Taking a Different Point of View: An Exploration of Culture and Reflecting Using Outsider Perspectives

Miao, Felicity, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Oishi, Shigehiro, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia

The self-immersed perspective, or self-perspective (visualizing an event through one’s own eyes) has been shown to lead to rumination, while the self-distanced perspective, or observer perspective (visualizing an event by watching the self from a distance) allows individuals to come to an understanding or clarity of their internal states (Kross & Adyuk, 2011). What is missing from this program of research however, is a third, commonly used perspective, “stepping into the other person’s shoes”—perspective of a close other (visualizing an event from a close friend’s perspective) that has been shown to be prevalent in Asian contexts. The current study addressed two main questions: (1) What is the nature of spontaneous perspective-taking in Indians and European Americans, and (2) How does a close other perspective compare to the much studied observer perspective in terms of generating reconstrual and reducing emotional distress? Indian participants were more likely than European Americans to report using outsider perspectives (observer perspective and close other perspective), feeling more positive affect, and having engaged in more reconstruing than recounting after analyzing their feelings towards a conflict event. Experimental manipulations of observer perspective and close other perspective did not reveal any differences in efficacy for European Americans, therefore implying adoption of either one of the strategies is an ideal approach to generate insight and understanding when self-reflecting on a conflict event. However, the findings on whether these strategies are beneficial for Indian participants are mixed. As a whole, these findings are the first to document cultural differences between Indians and European Americans when reflecting about a conflict event and illustrate to a degree, the efficacy of outsider perspectives in eliciting relatively more reconstrual thoughts and reducing emotional distress.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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