IB Syllabus says:
• Define the terms
“Culture” & “Cultural
What is culture?
• Moghaddam (1993) Humans have an
‘interactive’ relationship with culture –
we shape culture and we are also
shaped by it
• Jahoda (1978) believes that ‘Cultural
Evolution’ rather than ‘Biological
Evolution’ the reason for our progress
and civilization today
Another definition of culture….
• Culture is defined by Matsumoto (2004) as “a
dynamic system of rules, explicit and implicit,
established by groups in order to ensure their
survival, involving attitudes, values, beliefs,
norms, and behaviors”.
• This is a complex definition, so we will look at it piece
• Culture is dynamic—it changes over time in response
to environmental and social changes. It also exists on
What are cultural norms?
Cultural norms are behavior patterns that
are typical of specific groups. They are often
passed down from generation to generation
by observational learning by the group’s
gatekeepers—parents, teachers, religious
leaders, and peers.
Cultural norms include such things as how
marriage partners are chosen, attitudes
towards alcohol consumption, and
acceptance (or rejection) of spanking
The ‘Etic’ Approach to
• This is an etic approach to psychology.
• Etic approaches are typically taken within
cross-cultural psychology where behavior is
compared across specific cultures.
• Etic study involves drawing on the notion of
universal properties of cultures, which share
common perceptual, cognitive, and emotional
The problems with the etic
• The danger is that many Psychologists adopt the
‘universal man’ assumption – We are all the
same – culture does not influence our behaviour
• Smith & Bond (1998) found that Psychology is
Ethnocentric (western centred)– they reviewed
textbooks and found that only 10% of the world
is sampled in psychological research
• Cultural relativists believe culture is important
vs. absolutists believe that our biology most
important in determining our behavior
The ‘Emic’ Approach to psychology….
• The emic approach looks at behaviors that are
• Emics have challenged psychologists to re-
examine their ideas of “truth” with regard to
• In most cases, truth may be relative, based on
the culture in which one is raised.
• In that case, it is important for psychologists to
IB syllabus says:
• Examine the role of
Avoidance) Understanding and respect
for cultural norms can promote
Cultural Dimensions of Behavior
• In addition to cultural norms, another component of culture is
dimensions—the perspectives of a culture based on values
and cultural norms.
• Hoefstede’s classic study (1973) involved asking employees
of the multinational company IBM to fill in surveys about
morale in the workplace.
• He then carried out a content analysis on the responses he
received, focusing on the key differences submitted by
employees in different countries.
• His research looked at the 40 most represented countries in
the surveys. The trends he noticed he called “dimensions”.
Cultural Dimensions of Behavior
• Hoefstede argues that understanding cultural
dimensions will help facilitate communication
• Understanding and respect of cultural
norms can promote successful international
diplomacy as well as international business.
• Hoefstede gives the example of cultural
differences in business in Middle interactions.
Cultural Dimensions of Behavior
• When negotiating in western countries, the objective is
to work towards a target of mutual understanding and
agreement, and shake hands when that agreement is
reached—a cultural signal of the end of negotiations
and the start of working together.
• In Middle Eastern countries, much negotiation takes
place leading into the agreement, signified by shaking
• However, this does not signal that the deal is complete.
In fact, in Middle Eastern culture it is a sign that
serious negotiations are just beginning.
Cultural dimensions of behavior
• Imagine the problems this creates when each
party in a negotiation is operating under
diametrically opposed cultural norms.
• This is just one example of why it is critical to
understand other cultures you may be doing
business with, whether you are on a vacation in
a foreign country, or negotiating a multimillion-
dollar business deal.
Questions: Cultural dimensions
1. What is the name of the researcher that
developed the concept of cultural dimensions?
2. How did Hoefstede carry out his early research
into cultural dimensions at IBM?
3. What concepts did he develop after his
4. Why is understanding cultural dimensions
5. Explain the example Hoefstede presents to
illustrate the importance of understanding
Individualism vs. Collectivism
• complete activity 1.4 in pairs –’the search
for individualism & collectivism’
Individualism v.s. Collectivism
• One dimension is individualism; another one is collectivism.
In individualist societies, the ties between individuals are loose:
everyone is expected to look after himself or herself and his or
her immediate family.
• In collectivist societies, from birth onwards people are
integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended
families (with uncles, aunts, and grandparents), which provides
them with support and protection.
