Posted: March 18th, 2023
Culture of Interest: Japan
Theoretical foundations of cultural and cross-cultural analysis: Japan and America
Japan: Mildly collectivist culture
American: An individualistic culture
Similarities and differences in Japanese and U.S. culture
Potential biases of researcher
Appendix I- Hofstede four Dimensional Theory
Edward Tylor (1832-1917) defines culture as a collection of customs, laws, morals, knowledge, and symbols displayed by a society and its constituting members. Culture is form of collective expression by groups of people. Since the dawn of industrial revolution and later, due to an increased integration of cultures across nations, cross-cultural analysis has assumed much import in scholastic discourse within psychology, anthropology, and psychology. Present study is an endeavor to make a cross-cultural assessment of American and Japanese culture. More differences than similarities have been found in both the cultures. Where Japanese culture fosters Aimai, meaning ambiguity and vagueness, Americans are intolerant to this characteristic. Based on Hofstede’s four dimensional theory of cross-cultural analysis, findings regarding individualism-collectivism index, power distance index, uncertainty tolerance, and masculinity-femininity index of American and Japanese people have been presented. Secondary research of pertinent literature and rigorous comparative analysis reveals that while both cultures are monocentric and value masculinity, they are diametrically opposed in uncertainty avoidance and individualism-collectivism index. The paper is divided in seven sections each highlighting different but interconnected theme regarding cross-cultural analysis of American and Japanese cultures.
As a member of society, human beings interact with each other and this interaction creates a culture particular to that society. Anthropologists have researched the term ‘culture’ in a holistic manner. Edward Tylor, the famous British anthropologist described culture as a collection of knowledge, morals, laws, convents, customs, symbols, and habits that are adopted and displayed by member of a society (Ferraro & Andreatta, 2011). Other scholarly definitions of culture are similar in meaning but with different words. Each constituting element of culture is related to the other and they are not isolated by virtue of their nature and practice. Ferraro and Andreatta (2011) have described material objects, ideas, values, attitudes, and behavior pattern as part of one’s culture. Symbols are also primary element of respective cultures and sub-cultures of a society. These are verbal as well as non-verbal cues that stand for particular meanings.
Significant changes have taken place globally in the 21st century. Political, social, and economic interdependence has led to exploration of different cultures in other countries. This has led researchers to investigate the cross-cultural dimensions of a society. In such intellectual discourse, cultural and cross-cultural theories have been presented to obtain a conceptual framework of understanding different cultures and how to fit in them. It is the diversity of cultures that generates differing human attitudes and behaviors regarding discoursed perspectives. Recent studies such as one conducted by Samovar, Porter and McDaniel (2009) are aimed at making the audiences understand how to communicate across different and often conflicting cultural settings. Section II will highlight the culture of Japan as an area of interest other than my own culture whereby the researcher will present an introduction to Japanese culture. Sections III, IV, and V will describe cultural characteristics of America, an explanation of theoretical underpinnings to help analyze the Japanese and American cultures, and report the main similarities and differences in both the cultures respectively. The researcher’s potential bias in analyzing both the cultures will be reported in section VI followed by conclusion and identification of further research potential (section VII).
Culture of interest: Japan
Aimai, meaning vagueness and obscurity, is the dominant characteristic of Japanese culture. It is not only tolerated in Japan but cherished as well. Such cultural characteristics are representative of a low-key and modest human attitude toward ones’ self. The principal interest in Japanese culture was aroused due to multiple factors of which two particularly stronger ones are Japan’s tremendous ability to rebuild their country after the WWII. Despite losing the battle in an unceremonious manner and having to face such vast level of destruction, the nation soon recollected itself and emerged as technology cum exports hub of the world. Davies and Ikeno (2002) observed that geography played a major role in shaping the culture of Japan. Most part of the country is isolated from rest of the Asian continent by virtue of being an island and surrounded by mountains. Having to live in close proximities, the Japanese people are closely knit social units. Being virtually locked on an island and having frequent rains, Japanese people used to grow rice that required collective labor. Thus, collectivism is also a dominant feature of Japanese culture.
