Shinobu Kitayama is Robert B. Zajonc Collegiate Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan. He received his B.A. and M.A. from Kyoto University, Japan, and his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and taught at the University of Oregon and Kyoto University before joining the Michigan faculty in 2003. He studies psychological diversity across cultures with multiple methods including behavioral experimentation, neuroscience, and genetics and epigenetics. Over the last decade, he has pioneered the field of cultural neuroscience and investigated how “nature” may be “nurtured.” Previously, Editor of Personality and Social Psychological Bulletin, he is currently serving as Editor of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition. His honors include Fulbright Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, Society of Experimental Social Psychology Scientific Impact Award, and Society of Personality and Social Psychology Career Contribution Award. He is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a fellow of the Association of Psychological Science.
Culture and Personality in the 21st Century: Adult development in Japan and the U.S.
My aim here is to examine the stability, change, and function of personality by focusing on three new findings from paired surveys conducted in Japan and the United States (Midlife in Japan [MIDJA] and Midlife in the U.S [MIDUS]). These findings highlight potent societal and cultural forces that influence adult development. First, Japanese do not show a sharp decline of proactive traits (extraversion, conscientiousness, and openness) in late adulthood that is evident among Americans, due plausibly to the fact that Japanese are far healthier, objectively, if not subjectively, than Americans. Second, personality traits exhibit greater temporal malleability among Japanese than among Americans, consistent with a long-standing hypothesis that whereas American culture values the internal consistency of the self, Japanese culture values flexible adjustment to situational norms. Third, although neuroticism is often seen as a health risk, this does not hold true in Japan, where individuals who score high in neuroticism show a healthier biological health profile. This observation is in line with the hypothesis that neuroticism is adaptive (and thus healthy) when combined with increased competence and willingness to flexibly adjust behavior to external demands and contingencies. Our evidence shows that the fact that Japanese are higher in behavioral adjustment, compared to Americans, explains why neuroticism is healthy among Japanese, but not among Americans. Altogether, this body of work suggests that the interface between culture and personality is both dynamic and reciprocal, and offers new insights about how adult development might unfold in the 21st century.