Unforgiving Confucian culture: A breeding ground for high academic achievement, test anxiety and self-doubt?

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This paper reviews findings from several studies that contribute to our understanding of cross-cultural differences in academic achievement, anxiety and self-doubt. The focus is on comparisons between Confucian Asian and European regions. Recent studies indicate that high academic achievement of students from Confucian Asian countries is accompanied by higher levels of anxiety and self-doubt. After examining method, measurement, and context explanations of these findings, I argue that the culture of people living in contemporary Confucian Asian countries might be the driving force behind the combination of high achievement and negative psychological outcomes. Although forgiveness is a part of Confucian philosophy, people from modern Confucian Asian countries appear to be less forgiving than Europeans — i.e., they tend to disagree with statements that express toughness, maliciousness, and proviolence less strongly than Europeans. This relatively unforgiving attitude, coupled with the belief that effort rather than ability is the primary source of success, may be able to explain both high achievement and high anxiety and self-doubt among Confucian Asian students.

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Journal Article

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