Differences in the presentation of depressive symptoms between Westerners and Chinese have been reported. These differences, and reported differences in cognition, provided the impetus for this investigation of cultural variation in cognitive processes in depression. Two studies were conducted that utilized data from the same three samples of Euro-Canadians, Chinese-Canadians, and Hong Kong Chinese. Self-construals were measured in the first study and a culture priming method was tested to make causal statements about the role of culture in rumination and avoidance, which were investigated in the second study. A culture prime effect was only found for the Euro-Canadians. The pattern of self-construals largely followed prediction, particularly in consideration of this prime effect; the Euro- and Chinese-Canadians reported greater independence than the Hong Kong Chinese, whereas the Chinese-Canadians and Hong Kong Chinese reported greater interdependence than the Euro-Canadians.
The small and inconsistent associations between self-construals and cognitive vulnerability to depression suggested that self-construals may have had a minimal influence on levels of rumination and avoidance. However, the culturally graded nature of the samples, and the largely graded pattern of differences in levels of rumination and avoidance among the samples suggested that the present findings were attributable to some aspect of culture. The fact that the Euro-Canadians largely endorsed greater levels of rumination and cognitive behavioural avoidance than the Chinese samples parallels findings that Westerners psychologise depression more than Chinese. In contrast, avoidant coping was found to be greater among the Hong Kong Chinese, which suggests that avoidant coping may represent a different form of avoidance that is differentially prevalent among Chinese and Euro-Canadians. Differences across cultural groups were also found for the associations between levels of rumination and avoidance, and between levels of avoidance rumination and depressive symptoms.
The pattern of findings provides evidence that culture influences the use and function of rumination and avoidance in association with depressive symptoms. These results also suggest further questions for empirical investigation. The strengths, limitations, and implications of the research were discussed.