Special Session Summary Cross-Cultural Differences in Perceptions of Self and Others: the Effect of Cultural Orientation and Shared History on Consumer Responses

Jill Gabrielle Klein, INSEAD
Zeynep Gnrhan, University of Michigan
[ to cite ]:
Jill Gabrielle Klein and Zeynep Gnrhan (1998) ,"Special Session Summary Cross-Cultural Differences in Perceptions of Self and Others: the Effect of Cultural Orientation and Shared History on Consumer Responses", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, eds. Joseph W. Alba & J. Wesley Hutchinson, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 114.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 25, 1998      Page 114



Jill Gabrielle Klein, INSEAD

Zeynep Gnrhan, University of Michigan

The globalization of markets presents considerable challenges and opportunities for domestic and international marketers. The proliferation of cross-border trade by an increasing number of global firms suggests that intense competition will continue to grow in the international arena. As consumer researchers, we have an important role to play in developing an understanding of how cultural differences and values affect consumer responses. Thus, the objective of the session was to further our understanding of cross-cultural differences in consumers’ reactions to products and persuasive appeals.

The first paper, by Nelson and Shavitt, explored differences in values and moral obligations between consumers in horizontally (e.g., Denmark) and vertically (e.g., United States) individualist cultures. Horizontal cultures tend to focus on being autonomous but equal to (or the same as) everyone else, whereas vertical cultures tend to focus on autonomous and unique selves operating in a competitive environment. In an experiment, consumers in both cultures were shown pairs of ads for a lamp that differed in terms of type of appeal (status vs. environmental). While Both Danes and Americans preferred the environmental ad, cultural orientations were correlated with advertising preference only for Danes, for whom universalist values (e.g., protecting the environment and unity with nature) are important. Because the environmental ad was congruent with their values, Danes tended to process the ad more systematically and critically than Americans.

The second paper by Klein and Ettenson explored the construct of animosity, defined as remnants of antipathy related to previous or ongoing military, political, or economic events. The authors tested the animosity model in the People’s Republic of China and in the United States. The model was supported in both countries: animosity toward Japan affected the buying of Japanese products independently of product judgments, and above and beyond the effects of consumer ethnocentrism. Young and old Chinese consumers held equal levels of animosity towards Japan due to World War II. In the United States, however, older consumers held significantly higher levels of animosity due to World War II than did younger consumers. Possible cultural explanations for this difference across countries were discussed.

The last paper by Gnrhan and Maheswaran examined the effect of country-of-origin on product evaluations in two cultures (Japan and United States). Subjects were given attribute information about a mountain bike made either in Japan or in the United States. Japanese subjects evaluated the bike thatoriginated in their country (vs. a bike produced in the United States) more favorably regardless of product superiority. In contrast, American subjects evaluated the product that originated in their country more favorably only when the product was superior to the competition. These findings were explained based on cultural patterns of individualism and collectivism.

In the discussion section of the session John Sherry expressed his belief that cross-cultural research was beginning to obtain the status that it deserves within consumer research. More recent research in the area, including those presented in the session, represented sophisticated approaches to cross-cultural issues. John cautioned that there can be a danger in categorizing a culture as having a particular, homogenous character, because of the high heterogeneity across individuals within a given society. As several of the papers in the session demonstrated, individuals were found to vary in their personal attitudes and orientations within the cultures studied.