An account of Hofstede’s dimensional model - Sample Essay

 

Trompenaars, unlike Hofstede, also included a dimension dealing with the attitude of people to the natural environment. Aspects of Trompenaars approach address some of the criticisms of Hofstede’s model which are discussed in the next section. 3. Shortcomings of the Dimensional Approach to the Analysis of Cultures Criticism of the dimensional approach is based on the view that taxonomies oversimplify complex issues, whilst Hofstede’s model attracts additional criticism about the potential bias associated with his respondent sample.

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3. 1 Propensity for Taxonomic Approaches to Oversimplify Complex Issues Critics argue that by adopting taxonomy to describe national cultural differences dimensional theorists, such as Hofstede, have oversimplified the complexity of national culture. Specific criticism is that his model excludes important cultural variables and that it implies that national culture is static. In Guirdham (1999:59), Kim adds that the use of broad dimensions is unhelpful in terms of creating insight into the underlying drivers of behavior.

Collier and Thomas reinforce this criticism by arguing that taxonomies fail to provide clear guidance about the number of dimension items that must be different in order to validate cultural differences (Guirdham 1999:59). This, they contend, is attributable to factors such as the unpredictable impact that dimension items have on different cultures. Guirdham (1999:59) references the following quote by Tayeb (1996) to summarize the perceptions associated with cultural taxonomies: “A country’s culture is too vibrant and complex an entity to be simplified and described only in terms of these dimensions.

” 3. 2 Potential Respondent Bias Clyne (1994:30) expresses concern about the representivity of Hofstede’s data, which he describes as “limited”, particularly in relation to Eastern European groups. This raises questions about the robustness of the model when presented as a general reference for differentiating national cultures. Clyne (1994:31) pursues this theme by questioning the relevance of geographic borders to delineate national culture, given that borders frequently separate peoples that share more in common with each other than with their compatriots.

He adds that Hofstede’s findings on dimensions such as Individualism-collectivism are open to extraneous variables such as the class, gender and age of respondents. It is also possible to infer from Collier writing in Samovar & Porter (2003:419) that IBM’s Organization Culture may have had potential to bias findings that Hofstede attributes to national culture, although Hofstede claims the opposite. It is Wierzbicka (2003a:xvi) however, who observes that the statistical methods used by social scientists should also take account of “the voices of flesh and blood people”.

Finally, Clyne (1994:31) maintains that: “These points [criticisms – BL] do not detract from the usefulness and significance of Hofstede’s model and categories. ” The next section will examine alternative approaches to understanding cultural differences. 4. An Account of High-Culture, Low-Culture Theory and Cultural Identity Theory Certain communication theorists contend that analysis of communication events can be used to differentiate cultures. Hall’s High-Context, Low Context Communication theory and Collier’s Cultural Identity Theory (CIT) are based on this view.

4. 1 High-Culture, Low Culture Theory The following explanation of Hall’s theory is based on an account by Guirdham (1999:61-62). She explains that Hall identifies two communication styles, High-context communication (HCC) and Low-context communication (LCC). Hall contends that these styles are culturally influenced. HCC refers to situations in which communicators pay more attention to non-verbal signals and their own relative roles in society than to specific message content.

HCC is practiced by people from High-context cultures, such as Japan, that place high significance on the individual’s role status. This is usually evidenced by formal and ritualistic social interaction. LCC refers to situations where communicators depend on explicit message coding and in which personal style plays a central role in the communication. This style is prevalent in Low-context, typically Western cultures, in which communication is relatively informal and intimate. 4. 2 Cultural Identity Theory (CIT)

CIT is, according to Collier (2003:417-421), based on the idea that groups with shared characteristics, for example ethnicity or gender, form distinct cultural systems. These systems are recognizable by a shared cultural identity, which emerges through the group’s communication processes. Collier (2003:419) explains with reference to Hecht, Collier & Ribeau that: “Cultural identities are negotiated, co-created, reinforced and challenged through communication. ” Furthermore, individuals will, according to proponents of CIT, belong to and manifest different cultural identities at different points in time.

Thus a second generation Cuban doctor who is a South African national may manifest identities that are attributable to his Cuban ethnicity, his South African nationality, his professional capacity or his support for euthanasia. Collier (2003:419) reinforces this point when she says: “Who we are and how we are differs and emerges depending on who we are with, the cultural identities that are important to us and others, the topic of conversation, and our interpretations and attributions.

” She also notes that shared cultural identity does not mean that group members will hold identical perspectives; rather the group will be characterized by individuals who hold a range of views on issues that are relevant to the group. The Cuban doctor may therefore be a proponent of active or passive euthanasia which may or may not be consistent with the views of other members of that group. Finally Collier(2003:421) notes that cultural identity is enduring because it is both rooted in a historical context and subject to change that is induced by social, political, economic and other external factors.

