The Concentric Circle Revisited: Allocentrism and Self in a Contemporary Chinese Community


Contemporary literature has extensively documented the connection between allocentrism and interdependence in self-construals. The present report comprises two studies that aimed to extend this literature by investigating the traditional Chinese concentric circle model of self-representation in a modern Asian community. Study 1 comprised a series of focus group discussions (N = 35, 4 males and 31 females, average age 20) to determine the qualitative content of self-construal. Participants reported a construct called the “true self”, with a content similar to the private self, and a number of social-selves varying along the perceived intimacy of the self-other relationship. In Study 2, 120 participants (all females, average age 19) were tested on their level of allocentrism and then allocated to an allocentric (top 25%, N = 30) and an idiocentric (bottom 25%; N = 30) group. Participants responded to the Twenty-Self Statement-Test (TST) on seven relationship scenarios with various levels of intimacy. Their responses were coded into collective/private/public self categories. Allocentrism and scenarios were found to have main and interactive effects on the proportions of self categories. The results were interpreted as supporting the graded nature of Chinese self-other relationships and a modified concentric circle self-representation in modern Asia.

Share and Cite:

Chang, W. & Lee, L. (2012). The Concentric Circle Revisited: Allocentrism and Self in a Contemporary Chinese Community. Psychology, 3, 297-303. doi: 10.4236/psych.2012.34042.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Allen, D. (Ed.) (1997). Culture and self: Philosophical and religious perspectives, East and West. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.
[2] Anderson, S. M. (2002). The relational self: An interpersonal social- cognitive theory. Psychological Review, 109, 619-645. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.109.4.619
[3] Ashmore, R. D., Deaux, K., & McLaughlin-Volpe, T. (2004). An organization framework for collective identity: Articulation and significance of multidimensionality. Psychological Bulletin, 130, 80- 114. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.130.1.80
[4] Baumeister, R. F. (1998). The self. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of social psychology (4th ed., Vol. 1, pp. 635-679). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Co., Inc.
[5] Bond, M. H., & Cheung, T. S. (1983). The spontaneous self-concept of college students in Hong Kong, Japan and the United States. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 14, 153-171. doi:10.1177/0022002183014002002
[6] Brewer, M. B. (2002). The many faces of social identity: implications for political psychology. Political Psychology, 22, 115-125. doi:10.1111/0162-895X.00229
[7] Brewer, M. B., & Gardner, W. (1996). Who is this “we”? Levels of collective identity and self-regulations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 89-93. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.71.1.83
[8] Chang, W. C. (2000). In search of the Chinese in all the wrong places. Journal of Psychology in the Chinese Societies, 1, 125-142.
[9] Chang, W. C., Wong, W. K., & Koh, J. B. K. (2003). Chinese values in Singapore: Traditional and modern. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 6, 5-29. doi:10.1111/1467-839X.t01-1-00007
[10] Choi, I., Nisbett, R. E., & Norenzayan, A. (1999). Causal attribution across cultures: Variation and universality. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 47-63. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.125.1.47
[11] Clammer, J. (1993). Religious pluralism and Chinese beliefs in Singapore. In H. T. Cheu, (Ed.), Chinese beliefs and practices in Southeast Asia (pp. 199-224). Selangor Darul Ehsan: Pelanduk Publications.
[12] Cole, M. (1996) Cultural psychology: A once and future discipline. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
[13] Cousins, S. D. (1989). Culture and self-perception in Japan and the United States. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 124-131. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.56.1.124
[14] Curtis, R. C. (Ed.) (1991). The relational self: Theoretical convergence in psychoanalysis and social psychology. New York, NY: Guilford Press. 282-314.
[15] Doi, L. T. (1985). The anatomy of self: The individual versus society. Tokyo: Kodansha.
[16] Fei, X. T. (1947/1984). The native soil of China. Hong Kong: Lienhe Publishing Co. Ltd.
[17] Fiske, A. P., Kitayama, S., Markus, H. R., & Nisbett, R. E. (1998). The cultural matrix of social psychology. In D. T. Gilbert, S. T. Fiske, & G. Lindzey (Eds.), The handbook of Social Psychology (4th ed., Vol. 2, pp. 915-981). Boston, MA: McGraw-Hill Co., Inc.
[18] Geertz, C. (1973). Person times and conduct in Bali. Interpretation of cultures. New York, NY: Basic Books. 360-411.
[19] Greenwald, A. G., & Pratkanis, A. R. (1984). The self. In R. S. Wyer, & T. K. Scrull (Eds.), Handbook of social cognition (Vol. 3, pp. 129-178). Hillsdale, NJ: Earlbaum.
[20] Hernandez, M., & Iyangar, S. S. (2001). What drives whom? A cultural perspective on human agency. Social Cognition, 19, 269-294. doi:10.1521/soco.
[21] Hui, H. C. (1988). Measurement of individualism-collectivism. Journal of Research in Personality, 22, 17-36. doi:10.1016/0092-6566(88)90022-0
[22] Hofsted, G. H. (1980/1984). Culture’s consequences: International differences in work related values. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
[23] Hsu, F. L. K. (1981). Americans and Chinese: Passage to differences (3rd ed.). Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press.
[24] Hwang, K. K. (1992) The Chinese power fame. Taipei: Ju Liu Publishing Co.
[25] Inada, K. A. (1997) Buddho-Taoist and Western metaphysics of the self. In D. Allen (Ed.), Culture and self: Philosophical and religious perspectives, East and West (pp. 83-96). Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
[26] James, W. (1890, 1978). The principles of psychology. New York, NY: Dover Publishing Co.
