Making sense of positive self-evaluations in China: The role of sociocultural change

Rui Zhang, Kimberly A. Noels, Yanjun Guan, Liping Weng

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Recent research points to Chinese people's elevated tendency to make positive self-evaluations, despite the general claim that East Asians do not self-enhance. We present three studies in support of a novel prediction that sociocultural change in China plays an important role in augmenting self-enhancement. We operationalized self-enhancement primarily in terms of the better-than-average effect (BTAE) and accounted for trait desirability or importance. We found that: (i) compared with Chinese Canadians, Chinese showed a stronger BTAE; (ii) within the Chinese, identification with contemporary Chinese culture uniquely predicted a stronger BTAE; and (iii) priming contemporary (vs. traditional) Chinese culture led to a stronger BTAE. Finally, we provided further evidence that motivation, in part, underlies the rising Chinese BTAE. We conclude by discussing the importance of both socioeconomic and cultural perspectives for understanding how and when of self-enhancement in contemporary China and other societies undergoing social change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-52
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • China
  • culture
  • self-enhancement
  • self-evaluations
  • sociocultural change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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