Session Summary: Cross-Cultural Life-Style Research

M. Venkatesan, University of Oregon
[ to cite ]:
M. Venkatesan (1978) ,"Session Summary: Cross-Cultural Life-Style Research", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 05, eds. Kent Hunt, Ann Abor, MI : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 704.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 5, 1978      Page 704


M. Venkatesan, University of Oregon

The Session Chairman, W. Fred Van Raaij, Tilburg University, pointed out that "cross-cultural" consumer behavior research is distinguished from "cross-national" research in the literature, but that he preferred the term "cross-cultural research," as the research not only can involve consumer behavior in different cultures but involves comparison of consumer behavior within subcultures. He pointed out that functional equivalence of constructs and instruments has to be established for real cross-cultural comparisons. The chairman pointed out other problems particularly relevant to cross-cultural consumer behavior research, viz., culturally ipsatized measurement problems, problems of operationalizations, "ethnocentrism" and the like.

Johan Arndt, Norwegian School of Business Administration and Economics, focused on the ethnocentric bias manifested by the predominant marketing orientation to the study of cross-cultural consumer behavior because of almost all empirical studies have been conducted by U.S. academician or U.S. trained academicians. He emphasized, however, that properly conducted cross-cultural consumer behavior studies make it possible to validate findings obtained in one culture by replications in other cultures. The most important problem in Arndt's judgment was that of the unit of analysis in cross-cultural consumer behavior studies. While nuclear family may be an important unit of analysis in U.S. and some other cultures, the extended family unit may be the appropriate unit of analysis in many cultures.

Professor Eric Langeard, University of Aix-en-Provence pointed out that fairly similar types of situations can be studied with ease, such as opinion leadership for example, but he cautioned as the determinants of those situations might well vary across cultures even if the phenomenon is found to exist in consumer behavior contexts.

Professor G. van Veldhoven of Tilburg University focused on the problem of cross-cultural life style research. He pointed out that there are "conceptualization problems, and questions regarding "units of measurement." He illustrated such problems from his current study of life styles in Tilburg vs. Luill/Lille.

The discussant, Professor Venkatesan of the University of Oregon summed up the difficulties in conducting cross-cultural research. The main difficulties are: (1) assumptions of means-ends relationships; (2) problems of sample representativeness; (3) problems of validity and reliability of culturally ipsatized measurement, and (4) delineating micro and macro aspects of consumptive behavior. He cautioned against the use of instruments generated in the U.S. for purposes far removed from cross-cultural consumer behavior (e.g., AIDs generated in U.S. consumer studies). He also assailed the tendencies of researchers to "replicate" studies that were conducted in the U.S. without regard to the settings in other cultures, or without changing the instruments or generating new ones to suit the particular needs of these studies. However, he emphasized that cross-cultural consumer behavior studies can be conducted to test whether "procedures" utilized in U.S. consumer behavior studies work in other settings (cultures) and whether similar "manipulation" also work in different cultural settings. He concluded by pointing out that we are many many years away from suggesting possible uses of our findings for pragmatic business interests -- "suffice at the present time that all involvement is indicated by our intellectual curiosity."