Ai@ Versus Athey@ and Aeast@ Versus Awest@: Cross-Cultural Differences in Perceived Impact of Source Expertise

Sukki Yoon, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Patrick T. Vargas, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Sangpil Han, Hanyang University
ABSTRACT - People often think that they are different from others and that Easterners are different from Westerners. Easterners and Westerners may differ in various aspects, but do people exaggerate this difference in their thinking? In this paper, we argue that East-West cultural differences are perceived to be greater than they actually are (Study 1), and these perceived between-nation differences are more influential than actual between-nation differences on the perceived impact of source expertise (Study 2). However, within-nation individual variations in both perceived and actual cultural differences equally influence the perceived impact of source expertise (Study 3).
[ to cite ]:
Sukki Yoon, Patrick T. Vargas, and Sangpil Han (2005) ,"Ai@ Versus Athey@ and Aeast@ Versus Awest@: Cross-Cultural Differences in Perceived Impact of Source Expertise", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 32, eds. Geeta Menon and Akshay R. Rao, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 287-293.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 32, 2005     Pages 287-293


Sukki Yoon, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Patrick T. Vargas, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Sangpil Han, Hanyang University


People often think that they are different from others and that Easterners are different from Westerners. Easterners and Westerners may differ in various aspects, but do people exaggerate this difference in their thinking? In this paper, we argue that East-West cultural differences are perceived to be greater than they actually are (Study 1), and these perceived between-nation differences are more influential than actual between-nation differences on the perceived impact of source expertise (Study 2). However, within-nation individual variations in both perceived and actual cultural differences equally influence the perceived impact of source expertise (Study 3).


People often think that they are different from others and that Easterners are different from Westerners. The latter is noted by a vast body of literature in cross-cultural psychology. For example, in the domain of self-perception, it has been found that Eastern society emphasizes an interdependent perspective of the self while Western society emphasizes an independent perspective of the self (e.g., Triandis 1995). The former view (i.e., self-other discrepancy) has been discussed in many different literatures (e.g., self-serving bias, third-person effect). For example, the third-person effect predicts that individuals perceive the media to wield greater influence on others than themselves (Perloff 1993). Combining these two lines of thought (i.e., self-other difference and East-West difference) leads us to the following question: Easterners and Westerners may differ in various aspects, but do people exaggerate this difference in their thinking? In this paper, we argue that East-West cultural differences are perceived to be greater than they actually are (Study 1). Further, we provide evidence of a cross-cultural third-person effect wherein Korean respondents believe other Koreans (i.e., interdependents) will be more affected by source expertise than themselves; Americans (i.e., independents) do not show the same difference (Study 2). However, a within-nation assessment of individual variation in culture revealed similar effects for first and third person responsesBcollectivists reported greater effects of source expertise than individualists, for both first and third person questions (Study 3).


Dual process models of persuasion such as the ELM (Petty and Cacioppo 1979) and HSM (Chaiken 1980) suggest that there are two modes of information processing by which persuasion may occur. Central route (systematic) processing is effortful information processing in which individuals scrutinize and elaborate on issue-relevant information, whereas peripheral route (heuristic) processing is low-effort, and persuasion occurs via a reliance on peripheral cues such as source attractiveness and the number of arguments presented in a persuasive communication. When motivation and ability are high, central route processing is more likely; when motivation or ability is low, peripheral route processing is more likely. Source expertise is a type of heuristic cue that is often used when an individual is not willing or able to process the ad message carefully. Accordingly, an expert endorser exerts a greater impact on persuasion under the peripheral processing mode than the central processing mode (Petty, Cacioppo, and Goldman 1981).


