Paper 3 Practice: Individualism and Happiness in a Japanese Workplace

Travis DixonAssessment (IB), Qualitative Research Methods, Revision and Exam Preparation

This Practice Paper 3 study could also be used for topics in the Paper 1 exam.

The best way to prepare for Paper 3 is to do lots of practice. The study below is designed to replicate what you will see on Paper 3. 

Read more:

IB Psychology HL Paper 3 Practice

The stimulus material below is based on a quantitative study of the effects of a rise in individualism in Japan in recent years. 

Individualism and collectivism are cultural dimensions that refer to how much emphasis cultures place on individuals or the group. Like many countries in Asia, Japan has traditionally been more of a collectivist culture. However, with the rise of globalization it is becoming more individualistic. Yuji Ogihara and Yukiko Uchida conducted a study to see how this rise in individualism in Japan might be affecting mental health. The researchers received financial support (money) from the Society for the Promotion of Science to help them carry out the study.

The participants in this study were 34 Japanese women who worked for a large insurance company in Japan. Their ages ranged from 22-51, with a mean age of 27.  The researchers contacted the company directors about the study. The directors then advertised it via an internal email asking for volunteers and those willing to participate took part in the study.* The women filled out questionnaires that were designed to measure their level of individualism and their subjective well being (the psychological term for “happiness”). They were also asked to draw a diagram that measured their number of close friends.

The researchers then used this data to calculate the standardized regression coefficients of this data. This means they were testing to see if individualism was positively or negatively associated with subjective well-being and the number of close friends the women had.

The results showed that individualistic orientation was negatively associated with subjective well-being: the more individualistic the female workers, the lower their levels of happiness. They also found that individualism was negatively associated with the number of close friends they had.

These results are similar to an earlier study the researchers conducted that showed similar correlations between individualism subjective well-being and friendships in Japanese college students. The same correlations weren’t found in American college students.

The researchers conclude that the results show that “an individualistic orientation dampened (reduced) close interpersonal relationships and SWB in Japan.” In other words, the rise of individualism is reducing happiness and friendships. This suggests that “…individualism has a negative effect in East Asian cultural contexts.” This is an important finding because Japan, like many countries, is becoming more individualistic as a result of globalization.

Another conclusion from the study is that having close friends helps to reduce the negative effects of individualism on happiness. Having friends acts as a “buffer” between individualism and happiness. But this is difficult for Japanese people to do because while they might be more individualistic as a result of globalization, they have not developed the same level of interpersonal skills needed to make friends.

These findings could be used for future research. The researchers suggest that further studies might use longitudinal methods to find more concrete evidence for a cause-effect relationship between the variables. They also state the importance of the findings in relation to globalization and what this means for Asian countries. For example, to protect against the negative influences of globalization, Bhutan (a small country between China and India) has developed policies against globalization. They claim that Gross National Happiness are just important as the financial well-being of the country. Maybe other countries will consider using findings like this to justify policies against globalization.

Ogihara, Yuji. Uchida, Yukiko. Front. Psychol., 05 March 2014 | Does individualism bring happiness? Negative effects of individualism on interpersonal relationships and happiness. (Link)


Answer all of the following three questions, referring to the stimulus material in your answers. Marks will be awarded for demonstration of knowledge and understanding of research methodology.


1a: Identify the method used and outline two characteristics of the method. [3]

1b: Describe the sampling method used in the study. [3]*

1c: Suggest an alternative or additional research method giving one reason for your choice. [3]

2: Describe the ethical considerations in reporting the results and explain additional ethical considerations that could be taken into account when applying the findings of the study. [6]

3: Discuss how the researcher in the study could avoid bias. [9]


*This part re: sampling methods is fictional because how the sample was obtained was not mentioned in the original report. I have contacted the author for more info and at time of writing am waiting on a response.

This study could also be used for “Globalization” as well as “Cultural Dimensions” in Paper One (Sociocultural Approach). You can read about the first study here.

More Paper 3 practice papers and mark schemes are available in the Qualitative Methods TSP.


Answer Key for Paper 3 Practice Ogihara