Possibly my favourite cultural psychological theory is that of Yuki (2003) who contends that westerners merge with their groups which they see in contradistinction to others, whereas Japanese form groups as networks conceived independently of any other group. This is a radical theory since if amplified it can be used to suggest that it is Westerners who are dependent upon their groups, whereas Japanese from groups in which individuality is nurtured. To a large extent I agree with this amplified formulation and have demonstrated that Americans though they may seem "individual" are all infact individualists, that is to say possessant of the same basket of culturally approved characteristics (Leuers & Sonoda, 1999). Nonetheless, I do believe that Japanese merge to a degree and that emphasis should be given to the way in which the selves in Japanese interpenetrate. Yuki (2003) in his diagram above shows the relationships penetrating the circles of the Japanese group members. I suggested a minor modification of Yuki's diagram where the group members overlap and explained the reason why they overlap - the "imaginaire" (Lacan) emphasises interdependence as explained here.
Turning to Western groups however, it may appear puzzling that we find it so easy to merge with our groups, and require an outgroup to compare and disparage. One of the reasons for this is because, I believe, we cognise ourselves and our groups as narratives.
Maruyama Masao (1993, p.19) illustrates Saussure's theory of language using the metaphor of a tray containing bubbles, or balls. According to Saussure, linguistic signs (words) unlike have only an utterly arbitrary connection with that which they represent such that "dog", "chien" and "inu" are equally appropriate for indicating our canine friends. Saussure pointed out that that words can only be understood in their relation to, or their not being (hence the "negativite'" in the above image) other words. This arbitrariness of linguistic signs is contrasted with icons, such as a hieroglyph for dogs which resemble dogs, or indexes such as dog turds, dog tracks, and pointing at a dog which are contiguous with that which they represent.
To represent Saussure's distinction diagrammatically, Maruyama contrasts categories of words with a box of coloured marbles (much like Masaki's Asian group top right) which can be cognised and have meaning, like icons and indexes, even 'out of the box' on their own. A face can have meaning even if it is the only face you have ever seen.
Maruyama illustrates the way in which words can only be understood in contrast to other words with a box containing water with bubbles formed upon it. If a bubble in box is burst, if a language has no separate word for "wolf" then that would be like bursting one of the bubbles (centre black and white diagram). Unless the word "wolf" covers a meaning space in contrast to other words it has no meaning at all, whereas concrete (visible) things are what they are all on their lonesome.
Japanese cognise themselves and their groups visually, like the tray of marbles, so they do not need to compare their groups with others. To love Japan they can just call images of Japan to mind and have no need of hating upon Koreans. Americans however tend to cognise themselves in linguistic terms, and therefore may need a bogeyman-country with which to compare, contrast and enhance themselves.
De Saussure, F. (2011). Course in General Linguistics . New
York, NY: Columbia University Press. Retrieved from uwch-4.humanities.washington.edu/Tautegory/EBOOKS/SAUSSUR...
Leuers, T. R. S., & Sonoda, N. (1999). Independent self bias. Progress in Asian Social Psychology, 3, 87–104. Retrieved from httyp://www.nihonbunka.com/docs/independent_self.rtf
Yuki, M. (2003). Intergroup comparison versus intragroup relationships: A cross-cultural examination of social identity theory in North American and East Asian cultural contexts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 166–183. Retrieved from www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/1519846.pdf
丸山圭三郎, 行人柄谷, 健二立川, 秀岸田, & 芳郎竹内. (1993). 文化記号学の可能性 (増補完全). 夏目書房.