Revealed Traits: A Novel Method for Estimating Cross-Cultural Similarities and Differences in Personality


Cross-cultural research on personality has often led to surprising and counter-theoretical findings, which have led to concerns over the validity of country-level estimates of personality (e.g., Heine, Buchtel, & Norenzayan, 2008). The present study explores how cross-cultural differences can be indexed via revealed trait estimates, which index the personality traits of individuals or groups indirectly through their likelihood of responding in particular ways to particular situations. In two studies, we measure self-reports of personality, revealed traits, and revealed preferences for different expected effects (e.g., experiencing excitement) of two cultural groups (U.S. and Singaporean participants). We found typical East-West differences in personality using self-report scales, such as lower levels of Conscientiousness- and Extraversion-related characteristics among Singaporean participants relative to U.S. participants. We found evidence of scale use extremity differences in self-report personality scales, but not in revealed trait estimates. Using revealed traits, we found evidence of strikingly high levels of similarity in terms of overall action endorsement, revealed trait estimates, and revealed preferences. However, this was qualified by consistent differences in revealed trait estimates of Extraversion-related characteristics, and less consistent differences in revealed trait estimates of Conscientiousness-related characteristics. We also found consistent differences in preferences for different expected effects; for example, Singaporean participants reported lower likelihood of performing actions expected to result in experiencing stimulation or excitement than U.S. participants. Results suggest that similarities in action endorsements and revealed traits may be driven by common preferences for social inclusion and benevolence, and differences may be driven by differing preferences for expending effort, experiencing stimulation, and social attention.

Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology
Cory K. Costello
Senior Data Scientist

Personality/Social Psychology PhD interested personality, reputation, and social networks in offline and online environments.