Modern culture and individualism: Has self-focus made us better or worse?


Jean Twenge

(San Diego State University)

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Date: May 20, 2015


Cultures change, and generations change with them. Just as in cross-cultural comparisons, individuals and cultures mutually constitute on another. But how can cultural change be concisely understood? There is no one answer, but this talk explores four possible models of cultural change in the U.S. over the last few decades: Everything is getting better, everything is getting worse, rising individualism, and rising collectivism. Evidence includes cultural and generational change in self-views (including self-esteem, thinking one is above average, narcissism, uniqueness in given names, and individualistic language) and changes in views of others (including tolerance, gender equality, concern for others, and civic engagement). The evidence primarily fits the view that individualism has increased in American culture. The talk concludes with data on whether this is a beneficial or detrimental trend.

Created: Thursday, May 21st, 2015