• However, if an individual does not live up to the norms of the
family or the larger social group, the result can sometimes be
Individualism vs. Collectivism
• Markus and Kitayama (1991) characterized the
difference between US and Japanese culture by citing
two of their proverbs:
• “In America, the squeaky wheel gets the grease; in
Japan, the nail that stands out gets pounded down.”
• Markus and Kitayama argue that perceiving a boundary
between the individual and the social environment is
distinctly western in its cultural orientation, and that non-
western cultures tend towards connectedness.
Questions: Individualism Vs.
1. Explain how individualist and collectivist
cultures are different?
2. What can be the consequences of not
living up to the cultural norms in a
collectivist culture? Give an example.
3. What proverbs do Marcus & Kitayama
(1991) to illustrate cultural differences?
4. What do Marcus & Kitayama (1991)
mean by the term connectedness?
How cultures perceive a line….
Questions to check understanding:
1. What difference is there between people from eastern and
western cultures when it comes to looking at objects?
2. How does this difference relate to individualism and
3. What difference between easterners and westerners does Park
4. What were aims, procedures, findings and conclusions of
Hedden et al.’s (2008) study?
5. What differences did Markus find when it came to children
6. Why does Park believe that understanding cultural differences
Uncertainty vs. Avoidance
• A second dimension is uncertainty versus avoidance,
which deals with a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and
• It indicates to what extent a culture programmes its
members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in
• Unstructured situations are novel, unknown, surprising.
• Uncertainty-avoiding cultures try to minimize the possibility
of such situations by strict laws and rules, safety and
security measures, and, on the philosophical and religious
level, by a belief in absolute Truth—there can only be one
Truth and we have it.
• Bond (1988) argues that Chinese culture replaces the
uncertainty- avoidance dimension with Confucian work
dynamism: instead of focusing on truth, some cultures focus
• China and other Asian countries have a long-term orientation.
These cultures value persistence, loyalty, and trustworthiness.
• Relationships are based on status. They have a need to protect
the collective identity and respect tradition—what is often called
• Hoefstede found that Finland, France, Germany, and the US
have a short-term orientation. In contrast to Confucian work
dynamism, these cultures value personal steadiness and
stability. There is a focus on the future instead of the past, and
innovation is highly respected.
Questions: Uncertainty vs.
1. Define the cultural dimension of
uncertainty vs. avoidance?
2. Give an example of an uncertainty
avoiding society, and explain why it is?
3. Explain what Bond (1998) proposes
Chinese society overcome the
uncertainty avoidance dimension?
4. Explain the difference between long term
and short term orientation?
The danger of making generalizations ….
• One does have to be careful, however, with applying
the idea of dimensions too casually.
• Hoefstede warns against the ecological fallacy—that
is, when one looks at two different cultures, it should
not be assumed that two members from two different
cultures must be different from one another, or that a
single member of a culture will always demonstrate
the dimensions which are the norm of that culture.
• These concepts simply give psychologists a way to
generalize about cultures in order to better discuss the
role that culture plays in behaviour.
An alternative view.. Proxemic
• Hall’s proxemic theory (1966) is based on a
culture’s need for personal space”.
• In his book, The Hidden Dimension, he shows
that different cultures have different perceptions
of the amount of personal space that is required
to be comfortable.
• People only allow their closest, most intimate
friends into this bubble of space.
• In the US, for instance, people engaged in
conversation will assume a social distance of
roughly 10—15 cm/ 4—7 inches,
• but in many parts of Europe the expected social
distance is roughly half that, with the result that
Americans travelling overseas often experience
the urgent need to back away from a
conversation partner who seems to be getting
• Hall also described the norm of time consciousness.
• He distinguished between monochronic cultures and
• Monochronic cultures focus on one thing at a time.
There is a high degree of scheduling, and punctuality
and meeting deadlines are highly valued.
• In polychronic cultures, many things happen at once.
The focus is more on relationships and interactions.
Interruptions are expected as part of life, and there is
little frustration experienced when things are
postponed or late.
Questions: Personal Space & Time
1. According to Hoefstede what ecological fallacy
should be avoided when comparing cultures?
2. What theory did Hall (1966) present to explain
3. Give an example of cultural differences in
terms of cultural space?
4. Using examples, explain the difference
between monochronic and polychronic