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Cultural Intelligence


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Discover the multiple meanings of ‘culture’ and why you belong to many not just one.
Learn about cultural universals: how we are more alike than we are different.
Think about this model for understanding cultural differences.

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Cultural Intelligence

  1. 1. Cultural Intelligence Understanding • The multiple meanings of ‘culture’ and why you belong to many not just one. • Cultural universals: How we are more alike than we are different. • Cultural variation: A model for understanding cultural differences. • Language and culture.
  2. 2. The presentation is NOT about • Personal experiences • Opinions • Prescriptions • Specifically Thai-farang IS about • A brief tour of the scientific literature • A reflection on the meaning of ‘culture’ • Insights from research into more effective cross cultural communication • At the end, a handout: 10 Things I have learned living in another culture
  3. 3. The phrase ’cross-cultural communication’ describes the ability to successfully form, foster, and improve relationships with members of a culture different from one's own. It is based on knowledge of many factors, such as the other culture's values, perceptions, manners, social structures, and decision-making practices, and an understanding of how members of the group communicate-- verbally, non-verbally, in person, in writing, and in various social contexts. Source: East-West Business Strategies Now we talk about “cultural intelligence” (IQ, social, emotional intelligence)
  4. 4. Cultural Intelligence, cultural quotient or CQ, is a term used in business, education, government and academic research. Cultural intelligence can be understood as the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures.
  5. 5. What is cultural intelligence? Drive: Your interest and confidence in functioning effectively in culturally diverse settings. It includes: Intrinsic Interest - deriving enjoyment from culturally diverse experiences; Extrinsic Interest - gaining benefits from culturally diverse experiences; Self-efficacy - having the confidence to be effective in culturally diverse situations. Knowledge: This is your knowledge about how cultures are similar and how cultures are different. Strategy This is how you make sense of culturally diverse experiences. It occurs when people make judgments about their own thought processes and those of others. Action: Action is your capability to adapt verbal and nonverbal behavior to make it appropriate to diverse cultures. Source: Ang, Van Dyne, & Livermore
  6. 6. What is culture? The term ‘culture’ covers a lot of ground. The first thing most people think of is ‘national culture’ most easily exemplified as national costumes, language and food. In many ways, national culture is the most superficial level of the meaning of culture. Nation states are relatively new phenomena.
  7. 7. Here is a map of Europe in 1400. Most of France, England and Portugal are there, but no Spain, no Italy, no Germany, no Russia. Just a hodge podge of principalities and little kingdoms.
  8. 8. The more familiar shape of the Europe we know today starts emerging in the 1500s. Significant events in the 1500s included the Protestant Reformation, Henry VIII taking over the church in England, Queen Elizabeth I, and European exploration.
  9. 9. 1800 By the 1800s, we have a Europe that looks a lot like it does now; only Germany to unify.
  10. 10. 1900 And by the 1900s we have a modern looking Europe.
  11. 11. If we were to overlay the shape of modern Europe on top of 15th Century Europe, we would find that many of the local variation in customs and norms, even attitudes and beliefs, can be traced back to the Europe of the 1400s. In Bavaria for example, they have this lovely custom of knocking on the stammtish table when they arrive and leave. Proves you are not the devil. So modern national cultures overlay older ethnic cultures.
  12. 12. But how ‘deep’ are national cultures? What is German culture? French culture? Can anyone define American culture? If you have been to the US, to North America, you know that the culture in California is very different from that in New York. The North, the South. White, black and Hispanic American culture. Then there is upper, middle and working class culture. Youth culture, street culture, Wall street culture…the list goes on. In “Nine Nations of North America” journalist Joel Garreau redrew the map of North America based on common economic, political, and cultural characteristics. Growing up in Nova Scotia on the east coast of Canada and living for a time in New Jersey, it was obvious to me that I had a lot more in common with New Englanders than I did with my fellow Canadians in Quebec for Ontario or Alberta.
  13. 13. Language is a good indicator of culture. Language is one of the most important ways in which culture is encoded. I’ll say more about that later. Generally, if you have a distinct language group, that includes a dialect group, you have a different culture. In the USA, there are 24 linguistically distinct dialects of English. The cultural differences may be subtle but they are real. Think Texas drawl and “pahk yah cah in Hahvad yahd” (Boston) and the very different cultures of those two regions.
  14. 14. Despite the apparent differences: Cultural Universals In his book Human Universals (1991), Donald Brown defines human universals as comprising "those features of culture, society, language, behavior, and psyche for which there are no known exceptions“. Cultural universals are basic needs and social experiences found in all societies, past and present (Alleman & Brophy, 2002).
