Individualism stresses individual goals and the rights of the individual person. Collectivism focuses on group goals, what is best for the collective group, and personal relationships.
An individualist is motivated by personal rewards and benefits. Individualist people set personal goals and objectives based on self. Individualistic workers are very comfortable working alone and not part of a team.
The collectivist is motivated by group goals. Collectivistic people easily sacrifice individual benefit to recognize and strive for the team’s success. They believe maintaining social harmony, getting along with others, and meeting social expectations that have been set up by society over centuries.
In simple words, people from individualist cultures consider themselves as separate from others while people from collectivist cultures consider themselves connected to others.
In general, European and Western nations tend to be individualists while Asian and African typically collectivists.
This classification is common in education systems too. Taking an example, in USA schools and colleges you will almost never find group projects or assignments given to the students. Almost all of it will be individual work. But if we see in countries like India, most student assignments are group work based.
One big misconception is that individualism means a person is introverted and collectivism means a person is extroverted. This is in fact, wrong. A person from an individualist society can be extroverted and a person from a collectivist society can be introverted. This is because the two things are in no way related. While introverts enjoy being alone or with a small group of friends, an individualist person is self-reliant in doing their work. This individualist can do their assigned work all by themselves and then socialize with lots of people.
Everyone falls somewhere on the individualist-collectivist spectrum. Even within a very collectivist culture, you will find people who are more individualist. Research has shown that people shift along this spectrum, leaning more collectivist or individualist depending on the situation. This is most common in countries and societies that don’t limit themselves to one form of culture and are open to both and practice the two on different occasions.
Recently, to find the answer to the most important question of the hour, “Why did COVID-19 hit some countries harder than others?”, a research was conducted. They found that the more individualistic a country was, the more COVID-19 cases and mortalities it had. They also found out that the more individualistic people were, the higher the chances they would not cooperate to take COVID prevention measures. Therefore, we can see here that although both cultures have its pros and cons, when it comes to the current circumstances that our world is in, it is important that we think of ourselves as part of society and prevent taking any personal action that could possibly harm others.