The Role of Culture on Successby Richard Kensinger, MSW | February 21, 2014
I and other social science professionals believe that cultural and ethnic affiliation significantly shapes who we are. Here, I look at the known connection between culture, achievement and “success”.
I place the term success in quotes, because, in some ways, success is in the eye of the beholder. We tend to use financial earnings as only one indicator. Other markers include self-satisfaction, degrees of approval and recognition from others, and demonstrated high achievement in other facets of life.
In the social sciences, we recognize that enculturation is learned, and acquired in a dynamic manner. And it starts even before birth! The Chua and Rubenfeld article recently published in the New York Times articulates the success of Jewish-Americans, Indian-Americans, Chinese-Americans, and Mormans, to name several groupings. These authors illuminate the following three factors as being highly predictive of success:
- a sense of exceptionality
- a feeling of insecurity
- high impulse control
As I read through their article, I recognized the psychosocial concepts of high self-efficacy, low fear of failure, and high achievement need that are also highly predictive of those who are successful. Self-efficacy involves both a sense of confidence and of competence. Low fear of failure is mediated by high self-efficacy so we are motivated to continue our efforts despite some unsuccesses along the way. In regards to impulse control, they are really talking about the ability to delay gratification over a protracted time, and not surrender to disappointment and frustration.
Chua and Rubenfeld add that the paradoxical insecurity that the above groups experience is balanced by a deep respect for their parents, and even their ancestors: they resolve to honor the sacrifices made on their behalf. They are also motivated to do well based, in part, by a sense of social marginalization to mainstream material-oriented American culture. Thus, they feel a need to prove themselves time and time again.
In sociology, I talk a lot about role sets. In each role set, there are obligations to others, responsibilities to others, and expectations by others of us. There is a concept in psychology and research confirming the “Big Five” personality traits that are common across cultures. One of the five is consciousness. We tend to differentiate societies and cultures into those that are primarily collective, and those that are primarily individualistic. Those from collective societies feel stronger social ties. And those of us, who take our role sets seriously, achieve more than those who do not. Thus, culture/ethnicity significantly certainly plays a role in achievement and success.
Atkinson, J.W & Raynor, J.O (1974). Motivation and Achievement. John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Begley, T (1995). Using founder status, age of firm and company growth rate as a basis for distinguishing entrepreneurs from managers of smaller businesses. Journal of Business Venturing, 10, 249-263. doi: 10.1016/0883-9026(94)00023-N
Casey, B. J. (2011 March). Cited in C Zimmer, The Brain. Discover, 28-29.
Casey BJ, Somerville LH, Gotlib IH, Ayduk O, Franklin NT, Askren MK, Jonides J, Berman MG, Wilson NL, Teslovich T, Glover G, Zayas V, Mischel W, & Shoda Y (2011). Behavioral and neural correlates of delay of gratification 40 years later. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108 (36), 14998-5003 PMID: 21876169
McClelland, D.C (1985). Human Motivation. Glenview, Illinois: Scott Forseman.
McClelland, D.C (1961). The Achieving Society. Princeton N.
McClelland, D.C (1965). Achievement motivation can be developed. Harvard Business Review, 178, 6–24.
Mischel W, & Shoda Y (1995). A cognitive-affective system theory of personality: reconceptualizing situations, dispositions, dynamics, and invariance in personality structure. Psychological review, 102 (2), 246-68 PMID: 7740090
Zeidner, M & Matthews, G (2005). Evaluation anxiety. Handbook of confidence and motivation (pp.141-163). NY: Guilford Press.
Cartoon – Head Lice in School Children
Generation Z – Replacing the Millennials
Genetic Basis to ALS – Interview with Robert Baloh of Cedars-Sinai
Are We All Schizophrenic? Part II – Hallucinations
Dissociation and Psychosis
Cartoon – Nuts Reduce Heart Disease and Death
Future Treatments For Hearing Loss
When Perfectionism Leads To An Imperfect Appearance
Stephen Hawking turns 73 today, defeating the odds of a daunting diagnosis by over half a century. The famous theoretical physicist popularized modern... READ MORE →
Do not miss out ever again. Subscribe to get our newsletter delivered to your inbox a few times a month.
Like what you read? Give to Brain Blogger sponsored by GNIF with a tax-deductible donation.Make A Donation