Cultural differences in self-awareness in adolescence pathways to spiritual awareness

Fred Rothbaum, Yan Z. Wang, Dov Cohen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Self-awareness increases dramatically for adolescents worldwide. We seek to understand how cultural differences in self-awareness may contribute to cultural differences in spiritual awareness among adolescents. The focus is on comparisons between European-Americans and East Asians. There is little research on cultural differences in self-awareness, despite substantial evidence of cultural differences in its key components: (1) the vantage point of awareness – whether it is a first person perspective, from the inside-out (European-Americans) or a third person perspective, from the outside-in (East Asians); (2) the conception of self and of standards – whether self is seen as relatively independent and standards are based on personal desires and ideals (European-Americans) or self is seen as interdependent and standards are based on social obligations and norms (East Asians); and (3) the nature of self-evaluation – whether it is focused on enhancing esteem (European-Americans) or maintaining face (East Asians). We suggest that self-awareness may activate mortality salience and thereby may elicit cultural worldviews. Cultural differences in self-awareness leads to different spiritualities that present different “worldview” defenses against the existential concerns engendered by the interaction of self-awareness and mortality salience. Salvation through prayer and through good deeds, and approval from a loving God, common in Christianity, alleviate European-Americans’ mortality concerns. By contrast, meditation, self change, and unity with the universe, common in Buddhism, alleviate East Asians’ mortality concerns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationValues, Religion, and Culture in Adolescent Development
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages29
ISBN (Electronic)9781139013659
ISBN (Print)9781107014251
StatePublished - Jan 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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