Crosscultural Understanding

Dr Jon Mills
Cultural Bias
Interpreting and judging phenomena by
standards inherent to one’s own culture
Cultural Bias
For example
 People who read English often assume that it is
natural to scan a visual field from left to right and
from top to bottom.
Cultural Bias
For example
 In the United States it is typical for the "on" position
of a toggle switch to be "up", whereas in the UK,
Australia, and New Zealand it is "down.“
 In these countries, North is the top of a map,
 Up is usually the larger quantity and better, as well.
Cultural Bias
For example
 Japanese do not place an X in a check-box to
indicate acceptance — this indicates refusal.
1.Can you think of any more examples of
cultural bias?
2.What misunderstandings do you think might
occur because of such cultural bias?
When someone claims that members of
another culture all share the same, often
inferior or offensive characteristics.
Types of stereotypes
• racial e.g. Red Indians in cowboy films are
seen as bloodthirsty savages
• gender e.g. women are bad drivers
• age e.g. old people are said to be very
• religion e.g. Catholics families have a lot of
• profession e.g. all lawyers are greedy
The typical Frenchman
Historical basis
The typical Englishman
Basis in fiction
Gender stereotypes in children's movies
African Men. Hollywood Stereotypes
Stereotyping Muslims
Different cultural assumptions
People may misinterpret each other's motives.
 For example,
• One group may assume that they are simply
exchanging information about what they believe,
• but the other believes that they are negotiating a
change in behaviour.
Douglas, Mary (1982) "Cultural Bias," in: Douglas,
M.: In the Active Voice, London: Routledge &
Kegan Paul; 183-254.
Andersen, Margaret L. & Howard Francis Taylor
(2006). Sociology: Understanding a Diverse
Society. Thomson Wadsworth.
Seidner, Stanley S. (1982) Ethnicity, Language,
and Power from a Psycholinguistic Perspective.
Bruxelles: Centre de recherche sur le