Violence and Character: A CuPS (Culture X Person X Situation) Perspective

Publication Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Individual-differences and cultural approaches to the study of violence have both contributed greatly to our understanding, but both approaches face some inherent difficulties. A cultural approach that ignores individual differences can explain differences between cultures in rates of violence, but it has difficulty predicting who will be violent and what this means for the violent individuals’ behavior in other contexts. Two problems with an individual-difference approach that ignores culture are that (a) it may fail to explain differences in rates of violence between societies and (b) perhaps more problematically, it may discover “truths” about violence that hold in only one cultural context but do not hold, or even reverse, in others. In this chapter we argue for the value of combining an individual-differences approach with a cultural differences approach in a way that treats both individual differences and cultural differences seriously. Specifically, we argue for taking culture seriously by examining differences between cultural logics. Such logics structure behaviors, situations, scripts, and values in ways that makes sense to people within a culture – even if they do not make sense to people outside that culture. We also argue for taking individual differences seriously by treating people as more than cultural robots who mechanically follow cultural dictates. In the combined approach advocated here, the key notion is that individuals are always in a culture, though they are not always of it. We outline this combined approach – called the CuPS approach (Culture X Person X Situation) – and demonstrate its value by describing experiments conducted with three different cultural groups.


Aggressiveness, Violence, Psychology


Personality and Social Contexts | Social Psychology

Research Areas



Human Aggression and Violence: Causes, Manifestations, and Consequences


Shaver, Phillip R.; Mikulincer, Mario

First Page


Last Page





American Psychological Association

City or Country

Washington, DC

Additional URL



Edited by Phillip R. Shaver and Mario Mikulincer