Dimensionality of the Cosmopolitanism Construct: Cross-Method Validation of the Emic and Etic Interpretations

ABSTRACT - This paper purports to investigate the culture-specific dimensions of the cosmopolitanism construct through a cross-cultural approach which draws on the interview samples of American and Korean consumers. Using a series of qualitative methods designed to enhance the convergent research validity, this study investigates whether the distinctly divergent cultural value orientations inherent in two countries have any effect on the conceptualization of the cosmopolitanism construct in terms of its underlying dimensions. The dimensionality is approached by assessing two attributes comprising the conceptual mapping: the ideation (ideological perspective) and specification (concrete expression). For this objective, content analytical techniques such as exemplars, free listing and pile sort methods are used to provide culture-specific emic interpretations. American and Korean respondents, coming from two vastly different national cultures found to conceptualize about cosmopolitanism differently. In order to provide etic interpretations as part of the cross-method validation, this study utilized the data from the Cosmopolitanism Scale which was previously validated to capture the essence of the cosmopolitanism.


Sung-Joon Yoon (1998) ,"Dimensionality of the Cosmopolitanism Construct: Cross-Method Validation of the Emic and Etic Interpretations", in AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, eds. Kineta Hung and Kent B. Monroe, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 81-88.

Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3, 1998      Pages 81-88


Sung-Joon Yoon, Kyonggi University, Korea


This paper purports to investigate the culture-specific dimensions of the cosmopolitanism construct through a cross-cultural approach which draws on the interview samples of American and Korean consumers. Using a series of qualitative methods designed to enhance the convergent research validity, this study investigates whether the distinctly divergent cultural value orientations inherent in two countries have any effect on the conceptualization of the cosmopolitanism construct in terms of its underlying dimensions. The dimensionality is approached by assessing two attributes comprising the conceptual mapping: the ideation (ideological perspective) and specification (concrete expression). For this objective, content analytical techniques such as exemplars, free listing and pile sort methods are used to provide culture-specific emic interpretations. American and Korean respondents, coming from two vastly different national cultures found to conceptualize about cosmopolitanism differently. In order to provide etic interpretations as part of the cross-method validation, this study utilized the data from the Cosmopolitanism Scale which was previously validated to capture the essence of the cosmopolitanism.

Many authors contributed to our understanding of globalization as a social and cultural phenomenon (Robertson 1992; Featherstone 1990). Harris and Baba (1996) introduced three major themes of ideational globalization: consumerism, globalizd tastes in art and entertainment, and world community. With increasing intensity, we see great cosmopolitan capitals of the world (from Shanghai to Bombay, to London, to Mexico City to Tokyo to New York) act as a Mecca where consumers share similar tastes and preferences in many different consumer products.

Such a vivid representation of the global values strongly suggests that to the extent that the world’s societies become more homogeneous through globalization, people become more appreciative of the cosmopolitan values of looking beyond their immediate national, ethnic, racial boundaries. It is also reasonable to suggest that cosmopolitan values or beliefs would flourish within the global environment where economic and political integration is encouraged. Multinational companies and world government agencies with broad-based perspectives and orientations are some examples which act as the agents of a cosmopolitan value system.

Despite the growing importance, the exact effects of globalization on cosmopolitanism or some other cultural value system have not been rigorously tested in the literature. There are only a few studies which have examined the relationship between cosmopolitanism and the tendency for people to innovate in the global diffusion of consumer products (Gatignon, Eliashberg, and Robertson 1989; Helsen, Jeddi, and Desarbo 1993). Furthermore, issues concerning the relationship between globalization and the cultural dimensions of cosmopolitanism have seldom been addressed (Hannerz 1990).

Purpose of the Study

The main purpose of this study is to investigate the cosmopolitanism concept through a cross-cultural approach which draws on Korean and American consumers. First, to compare the native perspective (emic perspective) of the cosmopolitanism domain originating from the two countries sharing vastly different cultural heritage, qualitative research methods based on the interviews of Americans and Koreans are conducted. Second, the study seeks to determine the dimensionality of cosmopolitanism across cultures to find the differences in the way the respondents conceptualize about the construct. Especially important is the issue of dimensionality whether cosmopolitanism is uni-dimensional or multi-dimensional.