Hall and Collier place significant emphasis on the close link between culture and communication which is different to Hofstede’s dimensional approach. Section five will examine these and other differences in further detail. 5. Key Differences between the Dimensional and Communication Models The principle difference between the approach of the dimensional and the communication models to cultural differences is that the dimensional model emphasizes “psychological factors such as values” Guirdham (1999:47), whilst the communication model places “communication at the center of cultural differentiation” Guirdham (1999:60).

Thus, the dimensional theorists focus on describing culture in terms of the interaction between values systems Guirdham (1999:51-52), whilst the communication theorists focus on culture from the perspective of communicative interaction between individuals and groups Guirdham (1999:61). The communication centric model postulates that culture emerges and is shaped during the communication process Collier (2003:419). Dimensional theorists, by way of contrast, view language and communication primarily as a mechanism for transmitting culture. Furthermore, the dimensional theorists have tended to develop models that describe national culture.

The communication theorists and specifically the cultural identity theorists believe however that “national culture is only one type among many” Guirdham (1999:62). Finally, Guirdham (1999:72) indicates that increasing levels of global social consciousness tend to nurture the formation of sub-cultures and to promote multiculturalism. If this is the case then it is likely that the multicultural emphasis of the communication models is well suited to identifying cultural differences in a global situation that is characterized by “convergence and persisting difference [in culture -BL]” Guirdham (1999:72).

This may not however be the case for the national culture emphasis of the dimensional models. Guirdham (1999:73) reinforces this when she references the following quote by Hofstede: “Gender, generation and class cultures can only partly be classified by the four dimensions”. 6. Conclusion This assignment has examined the approach to distinguishing between cultures from a dimensional model and communication model perspective. Whilst a key focus has been on identifying the shortcomings of the dimensional model, it is evident that both approaches serve the useful purpose of advancing our understanding of cultural differences.

This provides meaningful insight into the variables that influence the behavior of interlocutors from different cultural backgrounds. [1997 Words] Bibliography Clyne, Michael. 1994. Inter-cultural Communication at work: cultural values in discourse. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. (pp. 7-31; 178-186) Collier, M. J. 2003. Understanding Cultural Identities in Intercultural Communication: a ten-step inventory. In: Samovar, L. A. & R. E. Porter (eds. ). Intercultural communication: A reader. Tenth Edition. Wadsworth: Thomson. (pp. 412-429) Guirdham, M. 1999.

Communicating across cultures. London: MacMillan Press. (pp. 12- 23; 47-77) Ronowicz, E. & C. Yallop (eds. ). 1999. English: one language, different cultures. London and New York: Cassell. (pp. 1-18) Wierzbicka, A. 2003. Cross-Cultural Pragmatics. Mouton de Gruyter: Berlin. (pp. I – xxvii (= a); pp. 1-4; 67-130 (= b)) Appendix A: Assignment Outline The following is a copy of the high level working outline that was used in the development of this assignment: Introduction 1. Describe types of culture, influencers and behavioral manifestation. Ref:Ronowicz definition.

2. Task 1 3. Highlight imperative to describe culture in terms of defined dimensions. 4. Ref: Kluckhon/Stordtbeck. 5. Introduce Hofstede’s 4 plus 1 dimensions. 6. Discuss each dimension in terms of introductory definition and examples. Ref: Guirdham. 7. Demonstrate Trompenaars expansion of Hofstede. Focus on sampling rigor, dimension consistencies and differences. Task 2 1. Develop view around perceived weakness of taxonomic approach and respondent sampling issues. 2. Explore complexity of culture and contrast with reductionism associated with taxonomy.

Note superficiality of dimensions as drivers of behavior, breadth of dimensions and problems with validating differences. 3. Decompose data concerns associated with Hofstede’s sampling. Focus on national boundaries, representivity, class and gender bias. 4. Consider qualitative richness of communication based approach. Ref: Wierzbicka. Task 3 1. Establish link between culture and communication styles. I. e. Culture drives style. 2. Describe elements of LCC style. Emphasize observable issues such as level of informality and central role of personality (intimacy). 3. Describe HCC style and emphasize formality and ritual.

4. Use Western society and Japan as examples. 5. Introduce Cultural Identity Theory (CIT) 6. Establish link between communication process and group identity. Stress observation that culture emerges through communication. 7. Reinforce dynamic nature of individual cultural identity with groups through the use of an example. Note that affinity with groups changes depending on external factors such as circumstance of conversation. Ref: Collier quote page 419. 8. Highlight that Cultural Identity group members may not talk with “one voice”. 9. Emphasize dichotomy of enduring but changing nature of culture.

Task 4 1. Highlight communication centric approach of communications model vs values centric approach of dimensional model. 2. Contrast examination of interaction between communicators vs interaction between values and perceptions. 3. Emphasize culture is constructed during communication process vs communication is tool for transferring culture. 4. Discuss better adaptability of communication approach to global multicultural trends. Conclusion 1. Note utility of dimensional and communication approaches in contributing to understanding of behavior in cross-cultural communication situations.

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