The second compelling factor that made Japanese culture interesting to the researcher also emancipates from the former. The Japanese culture helped the country effectively and efficiently manages resources and human capital (Sackmann & Phillips, 2004) in post war era. The impact that Japan has made in influencing the world commerce after the post WWII decades is enormous. How could a nation having to face such magnitude of troubles be able to quickly bounce back on the global horizon of commerce and industry? Thus, resilience of Japanese people to make a significant impact on global culture of trade, commerce, and industry is worth investigating. The course of investigation will also highlight dominant cultural strengths and characteristics of Japan that made it occupy the economic realm of the world.
Theoretical foundations of cultural and cross-cultural analysis: Japan and America
Each nation has a unique culture in which customs, symbols, morals, and laws are reflective of the collective conscience of society. Geert Hofstede presented the four-dimensional theory to understand culture and its differences within different societies. The author surveyed 117,000 IBM employees across the world. The study spanned over different geographical regions of the world. Four dimensions that are determined to explain culture of a country are individualism-collectivism; power distance referring to social hierarchy being observed; uncertainty avoidance referring to establishing goals and parameters, and masculinity-femininity referring to a person and society being person oriented or task oriented. The theory presents an appropriate framework to analyze and study cultures across different countries. The society can be gauged with reference to these dimensions. Currently, with an increased emphasis on professionalism (Schwartz, 2007) and systems approach to problems of human beings, four-dimensional theory is used to explain the cultural differences of the U.S. And Japan. Two other dimensions, long-term orientation as well as self-indulgence and restraint were later included in the original four-dimensional theory of culture. Cross-cultural psychology can be adequately understood by applying the four dimensional (now having six dimensions) theory of Hofstede in which objective analysis is required to study culture and constituting elements. The power distance index established in studying culture refers to the extent to which lower level of members of a society or organization tolerates unequal distribution of power. They defer to authority and prefer complying with the established order. Cultures having less power distance index indicate that people are more ‘democratic’ and expect consultation process to take place before important decisions can be made. Equality is a major characteristic of cultures with lower power distance index. The indicator reflects the perception society members have regarding power differences.
The second dimension that can help researchers understand culture and its impact is the individualism-collectivism dimension. More collectivist a society and its members are, more integrated groups are formed and loyalty of members is owed to the group they relate to. Unlike individualistic societies, collectivist society members are not expected to make affiliation decisions solely on their own interest or leaning. They are expected to take into confidence or even comply with decisions and aspirations of extended family members. Cohesion into groups is more important than self-identity. Loyalty to group enables the members to seek security and social protection. Authority is not challenged and rather adhered to. Uncertainty avoidance is another aspect of culture that is tolerated in some cultures more than others. People of uncertainty avoiding society try to minimize it through clarity of speech, body language, and symbols. Thus, predictability is a salient feature of Japanese society whereas Americans are somehow tolerant of uncertainty. Society with low-uncertainty avoidance index is more tolerant of changes in life patterns and scheduled tasks. Planning in these cultures is rough and does not need to be in practice at all the times. People allow members of their groups to influence upon their plans, schedules, and even their lives. Formalization of procedures, rules, and regulations is not expected nor applied in low-ambiguity avoidance cultures. Masculinity femininity index refers to the extent to which a society indulges in competing or preserving relationships respectively. The more a society is masculine, more it is inclined for competition and individualism. People on the other hand in a feminine society prefer to guard relationships. They do not consider personal success and preference to have precedence over their group members.
