Hofstede (1980) defined culture as the “the collective programming of the mind” which differentiates people from various cultures. The programming includes development of schemas, values, social norms, behavior, beliefs, customs, and perception of the world (Mourey et al., 2013; Oyserman, 2011; Oyserman, Sorensen, Reber, & Chen, 2009). There is wide variation in the programming across human societies; however, researchers believe that the most fundamental difference between cultures is in cultural orientation, that is how we perceive self in relation to the rest of the society (Schwartz & Bilsky, 1990, p. 879). The most intriguing part of culture has been what happens to people’s values, beliefs, customs when people from different cultures come together, through colonization, migration, and globalization. A common cliché in cultural research is that people are incapable of internalizing more than one culture at the same time. Thus the assumption has been that people can be either individualist or collectivist and not both. In addition to that, the implication of that cliché is that when people move to a foreign country they have to either abandon their heritage culture, and adopt the host culture values or choose to retain their heritage culture without adopting the host culture values. However, accumulating evidence shows that people have varying degrees of endorsement of individualist and collectivist values. Likewise, acculturation involves varying degrees of host culture internalization in addition to the heritage culture. The programming process is repeated when we come into contact with a new culture, we develop a different set of schemas, values, social norms, behavior, beliefs, customs, and perception of the world based on the new culture (Oyserman, 2017). Regardless of these ground breaking findings, our inability to operationalize and to properly measure cultural orientation and acculturation has been a barrier preventing us from fully understanding the constructs hence this has led to inconsistent findings.
Individualism and Collectivism are often referred to as constructs. By definition, a construct is the mental abstraction of ideas, or subject matter that we want to measure (Lavrakas, 2008). Their main function is to help explain theories that is, to break down theories to attributes that we can measure (Bunge, 1974). By nature, constructs are subjective and cannot be observed directly because they are not concrete, therefore we can only study them indirectly through the use of measures (Rioux, 1997). Complex constructs have multiple dimensions (i.e Individualism and Collectivism construct) (Lavrakas, 2008). In addition to conceptualizing constructs, researchers are also concerned about finding the correct measurement method for the constructs. So far there have been a number of scales dedicated to assessing cultural orientation; however, this has led to debates about their validity. Researchers are cognizant that in order to develop valid scales, they need to understand how we store constructs in the brain, how they are associated with their attributes and other concepts, how they are evaluated, retrieved, and reported. Such insight can be obtained from the study of attitudes. The Individualism and Collectivism constructs have been the most studied cultural dimensions. However, uncertainty on which measures to use to assess cultural orientation means that this area still deserves further exploration.
Our goal for the first part of the study was to compare the cultural orientation of two different samples namely Swazis in Swaziland and Taiwanese in Taiwan. Drawing from the multidimensional approach, we examined the convergence validity of two currently used explicit measures of cultural orientation that vary in structure. Up to date the main measures of cultural orientation have been explicit based measures like self-rating scales and scenario or vignette scales. While explicit measures are widely used, they have been criticized for being highly susceptible to desirable responding and for response style differences. Cultural orientation researchers have also sparingly used implicit measures such as independent–interdependent self-definitions priming (Oyserman, Coon, ; Kemmelmeier, 2002). However, the current implicit measures on cultural orientation are prime based and also use the self-report scales to measure the final cultural orientation outcome. Therefore, a new latency based measure is required that will assess implicit cultural orientation. In the second section of the first study we developed a new implicit measure for assessing cultural orientation Individualism-Collectivism construct, and thus compared it to the explicit measures. We set out to examine whether a neuroimaging tool such as EEG can be used to detect the difference in people who endorse collectivistic values and individualistic values as classified by our new measure. Given that there was a possibility that our sample may have different cultural orientation profile, we were also interested in studying people who have been exposed to both cultures. Therefore, we conducted a second study on Swazi students currently living in Taiwan, we first examined how they were adjusting to the life in Taiwan. In the second section of the study we investigated whether the sojourners cultural orientation changed as a function of the culture they were exposed to, or cultural mindset that was temporally activated by cultural primes. We used cultural frame switching priming paradigm to investigate whether sojourners who are in the process of acculturation were capable of frame switching.
