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Dimensions of culture

National values frameworks describe national-based cultural differences along some common 'dimensions'. In this article we explore two of these.
Human crowd forming a male symbol on white background.
© 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.

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

Power distance

The power distance dimension, also known as 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.

Your task

Compare the Hofstede scores on the individualism-collectivism and power distance dimensions for your country and one other country.
Next, reflect on the following questions:
  • Do you think your country’s score accurately depicts your own values?
  • What about the values of the organisation you work in?
Discuss your findings in the comments.
© Deakin University
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