify with the contingent domain within which the proposition pertains. For example; if you from Poland and I make the proposition "Poland's culture engenders selfish behavior." the proposition is likely to induce negative affect and trigger ratiocination for the purposes of justification (rationalization).

The above is why I make such a big deal out of contingent domains of self-worth and the functional aspects of human identity. There are experimental results which compliment this view. Too many to detail on neatorama. Instead, I'll share with you this neat-o song about Cognitive Bias
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"Getting to Know Americans"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More