Self-enhancement among Westerners and Easterners: a cultural neuroscience approach

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Abstract

We adopted a cultural neuroscience approach to the investigation of self-enhancement. Western and Eastern participants made self-referent judgments on positive and negative traits while we recorded their electroencephalography signals. At the judgmental level, we assessed trait endorsement (judgments of traits self-descriptiveness) and reaction times (speed of such judgments). Participants endorsed more positive traits as self-descriptive and more negative traits as non-self-descriptive, although the magnitude of this effect (level of self-positivity) was higher in the Western than Eastern sample. Moreover, all participants responded faster to positive self-descriptive traits and to negative non-self-descriptive traits, indicating that the self-enhancement motive is equally potent across cultures. At the neurophysiological level, we assessed N170 and LPP. Negative traits elicited larger N170 among Easterners, indicating initial allocation of attentional resources to the processing of negative information. However, negative compared to positive self-descriptive traits elicited a larger LPP, whereas negative and positive non-self-descriptive traits did not differ in the LPP they elicited. This pattern generalized across samples, pointing to a pancultural physiological correlate of the self-enhancement motive.

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