What defines the good person? Cross-cultural comparisons of experts' models with lay prototypes

Smith K. D. , Smith Ş. , Christopher J. C.

JOURNAL OF CROSS-CULTURAL PSYCHOLOGY, vol.38, no.3, pp.333-360, 2007 (Journal Indexed in SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 38 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2007
  • Doi Number: 10.1177/0022022107300279
  • Page Numbers: pp.333-360
  • Keywords: positive psychology, moral reasoning, prototypes, values, content analysis, psychological well-being, psychological realism, CONCEPTIONS, MORALITY, BEHAVIOR, VALUES, PERSPECTIVE, PSYCHOLOGY, ATTITUDES, SELF, CLASSIFICATION, ACCESSIBILITY


"Good" is a fundamental concept present in all cultures, and experts in values and positive psychology have mapped good's many aspects in human beings. Which aspects do laypersons typically access and consider as they make everyday judgments of goodness? Does the answer vary with culture? To address these questions, the authors compiled prototypes of the good person from laypersons' free-listings in seven cultures and used experts' classifications to content-analyze and compare the prototypes. Benevolence, conformity, and traditionalism dominated the features that laypersons frequently attributed to good people. Other features-competence in particular-varied widely in their accessibility across cultures. These findings depart from those obtained in research using expert-designed self-report inventories, highlighting the need to consider everyday accessibility when comparing cultures' definitions of the good person.