Human development in both Japan and America are influenced in opposing manners. The values and customs being followed and cherished by the Japanese people are tilted towards being a collectivist society, though not high in this index score. Japan scored somewhere in middle on individualism collectivism index and the society is more paternalistic in nature. It does not display strongest of collectivist traditions but neither does it resonate with individualistic characteristics as a cultural unit. The American people on the other hand have displayed tremendously high score in this dimension. Having scored 91, the nation is among highest scorer in this aspect. People primarily work for them and do not like affording extended families. Satisfaction of personal aims, aspirations and motives is primary to American people. Glorification of personal efforts to achieve success is common place in the society Americans live in. While Japanese people are more considerate towards other group members, Americans too have displayed desire to form groups, only to satisfy one’s individual desires and collective motives (Yuki, 2003). Relational structure is more important to the Japanese people and relationships along with hierarchical respect are kept intact at all times of group interaction. Collective self assumes much importance in the Eastern societies of which Japan is a modern and relevant example. Though, culture is active in one’s psychological self at all times but acute importance shall also be placed as to whether the self, psychologically cultural in nature can be studied scientifically. Where it is argued that participation in culture does alter human mind, cross-cultural navigation indicates that Japanese and American cultures have come close to each other during the last few decades due to increased globalization. Does globalization catalyzes assimilation and integration of cultures and makes them more identical and symmetrical to each other? Iwabuchi, K. (2002) argues that both similarities and differences in American and Japanese cultures indicate an overwhelming pattern of interconnectedness of commerce and culture. The way people earn their livings have an impact on their behavior as well as societal outlook. While Japan has long been an agricultural society and collectivism has been an important characteristic, impact of American individualism has also infiltrated and people in Japan are now growingly individualistic, falling considerably short of Scandinavian or American standards.
Gender and ethnicity of stimulus (Hess, Blairy & Kleck, 2000) have been observed to have played an important role in perceptions. Facial expressions and emotions are reflective of respective cultures that people belong to. Such conclusions are observable in everyday life where Japanese families do not approve public display of affection as well as emotions arising out of opposite gender interaction and any other social stress in public. Americans on the other hand are highly expressive in public and such behavior is approved by the society. Each cultural value is closely guarded by the members to an extent that not complying with the same can result in conflict. The survival in individualistic societies, such as American, more depends on individual effort and personal achievement rather the group one belongs to.
Japanese people are highly considerate towards their peers and if difference in social status, belonging, and power is high, it is often not admissible to display such difference. Arrogant display of power and wealth is also unheard. American people on the contrary are free and enabled to display their wealth as well as other perceived superiorities. In-group relationships are also different in Japan and America where conformity is high in degree in Japanese culture, in fact non-conformity is actively discouraged (Matsumoto, 1991). Overt connectedness (Markus & Kitayama, 1991) is not approved in American society. Anthropological and psychological theories of self are increasingly adamant on such presence of such stark difference in cultures.
Japan: Mildly collectivist culture
Studies conducted byTriandis (2001) and Kurman (2003) indicate that Japan has a collectivist culture whereby group enhancement and group goals are more important as compared to individual aspirations. Although, individualism and collectivism are not mutually exclusive in certain societies (Donahue, 1998), Japan and America are diametrically opposites in this context of culture. The determinants of social behavior are more attributed to external and group factors as opposed to personal factors. The society guards and promotes collectivism which can be an explanation of efficient use of resources by the Japanese people. In a collectivist culture, self-efficacy is attributed to group belonging rather than being in an individual capacity. Triandis, et al. (2001) has observed that collectivist culture such as those of Japan and Korea are positively related to deception in negotiations as well as emotional reactions of shame and guilt. This implies that Japanese people are more sensitive to their behavior in relation to the group and society they belong to. Marriages, the most notable and far-influencing form of social interaction also display that Japanese people closely accede to the wishes and expectation of elders and group of their belonging (Donahue, 1998).
