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The different dimensions of culture

National values frameworks describe national-based cultural differences along some common 'dimensions'. We explore two of these.
Dimensions Of Culture
© Deakin University

National cultural frameworks describe national-based cultural differences along some common ‘dimensions’.

There are a number of frameworks, which vary in the number and type of value dimensions. For example, Hofstede’s framework compares six value dimensions, while GLOBE uses nine.

But the frameworks have some similar dimensions, such as individualism-collectivism and power distance.

1. Individualism-collectivism

Individualism-collectivism looks at the extent to which cultures prioritise individual concerns over group concerns to guide actions.

In societies characterised by individualist values, your own interests would generally guide your actions. In societies characterised by collectivist values, the interests of your group would predominantly guide your actions.

For instance, in individualistic societies, it’s common for young adults to make their own decisions about their career paths.

By contrast, in collectivist societies, young adults may prioritise their family’s preferences when it comes to deciding their careers.

Representations of individualism and collectivism. Individualism: arrows pointing towards the human individual. Collectivism: arrows pointing away from the human individual.© Deakin University. Click on the image to open an accessible version.

2. Power distance

The power distance dimension, also known as a hierarchy, addresses people’s attitudes toward power inequalities.

Visual representation of the high power distance and low power distance relationship. High power distance: One person stands above the others i.e. A power imbalance exists and one person clearly has more authority or superior over their colleagues. Low power distance: All people are on equal grounding i.e. A person's place in the hierarchy doesn't strongly affect the way they treat their fellow colleagues.© Deakin University. Click on the image to view an accessible version

In societies with high power distance, people tend to accept the presence of power inequalities and this influences how they behave toward others below or above them in the hierarchy.

For instance, in a high power distance culture, people generally wouldn’t question the authority of a supervisor at work.

But in societies with low power distance, the way people act is not driven so strongly by their position in a hierarchy.

© Deakin University
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