DOI: 10.5176/2251-1865_CBP15.33

Authors: Jun Pei Lim, Lidia Suárez, Litwee Sim, Birit F. P. Broekman, Yap Seng Chong, Kenneth Kwek, Peter Gluckman, Seang-Mei Saw, Michael Meaney, Anne Rifkin-Graboi


Western societies put emphasis on the development of the individual self, while Asian societies prioritize the sense of the self in relation to social groups. In Western populations roughly 60{6e6090cdd558c53a8bc18225ef4499fead9160abd3419ad4f137e902b483c465} of 18-month-old toddlers show self-referential behavior upon viewing themselves reflected in a mirror. Self-referential behavior has been used as a measure of self-recognition and development of the self. The aim of the current study was to investigate possible cultural differences in toddler’s self-referential behavior while looking at themselves in a mirror. The current study involved 329 18-months-old Southeast Asian, multi-ethnic Singaporean toddlers taking part in a larger prospective mother-offspring birth cohort study GUSTO. In contrast to Western results, only 31.3 {6e6090cdd558c53a8bc18225ef4499fead9160abd3419ad4f137e902b483c465} of Singaporean toddlers showed mirror self-recognition behavior. However, rates significantly differed by ethnicity, with Singaporean Indian toddlers showing more self-referential behavior than Singaporean Malay and Chinese toddlers. Thus, collectivistic values could explain differences in self-referential behavior and expression of self-recognition. We propose that the sense of the self might have developed similarly across different cultures but that other variables, such as parenting styles, might influence self-referential behavior.

Keywords: cultural differences; mirror self-recognition; toddlers


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