Given that self-construals have an impact on an individual’s behavior and cognition (Han & Humphreys, 2016) our findings would determine whether sojourners are capable of changing their behavior in response to environmental cues, a useful attribute in their adaptation process. Even though there is an increase in the number of international students globally, the US is slowly losing its position as the primary study destination, European and Asian countries have become the popular study destination for international students (Douglass & Edelstein, 2009). However, to the authors knowledge only a few studies have been conducted on the psychological adjustment of international students living in Asian societies. Understanding how Swazi sojourners are adapting to the life in Taiwan is invaluable because it contributes to the limited research on the factors that predict successful or poor adaptation of international students from African backgrounds abroad and may perhaps provide tailored interventions to help with adjustment.
Individualism and Collectivism
Individualism and Collectivism are cultural patterns that focus on how a person living in a society perceives themselves in relation to others (Hofstede, 1980). That is, the degree to which a person is inclined to be part of a group. Consequently, people who are collectivist value interdependence and are more inclined to be part of a group while people who are individualists value independence and are less inclined to remain part of a group (Hofstede, 1980; Triandis, 1995; Triandis, & Gelfland, 1998; Hofstede, 2001). Individualism and Collectivism cultural syndromes differentiate between cultures that value separation or independence such as Western countries, from cultures that embrace unity or interdependence such as South American, Asian and African countries (Chirkov, Ryan, Kim, & Kaplan, 2003). Individualistic societies promote autonomy, privacy, assertiveness, self-reliance, independence, expressing unique attributes, achievement, preferences and feelings, pursuing personal goals, having relationships with mutual benefits and optimizing personal gain. In contrast, collectivist societies promote and put emphasis on interdependence, group harmony, group goals, adherence to social norms, compliance, obligation, responsibility, and having long term relationships based on loyalty (Miller, 1994; Triandis, 1995; 1996; 2001; Triandis & Gelfand, 1998; Choi, Nisbett, & Norenzayan, 1999; Sivadas, Bruvold, & Nelson, 2008).
Origins on Individualism and Collectivism
Researchers have observed that collectivistic values were more prominent in areas where there were large groups of people with a few resources, large family sizes and in societies with labor intensive sources of income like in agrarian societies (Ji, Nisbett, & Peng 2000; Georgas et al., 2001; Triandis, & Gelfand, 2012). Conversely, individualistic values were observed to be predominantly held in areas where the people were highly educated, had high incomes, in countries with high GDP where there was modernization, urbanization and industrialization, and where people can freely move from one place to another like in nomadic societies (Berry, 1976; Triandis et al., 1993; Triandis, & Gelfand, 2012; Hamamura, 2012; Twenge, & Foster, 2010; Skrebyte, et., 2016) (Hofstede, 1984; Gorodnichenko, & Roland, 2011; Cox, Friedman, & Tribunella, 2011).
The evolution of Individualism and Collectivism theory provides a mechanism by which cultural orientation differs across groups and cultures. It posits that ecology or history and socio-demographic factors have shaped cultural orientation (Kitayama, Ishii, Imada, Takemura, & Ramaswamy, 2006; van der Vliert, 2007; Oishi, 2010; Triandis, & Gelfand, 2012). According to the theory collectivism and individualism values were a results of two different societies namely, the agricultural society and nomadic society (Triandis & Gelfand, 2012). The agricultural societies which were formed in climatically conducive areas were characterized by low mobility and scarce resources which promoted collectivistic values such as resource sharing, develop communal relationships and social norms (Berry, 1976; Triandis & Gelfand, 2012). In contrast, nomadic societies formed in non-conducive regions and were characterized by constant search of new hunting grounds hence mobility and isolation which reinforced individualistic values such as independence, maximizing personal gain and self-reliance (Triandis, 1995; Kitayama, et al., 2006).
Conceptualization of Individualism-Collectivism
The conceptualization of cultural orientation lies on the interpretation of the relationship between Individualism and Collectivism. This relationship results in dimensionality. The uni-dimensional model of cultural orientation conceptualizes Individualism and Collectivism as opposite and bipolar (Gouveia, Clemente, & Espinosa, 2003). As a result, the basic assumption of the uni-dimensional approach is that a person can only have one cultural orientation and not both (either individualist or collectivist) (Freeman & Bordia, 2001; Duan, Wei, & Wang, 2008). The uni-dimensional approach has been deemed inappropriate because it subverts the complexity of values that are found in both individualists and collectivists (Schwartz, 1990). Hofstede’s (1980) cultural orientation global survey was based on the uni-dimensional model. Due to the simplistic nature of the model, the survey results failed to differentiate between group level and individual level cultural orientation (Smith, ; Bond, 1998; Bond, 2002). Following the uni-dimensional approach, and Hofstede’s results, nationality determines an individual’s cultural orientation. For instance, a US citizen is automatically classified as an individualist simply because US culture is predominantly individualist. More recent models such as the bi-dimensional approach posits that Individualism and Collectivism can be conceptualized as two unipolar constructs hence it is possible for an individual to endorse both individualistic and collectivistic values (Kagitçibasi, 1987; Bontempo, 1993; Cha, 1994; Freeman, ; Bordia, 2001).
