Research Article: Between simpatia and malandragem: Brazilian jeitinho as an individual difference variable

Date Published: April 15, 2019

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Marco Akira Miura, Ronaldo Pilati, Taciano Lemos Milfont, Maria Cristina Ferreira, Ronald Fischer, Angel Blanch.


Culture-specific behaviour strategies provide an interesting window into individual differences research, producing a richer conceptualization of personality descriptions. Our aim is to describe the personality dimensions linked to a core socio-cultural behaviour pattern in Brazil: jeitinho. To reach this goal we conducted four studies. Our first set of studies (1a, 1b and 1c) examined the underlying structure of jeitinho as an individual difference variable and its nomological network with social values, the Big-Five, moral attitudes, and social dominance orientation. In Study 2, we confirm this structure and relate personal jeitinho to perceptions of jeitinho norms. Results demonstrated that personal jeitinho has two dimensions: Jeitinho Simpático is an individual’s tendency to seek positive social interactions, avoid conflict, and find creative solutions; and Jeitinho Malandro captures behaviours such as the use of deception and trickery. These two behaviours are rooted in the same dimensions of the integrated model of values and personality.

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Culture-specific behaviours provide an interesting window into personality expression and raise fascinating questions about human behavioural plasticity. Brazilian jeitinho (pronounced jay-tchee-nyoo) is one well-documented case, described as a ‘special way to solve a problem or a difficult or prohibited situation… [that involves] finding a creative solution for dealing with situations, whether in the form of conciliation, cunningness, or skill’ ([1] p.41). Jeitinho is a characteristic behavioural trademark of Brazilian culture, which explains why this phenomenon has received increasing attention from Brazilian social scientists [2–4] as well as international scholars [5–9]. Our study aims to describe jeitinho as a stable behavioural trait within a specific cultural context and link it to a network of established personality and individual difference dimensions that are near-universal, thereby contributing to a nuanced understanding of how (presumably) universal predispositions are displayed in adaptive ways within specific socio-cultural environments. Hence, our work extends and bridges work on culture-specific behavioural expressions and examines how consistent behavioural traits can fit into larger personality and individual difference frameworks.

Our first study tests the psychometric properties of personal jeitinho, and examines the nomological network of jeitinho. We administered our jeitinho measure to a large sample. Due to space restraints, we then administered different scales to subsets of the larger sample. Study 1a describes the development of the personal jeitinho measure and the structure in the overall sample. Study 1b reports data from a subset that assessed the associations between jeitinho and values, while Study 1c reports data from the subset which included a Big-Five measure, moral attitudes and social dominance orientation. All data analyses for study 1 were performed with SPSS v. 21.

We have identified two broad dimensions underlying an individual difference measure of jeitinho, which relate systematically to values, behaviours and moral attitudes. In our second study, we aimed to replicate this structure and then relate it to previously reported jeitinho normative processes [7] in a different sample. Specifically, we predict individual differences in Jeitinho Simpático will be positively correlated with the Creativity-related scenarios, whereas Jeitinho Malandro will be positively related to both perceptions of Corruption and Social Norm-Breaking jeitinho scenarios.

Stable individual differences can only be understood if seen through the lens of the demands and constraints of the specific cultural and economic context [44]. If personality researchers only look for pan-cultural expressions of personality independent of culturally specific expressions, they may miss important variation of human behaviour as well as indices of behavioural plasticity. One useful path is to examine how socio-cultural behaviours fit within well-established individual difference frameworks. In our work we developed a new individual measure that captures one well-described cultural characteristic within the Brazilian context and then examined the plausible underlying personality dimensions related to this cultural problem-solving strategy. Although based in a specific cultural context, the main argument is that stable individual differences in culturally normative behaviours can be psychologically studied and related to broader personality and attitudinal systems. Hence, our study maps out emic cultural behaviours from an individual difference perspective and connects these interindividual differences back to larger personality systems that have been described across a wider range of cultures. Our results have demonstrated that it is possible to identify two dimensions of jeitinho which are linked to universal personality, value and attitude dimensions. Similar individual difference studies may uncover personality correlates of cultural behaviours in other contexts, for example, Hispanic Simpatía [26,45] or other informal social influence processes [5,6].




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