This study employs several qualitative techniques to identify and provide some emic interpretations of the cosmopolitan value construct. This interpretation is then compared with etic interpretations drawing on the survey data which is relatively free of methodological bias (e.g., interviewer bias, social desirability bias). This kind of cross-method check employing both qualitative and quantitative methods is expected to enhance the convergent validity of the results.


Cosmopolitan Dimensionality

Cosmopolitanism has been quite extensively used as a variable in the study of organizational context. The major difference between diffusion theory and organizational theory is that the former mainly focuses on information exposure while the latter looks at variables such as personal identification and commitment as well as social structure and work processes. For instance, Gouldner (1957) characterized the cosmopolitan as being low on loyalty to the employing organization, high on commitment to specialized role skills, and likely to use an outer reference group orientation. He characterized the parochial as being high on loyalty to the employing organization, low on commitment to the specialized role skills, and likely to use an inner reference group orientation.

Gimes and Berger (1970) have summarized a stream of research on cosmopolitanism (see Table 1). One of the most remarkable revelations of many cosmopolitan studies is that people can be high on both organization and professional orientation. As shown in Table 1, Kornhauser (1962), Blau and Scott (1962) and Filey and House (1969) demonstrated the identity of such people scoring high on both cosmopolitan and parochial traits. This finding sheds a light on the hybridity of the cosmopolitanism construct.

As seen above, previous studies on cosmopolitanism in organizational settings examined the issue largely in terms of organizational versus professional orientations within a single domestic context (Gouldner 1957; Kornhauser 1962; Blau and Scott 1962; Filey and House 1969). Although these studies on cosmopolitanism in organizational settings provide useful managerial implications, it is necessary for researchers to engage in cross-cultural research that is consumer oriented. Cannon and Yaprak (1993) addressed this need by developing a framework for classifying marketing situations according to the degree to which consumers are cosmopolitan in their orientation, and whether the product being marketed is purchased for functional or symbolic reasons. Yoon, Cannon, and Yaprak (1996) advanced the study of cosmopolitanism concept by validating a new scale based on multinational consumer segments. Such a research direction provides valuable insights about the cross-cultural comparisons of the dimensions involved in the cosmopolitanism concept.



Existing Scales of Cosmopolitan-Like Constructs

There are some other previous studies which mainly focused on developing scales to capture the dimensions of the construct similar to cosmopolitanism (see Table 2 ). However, those scales came largely from the nationalistic or ethnocentric viewpoints mostly using the U.S. as a primary frame of reference and placing an emphasis on political and economic domains rather than on the cultural values held by the respondents.

The Cosmopolitanism Scale

The Cosmopolitanism Scale (hereinafter referred to as "Scale") was constructed to reflect the most prominent concepts reported in the cosmopolitanism literature. Those concepts are communication behavior and diffusion of innovations, organizational orientation (organizational vs. professional), one’s orientation toward social systems (within or beyond the immediate one), and cultural open-mindedness. The Scale was designed to find out about the dimensionality (uni-dimensional or multi-dimensional) by means of conducting factor analysis on the Scale. Also, since the Scale contains question items asking both cosmopolitan and parochial values of the respondents, this mixed structure of the Scale is deemed instrumental to understanding the dimensionality of the cosmopolitan construct. The validity (internal and external) and reliability of this Scale was tested cross-culturally in previous studies as generally valid and reliable (coefficient alpha of 0.63) drawing on countries such as Turkey, Ukraine, Korea and America (Yoon, Cannon & Yaprak 1996)


A value system is "an ideal, a paradigm setting forth a desired and esteemed possible social reality" (Gabriel 1974: p.149). As a value system which concerns individuals’ interaction with others beyond their immediate social systems, cosmopolitanism may be better understood when we have some knowledge of the historical, social, and cultural backgrounds of a society. Therefore, an attempt is made to survey some of the specific cultural elements of American and Korean cultres with the aim of identifying some differences across cultures.

Contrasting Cultures

The distinct cultural and historical backgrounds, as well as the economic and political implications inherent in each of the two countries, provide a good foundation upon which to build the basis of a cross-cultural comparison of cosmopolitanism.