Subsequent models such as the multidimensional approach expand on the bi-dimensional approach by further postulating that the degree to which a person holds individualistic or collectivistic values differs from one culture to another depending on the horizontal vertical relationships and on the situation the person is in (Triandis, 1993; Singelis, 1994; Oyserman, Kemmelmeier, ; Coon, 2002). The multidimensional approach integrates two of Triandis (1993) cultural syndromes, namely Individualism- Collectivism and Vertical-Horizontal social relationships. Vertical and horizontal relationships refer to how much people in a group accept equality and inequality or hierarchy among in-group members (Triandis, 1995). In other words, they differ in how much a society accepts inequality within its members. Horizontal relationships emphasize equality between in-group members whereas vertical relationships emphasize hierarchy or accept inequality between in-group members (Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk, ; Gelfand, 1995; Triandis, 1995). The Individualism-Collectivism constructs and horizontal- vertical relationships are combined to form four cultural orientations namely; Horizontal Individualism, Vertical Individualism, Horizontal Collectivism and Vertical Collectivism (Singelis, et al., 1995). Horizontal Individualism is a cultural pattern where independence and equality are valued whereas Vertical Individualism is cultural pattern which values independence and hierarchy or status (Singelis, et al., 1995; Triandis, 1995). In contrast, in Horizontal Collectivism interdependence on in-group and equality are more emphasized, whereas in Vertical Collectivism, the self is attached to in-group and inequality is accepted (Triandis, 1995; Cozma, 2011).
Numerous studies support the multidimensional approach. Studies have found that among individuals of the same group, the preference for individualistic and collectivistic values varied from one person to another depending on socio-demographic factors, (Vandello ; Cohen, 1999; Lau, 1992; Schimmack, Oishi, ; Diener, 2005; Kitayama, Park, Sevincer, Karasawa, ; Uskul, 2009). These studies concluded that the cultural orientation constructs can coexist in the same population of a country and within an individual (Triandis, et al., 1993; Singelis, et al., 1995; Gelfand, Triandis, ; Chan, 1996; Lorenzi-Cioldi, ; Dafflon, 1998; Oppenheimer ; Sallay, 2001; Conway, Ryder, Tweed, ; Sokol, 2001; Schimmack, et al., 2005; Kitayama et al., 2009; AlAnezi ; Alansari, 2016; Triandis, 2009a; Yamawaki, 2012). Our study will be based on the multidimensional approach which has received a lot of support from other researchers.
Measuring cultural orientation
Cultural orientation is a construct and hence cannot be measured directly (Lavrakas, 2008). Due to this, one way of measuring constructs is by assessing people’s attitude towards that construct (Rioux, 1997). An attitude is defined as a relatively lasting summary of an individual’s predisposed psychological evaluation about objects, ideas, constructs, people and events (Baron ; Byrne, 1984; Eagly ; Chaiken, 1993; Hogg ; Vaughan 2005; Perloff, 2016). Attitudes or evaluation can be tied to the following attributes positive or negative, harmful or beneficial, pleasant or unpleasant or uncertain (Eagly ; Chaiken, 1993; Ajzen ; Fishbein 2000). In the current study, the terms attitude and object’s evaluations in memory will be used interchangeably and the term object will be used to refer to constructs, values and ideas. Attitudes result from accumulated experiences and can change over time (Eagly & Chaiken, 1993). The formation of attitudes can be best explained by the Classical Conditioning Theory in which the conditioned stimuli represents the attitude object and the unconditioned stimuli represents the evaluation (positive or negative) (De Houwer, Thomas, & Baeyens, 2001; Olson & Fazio, 2002). Attitudes result from the repeated pairings of the conditioned and unconditioned stimuli. It is possible for individuals to hold many beliefs about an object; however, the basic assumption is that, an attitude is only influenced by beliefs that are readily accessible in memory (Ajzen, 2001). Rosenberg and Hovland (1960) proposed the multicomponent model or ABCs of attitude structure which posits an attitude is made up of three components. These are cognitive (beliefs), affective (feelings), and behavioral component (Rosenberg & Hovland, 1960). To measure and report people’s attitudes towards an object or constructs (i.e Individualism and Collectivism), we need to understand how attitudes influence behavior and how people express their attitudes (Eagly ; Chaiken, 1993; Ajzen ; Fishbein 2000; Ajzen, 2001; Fazio ; Olson 2003; Rhodes, Roskos-Ewoldsen, Edison, ; Bradford, 2008). All of this together suggests that the attitudes we have about an object have serious implications.
