Are Japanese groups more competitive than Japanese individuals? A cross‐cultural validation of the interindividual–intergroup discontinuity effect

Kosuke Takemura, Masaki Yuki
Published Online:
04 Feb 2007
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 42 Issue 1

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The interindividual–intergroup discontinuity effect is the tendency for relationships between groups to be more competitive than the relationships between individuals. It has been observed robustly in studies conducted in the United States, which is a society characterized as “individualistic.” In this study, it was explored whether the effect was replicable in a “collectivistic” society such as Japan. From the traditional view in cross‐cultural psychology, which emphasizes the collectivistic nature of East Asian peoples, it was expected that the discontinuity effect would be greater in Japan than in the United States. On the other hand, based on recent empirical findings suggesting that North Americans are no less group‐oriented than East Asians, it was expected that the discontinuity effect would be no greater in Japan than in the United States. One hundred and sixty Japanese university students played a 10‐trial repeated prisoner's dilemma game: 26 sessions of interindividual and 18 sessions of intergroup. Following exactly the procedure of prior experiments in the US, individuals and groups were allowed face‐to‐face communication with their opponents before making their decisions, and participants in the intergroup condition were further allowed to converse freely with their in‐group members. Results replicated previous findings in the United States; groups made more competitive choices than did individuals. In addition, neither the magnitude of the discontinuity effect, nor the frequency of competitive choices made by the groups, were larger in Japan than they were in the majority of prior studies conducted in the United States. These findings suggest cross‐cultural robustness of the interindividual–intergroup discontinuity effect. Also, interestingly, they contradict the simple distinction between individualism and collectivism. Implications for studies of culture and group processes are discussed.

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