1) Individualism vs. Collectivism

Korean culture, with its high emphasis on group orientation and hierarchical mentality, stands in sharp contrast to American culture with its emphasis on individualism and egalitarianism. Hofstede’s (1980a) study of cultural dimension of individualism, which compared work-related values among employees of a multi-national company across fifty-three countries, found Korea and the U.S. located along opposite poles of the individualism scale. Hofstede (1980) contended that Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans, all of whom share a Confucian cultural background show strong collectivist tendencies in their cultural orientation.

Collectivist societies are characterized by strong community orientations based on family or kin-related homogeneity, as demonstrated in traditionally-agricultural societies. Compared to individually-oriented societies, the collectivist societies may be less adaptive to new innovations because of their highly parochial orientation. As a traditionally agricultural society, Korea may be considered relatively more collectivist than the U.S.

2) Cooperation vs. Competition

Hofstede asserted that in collectivist societies, cooperation is high, competition is low, and status and position are both ascribed and stable. In contrast, in individualist cultures, competition is high, individualism is valued, and status and position are earned and changeable. In this vein, Koreans would value the virtue of group-based cooperation while Americans favor the conception of individually-based competition.



3) High/Low Context Culture

Hall (1976) made a distinction between high and low context cultures. Context, according to Hall (1976), is the information that surrounds an event and is extricably bound up with the meaning of that event. In high context cultures, such as Japan and Korea, context is at least as important as what is actually said; the speaker and the listener rely on a common understanding of the context. In low context cultures such as the U.S., however, most of the information is exactly contained in the words. It is presumable that in collectivist societies where people depend more on locally-defined networks of communication than in individualistic societie, a tendency would exist to make the society generally inclined to possess characteristics of high context culture.

Research Hypotheses

As discussed earlier about cultural values, the U.S. and Korea represent contrasting examples along a number of cultural characteristics. We anticipate that Koreans, who have been long exposed to the Confucian culture of self-abnegation, kinship-oriented familism, and obedience to national authorities, will conceptualize the cosmopolitan construct quite differently from their American counterparts who are associated with a more individualistic culture. Specifically, we hypothesize about the different structural dimensions of the conceptualization regarding the emic interpretations. The free listing and pile sort methods allow for this kind of interpretation. Using survey data, we predict that the factor patterns will show different structural dimensions to provide meaningful culture-specific etic interpretations.

H1:  The emic interpretation of the American and Korean respondents will reveal culture-specific differences in terms of Cosmopolitan dimensionality.

H2:  The etic interpretation of the American and Korean respondents will reveal culture-specific differences in terms of Cosmopolitan dimensionality.


Interview/Survey Sample

The interview sample was drawn from metropolitan cities in the U.S. (Detroit) and Korea (Seoul). The U.S. sample was comprised of 30 graduate students currently enrolled in a metropolitan university. The final interviewees were 14 male and 16 female graduate students. The age distribution ranged from 23 to 46. The Korean sample was composed of 40 graduate students currently enrolled in a metropolitan university in Seoul. The respondents’ ages ranged from 24 to 31. There were 20 males and 20 females.

The survey sample was drawn from two metropolitan cities each in the U.S. and Korea. The sample represents broad adult consumer groups. Considering the geographic influences on the formation of the cosmopolitan tendencies, the sampling design adopted stratified sampling by dividing the country samples into two groups, one from the metropolitan city and the other from the non-metropolitan city. American sample was composed of 139 respondents (74 metropolitan and 65 non-metropolitan) and Korean sample was composed of 195 respondents (105 metropolitan and 90 non-metropolitan).

Qualitative Methods

1) Free List

The free list method is recommended as the most useful technique for isolating and defining a domain. This method ensures that the researcher is dealing with culturally relevant items and is able to delineate the semantic boundaries of the domain. It is assumed that all respondents in the U.S. and Korea have the domains of cosmopolitan and parochial and that those domainsare equivalent cross-culturally. In other words, respondents across two countries were assumed to possess the cognitive capacity to internalize those domains. The extent of cross-cultural equivalence in semantics was determined by the back-translation technique.