There are various theories which attempt to explain how attitudes are expressed. A general consensus among attitude theories is that there are two types of attitudes, implicit and explicit and these differ mainly in strength, accessibility, ambivalence, and susceptibility to motivation and opportunity (Fazio, 1990; Wilson, Lindsey, ; Schooler, 2000; Payne, Burkley, ; Stokes, 2008). Consequently, the expression of an attitude to behavior by a subject can occur in a spontaneous (implicit) or deliberate (explicit) manner depending on the opportunity and motivational factors (Fazio, ; Williams, 1986; Fazio, 1990). Explicit attitudes are deliberate, conscious evaluations while implicit attitudes are spontaneous, unconscious evaluations made without active consideration of consequences (Fazio ; Towles-Schwen, 1999). Spontaneous responses (implicit) are those which reflect the automatic evaluation on the object (i.e Individualism and Collectivism values). Whereas, deliberate responses are those which reflect combined automatic evaluation and perceptual evaluation (Fazio, 1990). We can infer an individual’s attitude towards an object or construct from the responses they provide on a measure assessing the attitude. Hence, there are two types of measures, implicit and explicit measures.
Explicit and Implicit Measures
Explicit measures also referred to as self-report measures, are measures used to assess explicit attitudes and require participants to directly report their attitudes (Echabe, 2013; Carruthers, 2017). These measures employ direct methods and can be presented in written form or verbal form. They are usually referred to as self-report measures because the respondent is well aware of the relationship between the construct and the measure (Merikle & Reingold, 1991; Yovel & Friedman, 2013). Examples of explicit measures include self-report scales such as Likert scales, rating scales, feeling thermometers, error-choice method, semantic differentials; verbal self-reports and interviews (Krosnick, Judd, & Wittenbrink, 2005)
Implicit measures are measures that are used to assess implicit attitude which are automatic and non-deliberate (Echabe, 2013; Carruthers, 2017). They mainly include indirect measurement methods derived from Cognitive psychology paradigms that assess a respondent’s attitude without making them aware that they are being assessed for that attitude (Fazio ; Olson, 2003). In implicit tasks, the participants are not aware of the relationship between the construct and the response (Nosek ; Greenwald, 2009). Stated another way, this means that even though participants may be aware of the construct itself, it may be hard for them to manipulate or control the results due to the indirect measures used, thus lack of opportunity. The respondent’s attitude is inferred from the result of the task (Krosnick, Judd, & Wittenbrink, 2005). There are several types of implicit measures including Thematic Appreciation Task, Stroop tasks, word fragment completion tasks, Implicit Association Test, Extrinsic Affective Simon Task, associative priming, evaluative priming conditional reasoning and many more.
Explicit measures have been an integral part of psychology in measuring attitudes based on the assumption that participants are fully aware of their attitudes, and can accurately report them (Nosek, & Banaji, 2002). Due to the direct measurement methods of explicit measures, participants are fully aware of the relationship between the construct being measured and their responses. The direct manner of explicit measures coupled with no time pressure, allows participants to be deliberate about their thoughts and feelings towards the attitude (Schwarz & Bohner, 2001; Wittenbrink & Schwarz, 2007). Subsequently, explicit measures are susceptible to self-presentation bias, varied response styles and desirable responding (Greenwald, & Banaji, 1995; Greenwald, McGhee, & Schwartz, 1998; Hofmann, Gawronski, Gschwendner, Le, & Schmitt, 2005; Perugini, 2005; Greenwald, Poehlman, Uhlmann, & Banaji, 2009).