The third-person effect refers to individuals’ tendency to perceive a persuasive media message to have a greater effect on others than on themselves (e.g., Davison 1996). Numerous studies have yielded robust empirical findings on the third-person effect, but researchers do not agree on how and why consumers perceive themselves as less resistant to advertising messages. Although a variety of psychological theories have been adopted to explain the third-person effect, the two most popular theories are attribution theory and biased optimism (Paul, Salwen, and Dupagne 2000). According to attribution theory, a person may think he or she understands the underlying persuasive aspects of the message, whereas others’ dispositional flaws such as lack of intelligence make them incapable of perceiving message persuasiveness. As Gunther (1991) pointed out, the third-person effect and attribution theory alike assume that observers see others as less responsive to the situation. Applying this to the context of advertising, the persuasive nature of advertising is a situational factor that must be taken into account when one evaluates an advertising message, but he or she may think that others are less capable of seeing through this persuasive nature of the ad. On the other hand, biased optimism (e.g., Gunther 1995) also provides a theoretical framework for the self-other difference: Individuals may judge themselves less likely than others to experience negative consequences. People may reinforce their self-esteem by estimating themselves to be smart enough to disbelieve advertising messages, whereas others believe the messages. Although these two explanations are quite similar, a distinction should be made because the focus of attribution theory is on cognitive aspects of information processing, whereas the biased optimism places more emphasis on affective factors. That others are thought to be more vulnerable to ad messages is generally true since the persuasive nature of most advertising messages is usually viewed as negative intent (e.g., leading a consumer to buy more products), but when advertising messages clearly advocate beneficial outcomes (e.g., anti-drug ads), individuals may view others as less susceptible to the ads (i.e., first-person effect). Along these lines, Neuwirth, Frederick, and Mayo (2002) argued that people tend to view others as not processing advertising as thoroughly as they do. That is, others are perceived to rely more on heuristic cues when processing an ad message. According to the explanations offered by attribution theory and biased optimism, it seems that others are perceived to be less able and/or less motivated to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information for accurate evaluation of the advertising message.


The individualism-collectivism distinction has generated a great deal of research over the decades. Hofstede (1980) found that most European and North American countries emerged as high in individualism, whereas most Latin American and Asian countries emerged as low in individualism. Accordingly, most cross-cultural studies have been carried out by contrasting European American and East Asian cultures (e.g. Kitayama, Markus, Matsumoto, and Norasakkunkit 1997). In a recent meta-analysis, Oyserman, Coon, and Kemmelmeier (2002) reviewed over eighty studies and concluded that Americans differ in individualism and collectivism from other countries, and that individualism and collectivism influence basic psychological processes such as self concept, well-being, and attribution style. Also, a variety of measurement scales that directly and indirectly assess the construct of individualism/collectivism have been developed (e.g. Triandis, Bontempo, Villareal, Asai, and Lucca 1988).

Although controversy remains over whether the two dimensions of culture (i.e., individualism and collectivism) are independent constructs or a single construct conceptualizing individualism as the opposite of collectivism, researchers have often, but not always, agreed to the latter since in most situations the construct of individualism and collectivism is believed to reflect contrasting worldviews. Consistent with this view, it has been assumed that individualism and collectivism form a single continuum, with low individualism isomorphic with high collectivism (e.g., Hofstede 1980). This bipolar single dimension approach has received a great deal of attention from researchers studying psychological implications of individualism and collectivism (see Oyserman et al. 2002). In the studies presented in this paper, we follow this conventional assumption of unidimensionality of the construct.

The focus of the majority of past studies has been on cultural values at the aggregate level (e.g., nations), emphasizing differences between cultural units (Oyserman et al. 2002). However, it is important to note that development of measures for individualism and collectivism is based on a model of individual differences assessment. It is presmed that there is variation among individuals’ tendency toward different cultural orientations. Thus, even within the same national boundary, some people may behave in a more collectivistic way while others behave in a more individualistic way. To illustrate, a cultural difference between an individualistic nation and a collectivistic nation simply refers to a mean difference between two nations in the cultural scores measured with a given cultural measurement scale. It is not that collectivists do not exist in an individualistic nation, nor that individualists do not exist in a collectivistic nation, but both types of cultures exist, normally distributed, in each nation to a different extent. A national difference between two populations (i.e., mean difference) and within-nation variation reflecting cultural differences among individuals within each nation is shown in Figure 1.


It may be a universal phenomenon that a highly expert source is more effective than a low-expert source, but previous research suggests that collectivistic cultures seem to put more emphasis on source expertise than individualistic cultures do (Pornpitakpan & Francis, 2001). In a similar vein, Aaker and Maheswaran (1997) view consensus cues (i.e., the opinions of others) as highly diagnostic in collectivist cultures, but relatively low in individualist cultures. This line of research implies that source expertise should play a more important role among collectivists than individualists in processing persuasive arguments. However, since source expertise is a type of heuristic cue, this cross-culturally differential effect of source expertise should be present particularly when an individual is under the heuristic mode of processing, but should be minimized under the systematic processing mode.


