What is it about?

Social science research has highlighted “honor” as a central value driving social behavior in Mediterranean societies, which requires individuals to develop and protect a sense of their personal self-worth and their social reputation, through assertiveness, competitiveness, and retaliation in the face of threats. We predicted that members of Mediterranean societies may exhibit a distinctive combination of independent and interdependent social orientation, self-construal, and cognitive style, compared to more commonly studied East Asian and Anglo-Western cultural groups. We compared participants from eight Mediterranean societies (Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus [Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot communities], Lebanon, Egypt) to participants from East Asian (Korea, Japan) and Anglo-Western (the United Kingdom, the United States) societies, using a large battery of tasks and measures. Compared with both East Asian and Anglo-Western samples, samples from Mediterranean societies distinctively emphasized several forms of independence (e.g., experiencing oneself different from others, self-directed, self-reliant, self-expressive, and consistent) and interdependence (e.g., experiencing oneself as connected and committed to close others). Our findings extend previous insights into patterns of cultural orientation beyond commonly examined East–West comparisons to an understudied world region.

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Why is it important?

We conducted the first major study of patterns of independence and interdependence circum Mediterranean, an underrepresented world region in psychological research often described as following a cultural logic centering around the maintenance and defense of honor and social reputation. Our findings contradict the idea that “non-Western" or “majority world” societies have similar cultural emphases on interdependence, which are uniformly contrasted with a uniquely Western focus on independence. Instead, we found that participants from the Mediterranean region were on average relatively independent in their social orientation and self-construal, on some measures even more so than participants from Anglo-Western societies; however, they also showed stronger interdependence on measures that highlighted the connectedness between individuals and their groups (e.g., in-group closeness, connection to others, commitment to others) as well as the relationality between objects and perspective-taking (thematic categorization, third-person perspective-taking). Thus, our results support calls for a more differentiated, rather than binary, view of global cultural diversity.


We take immense pride in putting the Mediterranean region on the map of psychological knowledge in a mainstream outlet and contributing to the growing number of studies that shed light on the rich diversity of ways in which individuals experience themselves, connect with others, and process information. This piece is a product of a wonderful collaboration between researchers from different parts of the world whose hard work and input made it all possible. We are also grateful to the European Research Council for funding our efforts to diversify psychological science.

Ayse Uskul
University of Sussex

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This page is a summary of: Neither Eastern nor Western: Patterns of independence and interdependence in Mediterranean societies., Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, May 2023, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/pspa0000342.
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