Cross Cultural Misunderstanding

Cross Cultural Misunderstanding

Summary of the article

This article is about an experiment that was conducted to determine if differences in cultural perspectives might act as an impediment to empathetic responses. It was conducted among American college students, these participants were to read on targets that experience in social context and assumed a consistent or inconsistent perspective with norms found. It entails the methodology used to carry out the experiment, the results from the experiment and a discussion of the results. It also gives an explanation of the meaning of empathy indicating how theorists have perceived the cognitive aspects of empathy. It also contains some examples of psychological research on exploring empathy.

Methods, participants, design and procedure

The participants of the experiments were 147 voluntary students, 36 male and 111 female from a university supported by the state (Nelson, & Baumgarte, 2009).The participants were to read on experiences of two individuals that were to be targets and give their impressions. Two vignettes were read which described targets who were distressed in social or work context. The targets of the vignettes were three different areas in cultural norms. The assigning of the vignettes was done randomly to the participants, one vignette with a dissimilar perspective and a second one with a similar perspective but relating to different cultural perspectives. There was a counterbalance made between the orders of the presentation of the vignettes. The participants then responded to questions that had been designed for assessment of perceptions of the similarity and empathetic responses.

Measures used

There were different measures used in the experiment this include similarity manipulation check that was used to make assessment of extent to which the manipulations of the different cultural perspectives had an influence on perceptions, similarity. The participants were asked the extent to which they felt similar to the target.

Cognitive perspective taking was used to assess perspective taking .participants were required to answer a series of six questions. Those were designed to asses the dispositional and situational attributions on the response of the target. The final measure used was empathetic concern which was used in making assessment of the effective empathy. The participants were asked to rate their experience on several emotions when they were reading the vignettes.


From the preliminary analysis there was an indication of no existing difference emerging on the measured variables which as a function of gender, the specific vignette or the order which the vignettes were presented. This indicated that there was a collapse or responses across these dimensions mentioned. From the manipulation check cultural similarity as successful. When it came to cognitive perspective measures individuals who were in cultural conditions that are similar showed greater perspective as compared to those in a dissimilar cultural condition. On empathetic concerns individuals in similar culture showed greater empathetic concern than those in culture conditions that are dissimilar.


This study was purposed to examine whether empathetic responses are dependant on the level of their similarity in their cultural perspectives. The hypothesis made was that there would be less emotional and cognitive empathy for people that were experiencing distress from incidences that were reflecting unfamiliar cultural norms. The hypothesis also showed that reduction of empathy on the target person would be mediated through lack of taking the perspective of the observers’ part. The hypothesis were tested in the context of three distinct social domains were target and respondents norms were expected to be different. There was an expression of distress from targets on issues related to the norms on personal versus group recognition and independence among friends.

The results reveal that in the cases, respondents presumed to have cultural norms that are typical in the United States that exhibit less perspective taking when evaluation of distress of targets that respond to different cultural norms. The likelihood of respondents to relate to response from targets and perceive the response was very low. There were lessened feelings of empathy with respect to targets whose behaviors were a reflection of the different culture norms.these findings has an importance on the implication for cross cultural relations.

Shortcomings and criticisms

In the article, the possible shortcoming it’s how an empathic response depends on the cultural perspectives. In the article, we are shown how individuals are experiencing less emotional as well as cognitive empathy in targeting the experiencing in distress stemming from the incident of unfamiliar norms. However the reduction of affective empathy was majorly felt to the targeted people who were then mediated by the lack of perspective hence taking on the part of the observer. This shows how criticism was displayed in the article. For instance, the participants who were undergraduate students from the University in South Carolina were enrolled for introductory psychological course, just to be told that they will do reading only about the experiences of the two individuals along with giving their impressions.


The methodology used in the article has been improved. From the article, it is shown that, the present findings have got a great significant implication for the cross-cultural relations, this shows how the methodology has greatly improved. The societies across the world are also shown on how they have started becoming increasingly diverse in regards to the cultural norms and behaviors.


The analyses of the articles are not clear and none is convincing. For instance, the cultural similarities conditions were expected to bring an impact to the empathic concern because of the difficulty in appreciating divergent cultural perspectives. In Schwartz work, he analyzes that the cross-cultural investigations given in the article is only based on what may determine to set a universal values but there are no further analyses to that. The path analysis also indicated that the reduction in empathic concern was mainly mediated by the lack of perspective takings.

Suggestions about the article

The article should clearly reveal the results in each case to make them more convincing. For instance, the results from the article are presumed to have the typical cultural norms which exhibit a less perspective when it comes to evaluation of the distress of the targets responding to differing the cultural norms. In the article the shortcomings that may lead to conflicts should be at all times be solved just in the case of participants from the University in South Carolina who were undergraduate students where there were only 36 male and 111 females.


Nelson, D.W & Baumgarte, R. (2009). Cross-Cultural Misunderstandings Reduce

Empathic Responding.