Previous research in stereotyping suggests that characteristics of the group tend to be over-generalized to apply to each member of the group, and they are also taken to have some exaggerated negative or positive value (Scollon & Scollon, 2001). Thus, it is likely that a person views others within the same culture as more conforming to their cultural norms. In Study 1, it is hypothesized that East-West cultural differences are perceived to be greater than they actually are. That is, cross-cultural differences are expected to be greater in third-person perception than in first-person perception (Figure 2).

H1: East-West cross-cultural differences will be greater in third-person perception than in first-person perception.


290 American and 243 Korean undergraduate students were recruited from a large university in the midwestern United States and two large universities in Seoul, Korea, respectively. Participants completed Triandis’ INDCOL scale (Triandis et al. 1988), in which the questions are phrased from two different points of view: first-person versus third-person perspectives (e.g., "How much do you/other Americans/Koreans agree with the following sentence?"). The scale consists of three sub-dimensions: self-reliance with competition (12 items), concern for the in-group (10 items), and distance from the in-group (7 items). The English version of the 9-item INDICOL scale questionnaire was translated into Korean by a bilingual translator, back-translated into English by another bilingual translator, and adjusted by another bilingual translator.

The reliability indices ranged from .60 to .83. Alpha values for both samples are given in Table 1. The study employed a 2 x 2 mixed design, with nations (Koreans, Americans) serving as a between-subjects factor and point of view (1st, 3rd) as a within-subjects factor. The order of the 1st and 3rd point of view was counterbalanced to help control for order effects.


All the items on the INDCOL scale were averaged for the 1st-and 3rd-person dependent measures and subjected to a 2 x 2 (between: Koreans/Americans; within: 1st/3rd person point of view) mixed ANOVA that confirmed the hypotheses (Figure 3). There was a significant interaction effect between nation and 1st/3rd person perception (F(1, 530)=34.18, p<.01). The difference between the two national groups emerged only in third-person perception, (MKor=4.55, MUS=4.95; F(1, 530)=43.02, p<.01); there was no effect for the first-person perception, (MKor=4.29, MUS=4.24; F(1, 530)=.61, p=.44). This suggests that Koreans and Americans differ along the individualism-collectivism cultural dimension more in their perception than in their actual status.










In Study 2, we examined cross-cultural differences in the metaperception of source expertise (i.e., the perception of how they and others perceive source expertise in ads). We argued earlier that 1) source expertise is a heuristic cue that is more diagnostic in collectivistic cultures than in individualistic cultures, 2) source expertise becomes more influential under the heuristic processing mode, 3) others are perceived to process advertising messages more heuristically but less accurately, and 4) perceived East-West cultural differences are greater than actual differences (Study 1). These four points jointly lead to the following hypothesis: When people are asked to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising that is aimed at the general public (who are thought to rely more on heuristic cues), people in collectivistic cultures, compared to those in individualistic cultures, will believe that source expertise will greatly influence the degree of persuasion. However, when the advertising is directed at them (individuals who seem to believe that they use more issue-relevant information), this perceived cross-cultural difference should be reduced, if not eliminated altogether.

H2: An interaction between national cultures and source expertise (i.e., the extent to which Koreans compared to Americans view non-expert sources as less persuasive than expert sources) will emerge only in perceived ad effectiveness, but not in actual behavioral intention.

In the context of advertising effects, perceived ad effectiveness and behavioral intention in Study 2 are conceptually parallel to first- and third-person perception in Study 1, respectively.


