This post is based on the paper: “Cultural differences are not always reducible to individual differences,” written by Jinkyung Na, Igor Grossmann, Michael E. W. Varnum, Shinobu Kitayama, Richard Gonzalez, and Richard E. Nisbett p 6192-6197 | PNAS | April 6, 2010 | vol.107.
As people, I think that we want to believe that cultural differences can be reduced to individual differences. But is it actually true? The authors studied whether or not cultural constructs can be conceptualized as psychological traits at the individual level.
According to the authors, cultural psychology has placed a heavy emphasis on two constructs: social orientation and cognitive style. These two constructs seem applicable to decision making and make me want to apply them when there are international negotiations going on. Some cultures, such as the United States, are characterized by a social orientation valuing independence: emphasizing uniqueness, having relatively low sensitivity to social cues, and encouraging behaviors that affirm autonomy. In contrast, other cultures including China, Japan, and Korea tend to value interdependence: emphasizing harmonious relations with others, promoting sensitivity to social cues, and encouraging behaviors that affirm relatedness to others. Similarly, cultures have been shown to vary along the analytic holistic dimension in cognitive style. Some cultures are analytic: detaching a focal object from the perceptual field, categorizing objects taxonomically, and ascribing causality to focal actors or objects. Other cultures are holistic: paying attention to the entire perceptual field, especially relations among objects and events, categorizing objects on the basis of their thematic relations, and attributing causality to context.
This post is based on a paper, “Cross Cultural Differences in Decisions from Experience: Evidence from Denmark, Israel, and Taiwan,” authored by Sibilla Di Guida, Ido Erev, and David Marchiori. It is a 2015 working paper of ECARES. It immediately reminded me Richard Nisbett’s Geography of Thought.
Richard Nisbett in Geography of Thought provides interesting insights into such differences. He divides the world into Easterners and Westerners. Easterners have difficulty in recognizing changes in objects, while Westerners cannot recognize changes in backgrounds. Easterners believe that the world is complicated and inscrutable. Westerners believe that they can understand the world. Westerners create simple and useful models that can be tested, but tend to focus on the object and slight the possible role of context. Westerners are particularly susceptible to the fundamental attribution error–thinking other people’s actions are explained by what they are, while my actions are explained by circumstances. The table below sets out some more distinctions.
object oriented, interventionist-surgery
more engineers/less lawyers
more lawyers/less engineers
avoid conflict–meetings ratify consensus
attempt persuasion, faith in free market of ideas
Japan 2 Nobel prizes in 90s
US 44 Nobel prizes in 90s
Tentative agreed upon guides for future-changeable
Fixed-deal is a deal
ambiguity of causality so that they insist on apology even if seems to be their fault