The generic upbringing of children is within an environment of mutuality and inclusiveness. People and groups of people are more closely knit in times of grief and happiness. Asian continent is predominantly composed of collectivist cultures ranging from Japan, China, India, and Pakistan to Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Maldives. The children and teenagers are expected to resign to the group expectations and goals. Individual opinions and expressions of one’s resentment on group agenda or aspirations are not considered as a positive gesture. The notion of Japanese culture as one of ‘collectivist’ is toned down by many behavioral and living trends of Japanese society. The people are more reserved and privacy loving as compared to other societies or cultures of Asia, such China and Korea. In fact Japanese people have stronger affiliation with their employers and the places on which they work. Their close association with work-groups is representative of their ‘desire’ to maintain strong individual presence through career consolidation. They are not used to ‘bear’ expenses of extended family members as most of the family members work for their living. The society teaches the individuals to be cooperative and honest to each other. Harmony and agreement is preferred over conflict and opposition. This reveals that Japanese culture is considerably ‘collectivist’ and ‘paternalistic’ in nature. Triandis (2001) contended that Japanese students which spend some years in the U.S. find it hard to return to their society because they feel more independent and enabled in the U.S. culture. In order to draw an informed comparison and contrast in both the cultures i.e. Japanese and America, following section will highlight the culture and values of American society.
America also owes its cultural progression to historical developments, geography, and immigration of people from all over the world, specifically from England. The culture is largely ‘an amalgamation’ of historical cultural perspectives of inhabitants of respective regions. Luedtke (2011) has eloquently presented the cultural analysis of the American society. From historical developments to geographical distinction between regions of America, the author has rightly so traced the cultural origins to the way this part of land got developed. The people that make up different regions of the U.S. are central to ‘cultural development’ of this region of the world. New England, Middle Atlantic, and Southern (Luedtke, 2011) are safely the three cultural centers around which our society is established. What seems today as a society having rich and dominant culture of the world was not such throughout the course of its development. Sports, economic independence, education par excellence, and the persona of being ‘land of opportunities’ was carved out of a deep desire of our people to be independent from their origins and present to the world an ‘ingenious’ culture capable of producing rich literature, norms, customs, and moralities that are particular to American people only. Talent, art, sports, commerce, and education, all were deliberately and consciously developed and preserved to foster a culture as rich as America of ‘today’.
‘Democracy’ lay as one such characteristic of American culture that has enabled our society to stall at some points of the history as well as progress by leaps at other times. Such long is the history of this characteristic of American culture that a French citizen, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859), mentioned in his book ‘Democracy in America’ that democratic culture in America is firmly grounded and will progress in coming centuries (Andersen & Taylor, 2012).
American: An individualistic culture
The most dominant value of American culture is ‘individualism’ that fosters a sense of independence in American people. Ideas that behold American society at large emancipate from an individual’s point-of-view and uphold the concern for preserving the right to one life, liberty, and economic opportunity as well as to form groups. It is directly representative of dream and practice of an American society having free speech, free choice to join a group, to succeed, and become self-sufficient. Being an individualistic society, the primary importance is assumed by an ‘individual’ rather than larger social groups of which he is part of. Family is obliged to respect the privacy of its members and compliance to group goals or aspirations is not ‘ingrained’ in upbringing of children. Individual success is of paramount importance to ‘individuals’ themselves as well as the groups they form. Families encourage and up to some degree, force their members to become successful, failing to which the individuals often indulge in self-destructive behaviors (Naylor, 1998) such as being addict to drugs, crimes, and seeking therapist treatments for psychological complexities. However, individualism is one such characteristic that has given the Americans a prided feeling and ‘identity’ of being a nation. The vast numbers of entrepreneurs, scientists, sports and media stars, explorers, and politicians are an outcome of this cultural characteristic in which each individual, irrespective of any economic, social or physical handicap, is expected and proud to rise above each other. Competition based on individual efforts is the hallmark of American culture. This characteristic overshadows all others and rightly so, as it gives room for a lot of other values such as fiercely competitive, exploration, domination, and self-satisfaction.