  15. 15. All societies have ways of organizing things like…families, class, gender roles. Social Aspects: how humans live together in communities and groups • Family life • Class • Roles (gender, familial, leadership, community) • Education • Leisure activities • Community life (cities, farms etc.) • Food • Clothing and Beauty
  16. 16. Cultural Arts: how humans create, express, and appreciate beauty • Art • Music • Dance • Literature • Science • Leisure activities
  17. 17. Economics: decision making that relates to the production, development, management and consumption of goods and services
  18. 18. Beliefs: convictions held by a community, group, or individual • Religion • Myths • Rituals, traditions, customs (birth, marriage, death)
  19. 19. Politics: How humans relate to government and governing • Citizenship • Leadership • Laws • Institutions • Decision-making
  20. 20. So, if underneath we are all similar…what accounts for huge variation in how societies organize themselves? This is one of the great mysteries of culture. To understand that mystery, we need some sort of framework. What we need is a model or framework for understanding this variation.
  21. 21. Here is one model.
  22. 22. Mar BIG IDEAS The Self Institutions Adapted from Markus & Conner, 2014 stable patterns of behavior that define, govern, and constrain action Interactions In this model, Big Ideas shape institutions which shape individual selves and behavior. But it works the other way as well, individuals interact with one another and with institutions to influence Big Ideas. Take marriage as an example.
  23. 23. BIG IDEA The Self Institutions MARRIAGE Church Same sex Marriage: man & woman, sanctified by the Church, then “or by the state” then common law, then same sex. One of the myths of culture, more like a misperception, more like an examined assumption, is that cultures are static, when in fact they are constantly changing.
  24. 24. Big Ideas Western cultures The Greeks Judeo-Christian religion The Protestant Reformation The Enlightenment * Industrial Revolution Imperialism Produced selves that focus on: Personal agency Individualism Parts Control/mastery Asian cultures Taoism Buddhism Confucius Produced selves that focus on: Harmony Interdependence Holism Change & contradiction These big ideas influence everything from systems of governance to child rearing practices and lead to the construction of different social identities which Markus and Conner (cultural psychologists) refer to as ‘independent’ and ‘interdependent’ selves. * Enlightenment: 1650s to the 1780s in which cultural and intellectual forces in Western Europe emphasized reason, analysis and individualism rather than traditional lines of authority.
  25. 25. Inter-dependent Relational Similar Adjusting Rooted Ranked Independent Individual Unique Influencing Free Equal Construction of the self EAST WEST Types are not either/or; we are all a bit of both. Is there any evidence? If there are two distinct types of selves, we should be able to find some evidence. This is what Markus and Connor have done in their own research along with research by other cultural psychologists and sociologists. They devised many clever experiments like the following:
  26. 26. Testing the hypothesis Choose a pen In this experiment, researchers approached Asians and Westerners at the San Francisco Airport and asked them to complete a short questionnaire. As a reward they were offered the choice of a pen. This was the real experiment. Four of the pens were identical and one was different. Westerners most often chose the one different pen (indicating their independent personality) and Asians most often chose one of the similar pens (indicating their desire to fit in with the crowd). The differences were statistically significant.
  27. 27. West: Talking helps thinking Shows you are ‘good’ thinker East: Those who know don’t speak. Those who speak don’t know. Talk or not talk: Does talking help thinking? Thinking out loud versus not. College professors in Western universities complain that Asian students won’t speak up in class or express their opinions. The same thing happens in meetings of multi-cultural groups in in business and the public sector. Is this based on the different selves the two cultures produce? In this experiment, American and Chinese students were asked to take the Raven Progressive Matrices test. In this test, you have to decide which of the figures 1 to 8 goes in the box at the end of the third row above. Both groups did the experiment under two conditions. In one condition, students were told ‘no talking’ and in the other condition they were instructed to ‘think out loud’. The results: American students performed better when they could talk and Chinese students performed better when they could remain silent. Which of the patterns below goes in the blank space here?
  28. 28. Tokyo subway poster: Board the train in an orderly fashion. Templeton Global Investments Only dead fish swim with the current. Mass media reflects and reinforces how we think. Mass media reinforces independent and interdependent selves. In the West, and now in most ‘developing economies’ (like Thailand) the average person is exposed to up to 5,000 advertising images per day. Markus and Connor use this example where in Tokyo the message is that the proper behavior is to line up and be orderly, whereas in the West the message is conformity is not a good thing.
  29. 29. I’m smart, maybe not brilliant, but well-organized, a good sport, I plan for the future and make choices about what I want, feel and want to be. I know what’s right and wrong. I’m kind to people. I never talk down to anyone and I never talk behind their backs. Working class / middle class Working class versus middle class There are cultures within cultures. Any advanced economic society (think Asian Tigers) has upper, middle and working class plus a class of rural farmers, and an underclass. Studies show that working class people display more inter-dependent values and people in the middle class more independent values. This applies to the USA and most Western European countries.
