FutureLearn: Intercultural Communications Week 4 – Values?

Week four of my FutureLearn course (you can find previous posts here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3) introduces ‘Values’ and how they affect intercultural communication:

Values are often considered a core element of culture. It refers to what is important, what is desirable, and what is our guiding principle for life – Steve Kulich

Values are compared to an iceberg, you might only see the surface part of it reflected in everyday situations, but below it there is a whole other part which informs how those values came about and are practiced, which you can’t directly observe.

We were asked to look at an article, again by Steve Kulich, where he quotes a previous researcher

Shalom Schwartz similarly (2005a, reprinted here as chapter 8) suggests three basic human needs, which he suggests our values seek to satisfy. These are the needs of individuals as biological organisms, requisites of coordinated social interaction, and survival and welfare needs of groups.

(Excerpt from Intercultural Research Vol. 4 Chap 1 Kulich

Values Studies: The Origins and Development of Core Cross-Cultural Comparisons)

Basically, the article asserts that cultural values are created to bind a society together, and better understand the environment that society grows out of, and (as we’ve seen earlier on in the course) the values are often unconscious (again with the iceberg, below-the-surface comparison), which means we don’t often notice or consider our own values until we encounter different ones.

Of course, historically values were often codified by authority or educational figures who laid out specific ways in which people were advised to live their lives (Confucius is referenced several times, and of course various religious figures such as Jesus or the Prophet Mohammed. From the end of the 19th century onwards, researchers tried to create systems of values to apply theory to – much of these were geographically based and assert that our cultural values are determined by upbringing and immediate environment in our early years. However much of the early research came from one scholar writing about a culture distinctly different from their own, which often came with certain biases. Since then, research has started to be conducted at an international level to try and determine what common factors and variances different cultures have, how they intersect and how they differ.

One very important research project was created by researchers Clyde and Florence Kluckhohn in the 1950s, who posited the following five questions to define someone’s cultural values:

    1. What is our orientation to human nature?
    2. What is the relation of man to nature?
    3. What is our time focus?
    4. What is our orientation toward activity?
    5. What is important in our social

Their project was focused on geographically close but culturally different communities within the United States. A more recent and international study came up with the following seven contracts.

  1. Universalism vs. particularism.
  2. Individualism vs. communitarianism.
  3. Specific vs. diffuse
  4. Neutral vs. emotional.
  5. Achievement vs. ascription.
  6. Sequential vs. synchronous time.
  7. Internal vs. outer direction.

However, I don’t think you would want to consider these as binary options, perhaps except in the case of directly comparing two very different cultures where they would definitely be more one [option] than other [option]?

However, these lead onto the GLOBE “Global Leadership and Organizational Behavior Effectiveness” project, which the course linked an intro to here: https://www.grovewell.com/wp-content/uploads/pub-GLOBE-intro.pdf and I definitely need to keep and read through as a business-focused view on intercultural communications and issues.