Quantification and measurements, from exact sciences to social and liberal arts is another dominant characteristic of American culture that prevails in the educational institutions. The culture in America is such that openness and declaration is practiced and preached by all social groups. The decision makers in families, social institutions, and corporate organizations are open to acknowledge their decisions and take credit. Unlike the Japanese culture, concealment in American culture is considered unbearable. From personal relationships to hanging out with opposite sex partners is part of American culture whereas Japanese culture is diametrically the opposite. Fundamentally, American culture is built around the ideas that each human being irrespective of gender, social status, and religion, is free to choose and practice his/her belief and leanings.Voting, agenda setting, and clarity in aims and objectives are dominant social expectations in American society (Stewart, 2005). Thus, Japanese culture is significantly different and opposed to that of America, and the latter has exerted considerable influence on former, by virtue of liberalization in industry, trade, commerce, media, and advancement of America particular values and norms.
Similarities and differences in Japanese and U.S. culture
Time orientation: Orientation to time and its value in human life is one aspect where both Japanese and American cultures are termed as ‘monochronic’ (Tuleja & O’Rourke IV, 2008). Time is considered to be the most important asset and people, whether in business meetings or social get together do not expect that time-schedule is not adhered. Though Japanese people value their relationships and work place groupings, it is time orientation that they share the most with the Americans. It is interesting to note that cultures cannot be framed in isolations as separate ‘packages’ each have exclusive characteristics. Whereas most characteristics of both these cultures i.e. American and Japanese are opposed to each other, some characteristics are evidently much prevalent on both societies. Industrial economy plays an important role in sharing this value as both countries value time as money. In relation to Hofstede’s dimension of culture ‘long-term orientation’, both Japan and America are diametrically opposed to each other. Americans score only 29 on this dimension where Japanese score as high as 80 (The Hofstede Center, 2013). This indicates that Americans are highly ‘short-term’ oriented; Japanese are highly concerned to distant future.
Communication: Communication culture in both the countries is also strikingly different than each other. While Japanese people value indirect and often high context communication (Richardson & Smith, 2007), Americans are not used to of such indirect use of expression. They only incline to use limited information and engage in ‘direct’ and low context communication. The messages are often implied within communication and one has to infer the message being conveyed, it is rather considered impolite to convey direct and intimidating message. Confusion in the course of communication is common in Japan.
Physical and mental health: Waza, Graham, Zyzanski and Inoue (1999) have argues that Japanese patients are reported to have more depression related issues while under observation. The strict work life schedule and discipline in ordinary life does take its toll on the mental and physical health of the Japanese people. Whereas the American culture is known to have promoted psychologists and therapists, such professionals are increasingly in demand in Japan where people have committed increasing number of suicides in yesteryears.
Group relationships: Group relationships are also areas of difference in both the cultures. Whereas Japanese people display higher level of in-group conformity, the American people are more accustomed to openly expressing their opinions in-spite of group opinion. The characteristic is less observable in the study conducted by Hofstede where the Americans reported to have a score of 54 and Japanese 40 on ‘power distance’ index (PDI). This indicates that liberty of expression and association is more guarded by the Americans as opposed to the Japanese.
Perception of intelligence: Differences in perception regarding intelligence of one’s own self is also evident in many scholarly studies being conducted. Heine, et al. (2001) and DeAngelis (2003) contend that Americans increasingly are becoming individualistic and they tend to inflate their perception about self. On the contrary, East Asian cultures, specifically those of Japan and China ingrain humility and self-criticism culture. A “holier-than-thou” attitude and tendency was displayed by most of the undergraduates studied by Ehrlinger, et al. (2008). Heine, et al. (2001) also observed that Japanese students failing at the task given, then worked harder to achieve success whereas Americans only worked hard after they succeeded at the task, a difference that indicates that Americans are motivated by an urge of getting more and more successful whereas failure hinders their progress. On the other hand, the Japanese may have displayed a tendency of self-improvement by trying to get successful after they got failed.