  30. 30. North and South Politeness Courtesy Deference (sir and ma’m) Honor (defense of) Higher rates of violence Armed Forces: 43% of recruits but only 36% of males 18-24 Gun ownership: 57% (US average: 47%) Anyone who knows even a bit about the USA knows that the former Confederate States (Dixie on Garreau’s Nine Nations map) are big on ‘honor’. If you should do or say something that even implies your are ‘disrespecting’ someone, someone’s wife, girlfriend, sister, pet dog, choice of automobile, you could end up getting shot. You find honor cultures in Mediterranean countries, Latin America and Arabic countries. What they all have in common is a history of pastoralism (herding cattle, sheep, camels…). The South was settled by large numbers of Scottish Highlanders where there was no formal law so if someone stole your cow, pig, horse, either you showed them there were serious consequences or they came back for more.
  31. 31. BIG IDEA The Self Institutions HONOR The duel So we see how a big idea, like honor, can shape individual beliefs and attitudes, that are reflected in institutions (the duel) which shape behavior, which shape attitudes and beliefs and on and on. Big on honor: Mediterranean cultures, Latin America, Arabic cultures One of the myths of culture, more like a misperception, more like an examined assumption, is that cultures are static, when in fact they are constantly changing.
  32. 32. Culture shapes the way we think. Perception Cognition
  33. 33. Based on research Here I am drawing on the work of Yale psychologist Richard Nisbett. He and his graduate students and now colleagues have done scores of studies that seem to show significant differences in how Westerners and Asians literally ‘see’ the world and how they think in very different ways.
  34. 34. East West Patterns of attention and perception and explanations Environments and relationships Objects Composition and organization of the world Substances Relationships Objects Categories Stability vs Change Change Stability Use of formal logic Context Logic Dialectical approaches Seek the middle way Either/or Right or wrong Some of their findings…
  35. 35. East West Patterns of attention and perception and explanations Environments and relationships Objects Japanese & American In one experiment, students were shown pictures of fish in an aquarium. They were told they would be asked to recall which fish they had seen. There were two recall conditions. In one condition, students saw new and previously seen fish against a background that was the same as the original aquarium. In the second condition, new and previously seen fish were shown against a new background. The American students recalled more fish in both conditions. The Japanese students did better when the background was the same as the original aquarium. What Nisbett infers from this is that Asians are more sensitive to “things in context” whereas Americans are more focused on ‘objects’.
  36. 36. East West Composition and organization of the world Substances Relationships Objects Categories In this experiment, American and Chinese students were asked to pair two of the three pictures. Americans more often paired the cow and chicken (both mammals, farm animals, both in the same category) and Chinese students more often paired the cow and the straw (cows eat straw; a relationship). Notice I keep saying “most often” because ‘independent’ and ‘interdependent’ selves are not mutually exclusive. We are all a mix of the two but for most of us, one way of seeing/being is predominant.
  37. 37. East West Preference for collective action Insistence on freedom of individual action Blending harmoniously with the group Desire for individual distinctiveness Acceptance of hierarchy and ascribed status A preference for egalitarianism and achieved status Take into account the context and relationships involved Rules governing ‘proper’ behavior should be applied universally and regardless of circumstances General findings…
  38. 38. Language Encodes culture Determines how we think
  39. 39. Personal pronouns English (8) I You He/she/it We You They If you want to understand a culture, learn something about the language. You don’t have to learn to speak a language to learn something about it. For example, in English we 8 personal pronouns. That’s it. Men and women use the same pronouns. Kids and CEO’s or multinational corporations use the same pronouns. Not so in Thai.
  40. 40. Thai (10 forms of I) I (said by women) Rao or Kao: very informal, with intimate friends Chan: common ,informal Dee chan: More formal, e.g. at a reception where you don’t know people I (said by men) Phom, chan, rao, gan I (said by children) Noo Very formal (e.g. speeches) Ka pha jao 7 you, 5 he/she/it, 2 they, 4 we = 27 pronouns depending on the gender and age of the speaker and the situation they are in. In Thai there are at least 27 personal pronouns. Which one you use depends on your gender, age, social status and the situation in which you are speaking. What does that say about Thai culture? That Thais are acutely sensitive to status and that status is a highly nuanced topic. See Thai Reference Grammar: The Structure of spoken Thai. James Higbie and Snea Thinsan.
  41. 41. My final example of language is Christopher G. Moore’s ‘heart talk’. Moore has collected over 700 words and phrases with the Thai word for ‘heart’ (jai). In English we might have something in the range of 50- 100. What does that tells us about the culture? That Thais place a high value on emotional states? Which might feed into the need to maintain ‘harmony’ at all costs? Which is why they discount Western ‘logic’ that we prize so highly?
  42. 42. Thank you.