177 American and 187 Korean undergraduates were randomly assigned to read a copy contest scenario in which they viewed a series of mock advertisements featuring either expert or non-expert spokespersons. In the scenario, subjects were first led to believe that a dairy farmers’ Organization was planning to launch a new national advertising campaign (i.e., a 'Why milk?’ campaign) for low fat milk, and the organization invited either health experts or consumers (i.e., non-experts) to join in a copy contest for the best advertising copy. Next, subjects viewed a set of five contest entries, each of which was a statement ostensibly endorsed by either experts (e.g., doctors) or consumers (e.g., sales clerks), while the remaining elements of the ad were held constant. After reading the contest entries, subjects were instructed to fill out a questionnaire in their own language, which was translated and back-translated as in Study 1. The questionnaire instructed subjects 1) to evaluate the general efficacy and persuasiveness of the ad (i.e., perceived ad effect), and 2) to provide their own behavioral and purchasing intentions to drink low fat milk (i.e., actual ad effect). Finally, they completed the manipulation check questions for source expertise.

Measures and Design

Expertise manipulation was assessed by averaging responses to a set of five seven-point scales (knowledgeable/not knowledgeable, competent/not competent, expert/not expert, experienced/not experienced, and qualified/not qualified) used previously (Ohanian 1990). The scale was reliable (alpha=.85).



Perceived ad effect was measured with the two items (i.e., "How persuasive/effective are these ads?"), and behavioral intention was measured with the two items (i.e., "How interested would you be in drinking low fat milk?"; "How likely would you be to buy it?"). Again, it is important to note that the former set of dependent measures is conceptually parallel to the first-person perception in Study 1, while the latter is parallel to the third-person perception. Seven-point were scales were used for all the items, and Pearson correlations for perceived ad effect and behavioral intentions were .78 and .82, respectively. The study used a 2 x 2 x 2 (Koreans/Americans; expert source/non-expert source; perceived ad effect/behavioral intention) mixed design. The first two factors were between-subjects factors, and the last factor was within-subjects.


Expertise manipulation was successful for both samples, with subjects in the expert condition reporting higher scores than those in the non-expert condition, (Mexp=5.64, Mnon=4.20; t(165)=9.39, p<.001 for Americans, Mexp=5.02, Mnon=3.95; t(175)=8.14, p<.001 for Koreans).

A 2 x 2 x 2 mixed ANOVA revealed a significant Nation x Expertise x Ad Effect three-way interaction, (F(1, 360)=4.17, p<.05). Two separate two-way (Nation x Expertise) ANOVAs on perceived ad effect and behavioral intentions were conducted to examine cross-cultural differences in viewing source expertise. A marginally significant interaction, (F(1, 361)=2.831, p<.10), emerged for perceived ad effectiveness, but not for behavioral intention (Figure 4). Koreans believed that source expertise would have a greater effect on other Koreans than on themselves; no such interaction emerged among American respondents. This suggests that the cross-cultural difference in the differential persuasive effects of expert and non-expert sources tends to be more pronounced when participants evaluate the general advertising effect than when they report their own behavioral intentions.


It was argued earlier that both individualists and collectivists exist in each nation. Then regardless of national culture, individual cultural differences should be reflected in both perceived ad effect and behaviorl intentions. In Study 3, we looked at individuals within the U.S.

H3: An interaction between within-nation cultural variations among individuals and source expertise (i.e., the extent to which collectivists, compared to individualists, view expert sources as more effective than non-expert sources) will emerge both in perceived ad effectiveness and in actual behavioral intentions.


Study 3 was a conceptual replication of Study 2, except that the dichotomous national culture variable in Study 1 was replaced with a continuous individual culture variable that was measured. 89 Caucasian American participants viewed the expert and non-expert ads that were used in Study 2, completed the dependent measures that were used in Study 2, and completed the INDCOL scale that was used in Study 1.


Expertise manipulation was successful, (Mexp=5.78, Mnon=4.14 ;t(87)=7.56, p<.001), and the INDCOL measure was reliable (alpha=.73). Regression analyses revealed that interactions between expertise and individual culture were significant for both variables (b=-1.46, p<.05 for behavioral intention; b=-1.44, p<.05 for perceived ad effect), suggesting that source expertise influences collectivists more than individualists, regardless of whether the perceived ad effect or behavioral intention was measured (Figure 5). That is, collectivistic participants rated expert-endorsed-ads as more effective than non-expert-endorsed-ads, both 1) when they were asked to evaluate the effectiveness of the ad and 2) when they were asked to report their own behavioral intentions. Collectivists seemed to believe that both they and other Americans were more susceptible to an ad message when it was endorsed by an expert than by a non-expert.




