Special Session Summary Culture and Consumer Behavior: the Impact of Cultural Orientation on Language, Trust and Self-Expression

Loraine Lau, University of California, Los Angeles
Jennifer Aaker, University of California, Los Angeles
[ to cite ]:
Loraine Lau and Jennifer Aaker (1998) ,"Special Session Summary Culture and Consumer Behavior: the Impact of Cultural Orientation on Language, Trust and Self-Expression", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 12.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Page 12

SPECIAL SESSION SUMMARY

CULTURE AND CONSUMER BEHAVIOR: THE IMPACT OF CULTURAL ORIENTATION ON LANGUAGE, TRUST AND SELF-EXPRESSION

Loraine Lau, University of California, Los Angeles

Jennifer Aaker, University of California, Los Angeles

The objectives of this session were to identify the conditions under which cross cultural differences versus similarities exist in consumer behavior, and to examine why they exist. Each paper draws on one or more distinct disciplines (i.e., linguistics, experimental economics, cultural psychology) and, as a consequence, the approaches vary in focus and contribution to the cultural consumer behavior literature.

First, Tavassoli proposes that differences in language processing systematically affect consumers’ cognitive styles. Specifically, he suggests that English relies to a greater extent on language processes of the left cerebral hemisphere (LH), whereas Chinese relies to a greater extent on language processes of the right cerebral hemisphere (RH). These processing differences are used to explain the results of five studies. These demonstrate a higher degree of encoding of spatial information (a RH process) of Chinese words, compared to a higher degree of encoding of serial information (a LH process) of English words. Such cross-cultural differences are absent with nonverbal stimuli.

Second, Buchan, Johnson and Croson investigate the influence of communication and culture on trust and cooperation among Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, and Americans. They demonstrate that communication significantly influences trust and cooperation. They also demonstrate that the amount of trust and cooperation extended is influenced by a country-specific element of culture and its interaction with group membership. Collectivist and individualist orientations are manifested differently within each of the four countries, resulting in different levels of trust and cooperation across countries.

Finally, Aaker and Schmitt examine the impact of cultural orientation on the self-expressive use of brands. In two experiments conducted in an individualist culture and a collectivist culture, individuals were shown to use brands for self-expressive purposes. However, the nature of self-expression differed significantly: Members of the individualist culture used brands for differentiation, while members of the collectivist culture used brands for assimilation. Further, the research supports the view that members of the collectivist (vs. individualist) culture overestimate the similarity of their own self with referent others. These results shed light on the condition under which consumer behavior differs across the cultures, and examine why it differs.

As the session discussant, Carol Scott provided a synthesis of the three papers as well as a perspective of what areas of cultural psychology merit further examination for consumer researchers. Tavassoli’s wor offers a unique perspective of consumer information processing by suggesting that language is a critical indicator of our cognitive functioning. Buchan, Johnson and Croson’s investigation draws attention to an often overlooked, but nonetheless, universal antecedent to the norm of reciprocity. Finally, the research by Aaker and Schmitt provides important insight as to why behaviors are so often consistent across cultures, despite the distinctions in the repertoire of values, beliefs and attributions between cultures.

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