2) Exemplar

The respondents were asked to evoke the names of a person, occupation or a group of people whom they most closely associate with the cosmopolitans or parochial. It was expected that the exemplar method will reveal a cognitive thought process which will then manifest the representative type of cosmopolitan or parochial. This information could be incorporated into the culture-specific interpretation of the cosmopolitan conceptualization.

3) Pile Sort

Pile sort is a qualitative method which is used primarily to discover the domains of a construct. This method is equivalent to the factor analysis in the sense that a grouping of the responses is performed to ascertain the dimensionality of semantic constructs implicit in cosmopolitanism.

The traits for cosmopolitans and parochials obtained by free list method were analyzed by the pile sorting method. First, the listed traits were tabulated by frequency and then converted into a pile of cards containing the words or phrases. Next, the same respondents (both Americans and Koreans) who completed the free listing procedure were asked to sort the cards into piles with items in one pile more similar to each other than items in other piles. The respondents were given instructions to group them according to their similarity, with no reference made to the specific criteria for grouping them.


Culture-Specific Cosmopolitan Dimensionality

1) Exemplars Result

For both "cosmopolitans" and "parochials," Korean respondents predominantly chose politicians as exemplars. Koreans picked six politicians for "cosmopolitan" and eleven politicians for "parochial." Among the cosmopolitan exemplars were four heads of state: Bill Clinton, Gorvachev, Ghandi, and Kim Young-Sam (Korean president). Of particular interest is the fact that Koreans predominantly (11 out of 18) associated cosmopolitans as non-Korean nationalities while all Americans but one (10 out of 11) elicited American nationalities. Thus, this finding illustrates that Korean associated the termas primarily a western construct.

Based on the frequency analysis of exemplars’ reason statements, Koreans conceived of cosmopolitans as those who are open-minded, travel a lot, think positively, have language abilities and advocate "oneness of the world." This characterization of "cosmopolitan" shows that Koreans generally emphasized a collectivist ideological aspect of the cosmopolitanism construct.

On the other hand, American respondents elicited as cosmopolitan exemplars those who are mostly involved in the art profession such as musicians, dancers, and novelists, Hollywood types and Jackie Onassis. This is somewhat consistent with the findings from the organizational cosmopolitanism orientation (see Table 1) in that people who have professional skills and qualifications tend to have cosmopolitan value orientation.

According to the analysis of reason statements from the exemplar approach, cosmopolitans were characterized by Americans as those who are exposed to other cultures and who travel a lot and possess worldly, trendy tastes as well as wealthy lifestyles. This finding implies that American respondents seemed to stress personal, outward-looking attributes representative of the individualistic characteristics. Thus, the differences in the exemplar conceptualization between the two groups as found above affirm the hypothesis (H1) that there are culture-specific differences in the emic interpretations of the cosmopolitan dimensionality.

2) Pile Sort Result

Table 3 shows the categorization of piles sorted based on the frequencies.

The pile sort yielded an interesting result in that American respondents affirmed some of the findings and interpretations addressed earlier. Piles such as "contemporary," "personality," "high socioeconomic status," and "action-oriented" represented some of the highly visible socioeconomic dimensions which were not highlighted by Koreans.

Overall, the emerging pattern revealed in the pile sorting provides some fertile ground for supporting hypothesis (H1) which predicted differences in culture-specific emic interpretations of the cosmopolitan dimensionality between Americans and Koreans.

3) Factor Structure

We used two criteria to determine the factor structureC1) an eigenvalue greater than 1 and 2) plot test of eigenvalues. The promax rotation method was adopted for the factor loading readjustment. Table 4 shows the factor structure for both country samples.

As shown above, factor analysis on the American respondents’ data yielded three-factor structure with factor 1 and 2 being mostly composed of the cosmopolitan items and factor 3 being all parochial items.

One interesting revelation about this pattern is that Factor 1 items include some value orientations that are indicative of the individualisic tendency as shown in items #5,6&7. Items #1,2,&3 are representative of the cosmopolitan desire to try different things in lifestyle, which requires individualistic initiatives. Overall, the factor 1 is very much individualistic in its general characterization. Factor 2 is generally indicative of the people’s desire to seek diversity in decision related information sources.

