A cross-cultural study on human friendship

Ming Xue, UCLA

“Ethnographically, friendships have been documented all over the world (Hruschka, 2010; Desai & Killick, 2010). Despite the prevalence of friendship in human social life, however, we still have quite limited understanding about its evolutionary root and its core psychology (Silk, 2003). In this study, I focus on expectations and practices of social support among friends. I take a cross-cultural perspective and conduct ethnographic study in a Tibetan village in China, along with comparative survey-based study with college students at UCLA (U.S.), Peking University (China), and Hokkaido University (Japan). The cross-cultural approach in my study enables me to examine behavioral and psychological variance both within and between cultures. It addresses the weakness of comparing whole ‘cultures’ by geographic regions of nations, which has been commonly applied in the cultural psychological literatures (Markus & Kitayama, 1998). Previous studies on friendship rarely go beyond dyadic interactions. My fieldwork in the Tibetan village, which is largely based on extended families, provides the opportunity to investigate the topic of social support among friends that is embedded in a kin-based network. In my study, relevant hypotheses will be convergently tested with multiple methods, including surveys (online or paper-pen-based), open-ended interviews, structured interviews, and diary methods. I collected both descriptive data and quantitative data that will be appropriate for social network analysis.”