For decades, psychologists have used the concepts of individualism and collectivism to understand cross-cultural differences, particularly between East and West. Western societies exhibit independence, say experts, while those in Eastern cultures value interdependence. Yet surveys have repeatedly failed to confirm this expectation, sometimes producing odd results, such as that the United States is more collectivistic than Japan. The issue, according to Chicago Booth’s Thomas Talhelm and his coresearchers, is that collectivism is about the sense of responsibility people feel toward their close friends and family, but when cultural psychologists created surveys to measure this, notions about “warm fuzzies”—the good feelings we get from being nice to and enjoying time with others outside of our close social group, even strangers—crept into some of the questions. To correct this misunderstanding, the researchers created a new measure of collectivism they call “responsibilism,” and results of their surveys affirm the clear cultural divide between East and West.

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