The findings of Study 1 indicate that East-West cultural differences are more perceived than actual. Study 2 further revealed that this type of perceived-actual discrepancy can influence a consumer’s interpretation of the differential impact of expert-endorsed advertising. Only when the advertising effect was evaluated in a third person format rather than in a first person format, did cross-cultural differences in expert versus non-expert ad effects emerge. Although perceived cross-cultural differences in perception of source expertise are greater than actual cross-cultural differences, Study 3 shows that when we examine individuals within a nationBthe U.S.Bindividual cultural differences in fact exist, causing differential construal of expert versus non-expert endorsers in the ad.

Cultural differences exist among individuals and perhaps among nations. Yet oftentimes the latter seems overly perceived because of a self-other discrepancy. It is a common practice for an international advertiser to ask consumers directly, relying on self-report measures, to assess advertising effectiveness, and to execute the campaign that employs culturally different appeals (e.g., individualistic appeal for the U.S. market, collectivistic appeal for the Korean market). However, one should proceed with caution when interpreting such data because the perceived self-other difference may distort the degree of perceived cross-cultural differences.


Aaker, Jennifer. L. and Durairaj Maheswaran (1997), "The Effect of Cultural Orientation on Persuasion," Journal of Consumer Research, 24 (December), 315-28.

Chaiken, Shelly (1980), "Heuristic versus Systematic Information Processing and the Use of Source versus Attribute Cues in Persuasion," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 39 (November), 752-66.

Davison, Phillips W. (1996), "Third-Person Effect Revisited," International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 8 (Summer), 113-119.

Gunther, Albert (1991), "What We Think or Other Think: Cause and Consequence in the Third-Person Effect," Communication Research, 18 (3), 355-372.

Gunther, Albert (1995), "Overrating the X-Rating: The Third-Person Perception and Support for Censorship of Pornography," Journal of Communication, 4 (1), 27-38.

Hofstede, Geert (1980), Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Kitayama, Shinobu, Hazel R. Markus, Hisaya Matsumoto, and Vinai Norasakkunkit (1997), "Individual and Collective Process in the Construction of the Self: Self-Enhancement in the United States and Self-Criticism in Japan," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72 (June), 1245-67.

Neuwirth, Kurt, Edward Frederick, and Charles Mayo (2002), "Person-Effects and Heuristic-Systematic Processing," Communication Research, 29 (June), 320-59.

Oyserman, Daphna., Heather M. Coon, and Markus Kemmelmeier (2002), "Rethinking Individualism and Collectivism: Evaluation of Theoretical Assumptions and Meta-Analyses," Psychological Bulletin, 128 (January), 3-72.

Paul, Bryant, Michael B. Salwen, and Michel Dupagne (2000), "The Third-Person Effect: A Meta-Analysis of the Perceptual Hypothesis," Mass Communication and Society, 3 (1), 57-85.

Perloff, Richard M. (1993), "Third-Person Effect Research, 1983-1992: A Review and Synthesis," International Journal of Public Opinion Research, 5 (2), 167-84.

Petty, Richard E. and John T. Cacioppo (1979), "Issue Involvement Can Increase or Decrease Persuasion by Enhancing Message-Relevant Cognitive Responses," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37 (September), 1915-26.

Petty, Richard E., John T. Cacioppo, and Rachel Goldman (1981), "Personal Involvement As a Determinant of Argument-Based Persuasion," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 41 (November), 847-855.

Pornpitakpan, Chanthika, and June N. P. Francis (2001), "The Effect of Cultural Differences, Source Expertise, and Argument Strength on Persuasion: An Experiment with Canadians and Thais," Journal of International Consumer Marketing, 13 (1), 77-101.

Scollon, Ronald and Suzanne W. Scollon (2001), Intercultural Communication: A Discourse Approach, Oxford, U.K.: Blackwell.

Triandis, Harry C. (1995), Individualism and Collectivism, Boulder, Colorado: Westview.

Triandis, Harry C., Robert Bontempo, Marcelo J. Villareal, Masaaki Asai, and Nydia Lucca (1988), "Individualism and Collectivism: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Self-Ingroup Relationships," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54 (February), 323-38.