A look at the Korean respondents’ factor structure indicates that factor 1 items are generally indicative of respondents’ interest in the issues surrounding themselves. They seem to take the "global village" orientation to hold diverse views of world affairs. It seems that Koreans identify cosmopolitanism as a more or less global issue which is not so much constrained by the geographic boundaries.

The findings from the factor analyses suggest that Americans and Koreans share somewhat divergent views on the cosmopolitan ideology. The important revelation derivable from this finding is that the cosmopolitan construct is not an uni-dimensional construct and that there are some culture-specific differences in terms of the emphasis put on the dimensional component of the construct. This finding supports the hypothesis (H2).


This study investigated the cosmopolitanism construct through a cross-cultural approach. The literature review shows the lack of studies which investigate the cosmopolitan construct as a value system, linking consumers’ global viewpoints to various social, demographic, and cultural variables. As summarized in Table 7, the use of qualitative methods was particularly useful in identifying the culture-specific patterns which emerged across two nations. Most noteworthy is the fact that the findings from the emic and etic methods were quite supportive of each other, a revelation which gives credence to the convergent methodological validity.



Cosmopolitan Ideation and Specification

This study found that culture had a specific effect on the way people conceptualized cosmopolitans. It was found that Koreans and Americans revealed culture-specific ideation which was expressively invoked in conceptualizing the cosmopolitanism domain. As shown from the free list, Koreans generally specified some traits indicative of a collectivist and hierarchical ideology while Americans evoked an "elite" ideology which was expressed in materialistic, outward looking terms which are typical individualistic traits.

The above findings strongly suggest the effects of cultural influence and call for cultural interpretation. Korea has long been (and still is) a Confucian country whereas America was founded upon an ideal of individualism. Elicitation of presidents and high ranking politicians as cosmopolitan exemplars by Koreans illuminates the hierarchical orientation of Confucian ideology. The relative emphasis on the professions and skills that appeal to the mass public as true cosmopolitan elements reveals individualism-oriented American values. This cultural finding for Americans coincides with previous literature which reported cosmopolitans as high on professional orientation and commitment (Gouldner 1957; Grimes and Berger 1970; Kornhauser 1962). Figure 1 summarily contrasts the hierarchical value orientations that may be responsible for the differences in the culture-specific conceptualization of the cosmopolitan construct

This study has revealed some important findings which tell us how people conceptualize the cosmopolitan construct cross-culturally. Such findings may help us redirect our previous approaches to understanding cosmopolitanism and its underlying premises.

The cosmopolitan paradigm bears strong importance as a method with which to approach cross-national segmentatin as used by many international marketers. International marketers should recognize the growing importance of understanding the cultural, social, and behavioral characteristics of the national markets with special attention to the local consumers’ value orientations. Supported by such knowledge, international marketers can make a strategic decision as to the types of market segmentation strategies which maximally satisfy their target markets’ needs.

This study investigated the cross-cultural differences in the conceptualization of the cosmopolitan dimensions held by American and Korean consumers. The kind of qualitative method used in this study may shed some light on the importance of understanding diverse historical, political, socio-cultural implications involved in international consumer marketing. As the world around us are increasingly globalized, marketers should not only be aware of what global consumers need but understand why they behave the way they do. The keen attention should be paid to capitalize on this knowledge for the purpose of effective delivery of the need satisfaction. To this end, a culture-specific approach to cross-national marketing strategy is essential because such a knowledge doesn’t come from the fancy econometric model or sophisticated market research tools, but can only be obtained when they understand the correct value orientation of the consumers.









This study has attempted to investigate the cosmopolitan dimensionality through both qualitative and quantitative methods. But the future study should embark on verifying the relationship between the cosmopolitan/parochial value orientation and the extent to which such an orientation manifests itself in the consumption behavior. The literature is still shallow in this particular issue, and we need to know more about the substantive issues raised in this study. The managerial/marketing implications derived from the cosmopolitan concept will affect all of us in one way or another as we live in a world with no boundaries.


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Sung-Joon Yoon, Kyonggi University, Korea


AP - Asia Pacific Advances in Consumer Research Volume 3 | 1998

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