Economists have proposed that signaling one's social identity can increase a person's subjective utility or happiness. However, there is little cross-cultural research on this relationship. The present research fills this knowledge gap. Using relational identity signaling as an illustration, in two studies, the authors showed that relative to European Americans, Asians (Chinese and Indians) value the relational self more and have relatively high intention to signal their relational identities publicly. Furthermore, for Asians, relational identity signaling is accompanied by higher life satisfaction (the cognitive component of happiness) only when the assimilation motive is salient. In contrast, for European Americans, a positive relationship between relational identity signaling and life satisfaction emerges only when the differentiation motive is salient. These findings suggest that relational identity signaling can confer utility to both Asians and European Americans. Moreover, whether relational identity signaling would increase life satisfaction in a certain culture is a joint function of what the normative practice is in the culture and the motivation to seek social connection of the self to or differentiation of it from others.
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