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Considering values frameworks

What are terms, vocabularies or taxonomies that help meaningfully compare or contrast cultures? We discuss important orientations, as well as the psyc

What are terms, vocabularies or taxonomies that help meaningfully compare or contrast cultural values? This section discusses important orientations, as well as the psychological dimensions that many use for explaining cultural values.

Our discussions this week have emphasized that the search for ways to clarify, express, and explain values has been long and continuing. In this segment we highlight some of the helpful approaches that are still used today, especially those put forward by Florence Kluckhohn and Geert Hofstede.

As highlighted in our book series, Intercultural Research, Volumes 4 and 5, these many attempts to categorize and dimensionalize values have had an important role in shaping the intercultural field and its application to a wide range of cross-cultural training endeavors. In the 1950s, sociologist Talcott Parsons was one of the first to develop comparative patterns that might explain differences in behavior across cultures. Working with him and other cultural anthropologists, Clyde and Florence Kluckhohn did a major study called the Harvard Values Project.

The Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck model suggested that all cultural groups seek to find answers and develop cultural preferences for the following questions:

  1. What is our orientation to human nature?
  2. What is the relation of man to nature?
  3. What is our time focus?
  4. What is our orientation toward activity?
  5. What is important in our social relations?
Those questions continue to provide interesting comparisons between cultures, particularly between those that contrast traditions with modernization. We might not be able to pinpoint cultures very specifically in this framework, but knowing that these preference ranges exist enhances our awareness.
However, social scientists pushed for more quantitative frameworks. The groundbreaking effort in this venture was the Hofstede Values Orientation Model (VOM), first published in 1980 as Culture’s Consequences. Though some criticize his dimensions as oversimplifying “culture,” research and training has shown that these dimensions have enduring validity, salience, and some explanatory power.
Hofstede initially identified four values dimensions that continue to be widely applied. Later, his collaborative work with Michael Bond in Hong Kong and more recently with Michael Minkov, his son Gert Jan Hofstede, and other researchers, has led to a 6-Dimensional model, published in his 2010 update of Culture: The Software of the Mind.
Our course readings cover these developments in detail and will help you better understand how they are used to study values across cultures. They will also alert you to other scholars’ work, such as Fons Trompenaars’ values dimensions in business settings or Shalom Schwartz’s attempt at a universal model of inter-related values. As you listen to the explanations and read these summaries, we hope you will keep reflecting on which of these approaches makes the most sense to you.
Consider which dimensions or specific values stand out to you as providing insightful explanations or a practical understanding of your own culture or those you have come into contact with.
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Intercultural Communication: Dynamics of cultural identities in global interaction

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