Potential biases of researcher
In order to present a bias-free cross-cultural research, it is necessary that equivalence in analysis and interpretation of data is applied. Using studies and instruments in cross-cultural studies is of paramount importance to evaluate equivalence. One particular constraint on part of researcher might have been the influence that social conditioning creates on intellectual and mental abilities to analyze given information. The tendency to generalize and assume same meaning of things happening in one’s own environment forms a barrier to understanding others perspective. Misinterpretation of data being accessed during the course of study is also a potential discrepancy in cross-cultural analysis.
Item bias is the main element that may have crept into researcher’s study. Anxiety might not have the same meaning to the Japanese people as the Americans, thus measuring anxiety in cross-cultural setting might have enabled the occurrence of item selection bias (He & van de Vijver, 2012). Preconceived notions regarding one’s own culture and inability to gauge its inappropriateness in cross-cultural settings is a limitation that researcher shall acknowledge while generalizing the results and findings of study. Attribution error (Cardwell & Flanagan, 2003) is one more potential error that may have occurred during the research study, the ability to overestimate the tendency of personal characteristics in evaluating the secondary studies of cross-culture The cultural environment in which one has been raised cannot be seen exclusively as from outside, just as Japanese cannot perceive their culture external and irrespective of them, such inability may have occurred on researcher’s part as well. The main rationale behind committing the aforementioned potential bias and errors is related to applying same standards as ‘practiced and thought of’ in one’s own culture. The research process always assumes that meaningful direct comparisons (Cardwell & Flanagan, 2003) across the cultures. However, replication of research studies across cultures might not be valid in particular instances, such as where differences in thinking patterns, perception, and understanding are wide. These reasons may have influenced the researcher to commit potential errors in research process and drawing conclusions and deduction from a scholar’s thesis. Since Hofstede’s four-dimensional theory was used to analyze both the cultures, whereas the theory has got included two more dimensions after the original four, the potential of incorporating yet more dimensions may exist. This leaves present study to be general rather than exhaustive.
The Japanese culture as an interest and topic within the cross-cultural study has generated significant findings. The literature being reviewed was relevant to the research topic. Hofstede’s four dimensional theories were used as a framework to analyze researcher’s own culture as well as Japanese as a culture of interest. It is found that Japanese people have a tendency of being collectivist society as the individualism index of Japan is 46; however it lies at the center with significant individualistic characteristics. Absence of extended family system and placing work as primary responsibility, Japanese people are paternalistic. Asian neighbors of Japan are more collectivist than Japan herself. As compared to the Americans, Japanese culture is collectivist as America scores high in this characteristic, though the former cannot be stated collectivist in absolute terms unlike many of its Asian neighbors. The Japanese culture is mildly conscious of hierarchical structure of society but again not as much as other Asian countries such as Korea, India, and China. The American nation is less tolerant of hierarchical structures as compared to Japan. An interesting element in both cultures is their high masculinity (U.S.A 62; Japan 95). Both nations are mindful of success, Japan insistent on group success whereas Americans on individual success. The American culture is comparatively tolerant of uncertainty whereas Japanese culture ingrains a high degree of uncertainty avoidance.
The long-term orientation of both the nations, as studied by Hofstede, is also different than each other. While Americans score merely 29 on this index, Japanese displayed excessive long-term orientation by scoring 80. Confucian theories of virtue and goodness have played an important role in investing the notion of ‘eternal’ and longevity. The businesses and commerce are also practiced in such a spirit that invests considerable amount in research and development despite economic crunch. In America, R&D is the first causality of an economic downturn as the businesses and shareholders look forward to short-term, quarterly financial statements to announce financial gains. Thus, despite deep and often conflicting values and customs in their cultural outlook, both the countries are one of the biggest business partners of each other. Cultural integrity in the wake of globalization might have impacted both cultures equally, more than most of researchers acknowledge.
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Appendix I- Hofstede four Dimensional Theory
Source: (The Hofstede Center, 2013)
Source: (The Hofstede Center, 2013)
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You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.
The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.
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