[27] Kashima, E., & Hardie, E. S. (2000). The development and validation of the Relational, Individual and Collective self-aspects (RIC). Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 3, 19-48. doi:10.1111/1467-839X.00053
[28] Kashima, Y., Siegal, M., Tanaka, K., & Kashima, E. (1992). Do people believe behaviours are consistent with attitudes? Towards a cultural psychology of attribution processes. British Journal of Social Psychology, 31, 111-124. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8309.1992.tb00959.x
[29] King, A. Y. C. (1992). Chinese society and culture. Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.
[30] Kuhn, M. H., & McPartland, T. S. (1954). An empirical investigation of self-attitudes. American Sociological Review, 19, 68-76. doi:10.2307/2088175
[31] Markus, H., & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition, emotion and motivation. Psychological Review, 98, 224-253. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.98.2.224
[32] Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (2010). Culture and selves: A cycle of mutual constitution. Perspectives on Psychological Sciences, 5, 420- 430. doi:10.1177/1745691610375557
[33] Matsumoto, D., & Kudoh, T. (1996). Changing patterns of individualism and collectivism in the United States and Japan. Culture and Psychology, 2, 77-107. doi:10.1177/1354067X9621005
[34] Matsumoto, D., Weissman, M. D., Preston, K., Brown, B. R., & Kupperbusch, C. (1997). Context-specific measurement of individualism-collectivism on individual level: The individualism-collectivism interpersonal assessment Inventory. Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology, 28, 734-767. doi:10.1177/0022022197286006
[35] Miller, J. G. (1984). Culture and the development of everyday social explanation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 961- 978. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.46.5.961
[36] Morgan, D. L. (1997). Focus groups as quantitative research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
[37] Morris, M., & Peng, K. (1994). Culture and causes: American and Chinese attributions for social and physical events. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 949-971. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.67.6.949
[38] Munro, D. (1969). The concept of man in early China. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
[39] Munro, D. (Ed.) (1985). Individualism and holism: Studies in confucian and Taoist values. Ann Arbor, MI: Centre for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan.
[40] Parsons, T., & Shils, E. (Eds.) (1951). Toward a general theory of action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
[41] Roland, A. (1988). In search of self in India and Japan: Toward a cross-cultural psychology. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
[42] Shweder, R. A., & Bourne, E. J. (1984). Does the concept of the person vary cross-culturally? In R. A. Shweder, & R. A. LeVine (Eds.), Culture theory: Essays on mind, self and emotion (pp. 158-199). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
[43] Singh, R., & Vasoo, S. (1994). Collectivism as a dimension of personality. A research report. Singapore City: National University of Singapore.
[44] Spiro, M. F. (1993). Is the western conception of the self “peculiar” within the context of the world cultures? Ethos, 21, 107-153. doi:10.1525/eth.1993.21.2.02a00010
[45] Stepel, D. A., & Koomen, W. (2001). I, we, and the effects of others on me: How self-construal level moderates social comparison effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 766-781. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.80.5.766
[46] Sternberg, R. J., & Grajek, S. (1984). The nature of love. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 312-329. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.47.2.312
[47] Trafimow, D., Triandis, H. C., & Goto, S. G. (1991). Some tests of the distinction between the private self and the collective self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 649-655. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.60.5.649
[48] Triandis, H. C. (1989). The self and social behavior in differing cultural contexts. Psychological Review, 96, 506-520. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.96.3.506
[49] Triandis, H. C. (1990). Cross-cultural studies of individualism and collectivism. In J. J. Berman (Ed.), Nebraska symposium on Motivation, 1989: Cross-cultural Perspectives (Vol. 37, pp. 41-133). Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
[50] Triandis, H. C., & Gelfand, M. J. (1998). Converging measurement of horizontal and vertical individualism and collectivism. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 118-128. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.74.1.118
[51] Triandis, H. C., Bontempo, R., Villareal, M. J., Asai, M., & Lucca, N. (1988). Individualism and collectivism: Cross-cultural perspectives on self-in-group relations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, 323-338. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.54.2.323
[52] Triandis, H. C., Chen, X. P., & Chan, D. K. S. (1998). Scenarios for the measurement of collectivism and individualism. Journal of Cross- Cultural Psychology, 29, 278-289. doi:10.1177/0022022198292001
[53] Tu, W. (1985). Confucian thought: Selfhood as creative transformation. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
[54] Yang, C. F. (1992). Do Chinese really have a collectivist orientation? Exploration of the Chinese value system (Monograph of the Centre for Han Xue (Chinese Studies)). Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong.
[55] Yang, K. S. (1996). The psychological transformation of the Chinese people as a result of societal modernization. In M. H. Bond (Ed.), Handbook of Chinese psychology (pp. 479-498). Hong Kong: Oxford University Press.
[56] Yu, A., Chang, Y. J., & Hu, T. W. (1992). An exploration of the content of self-concept of Taiwan university students. Taipei: Institute of Ethnicity, Academia Sinica.

Copyright © 2022 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.