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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2003 Aug;85(2):363-72.

Conversing across cultures: East-West communication styles in work and nonwork contexts.

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Business School and Institute of Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109, USA.


Four experiments provided evidence that East-West differences in attention to indirect meaning are more pronounced in work settings compared with nonwork settings as suggested by prior research on Protestant relational ideology. Study 1 compared errors in interpreting indirect messages in work and nonwork contexts across three cultures. Studies 2 and 3 examined differences in self-reported indirectness with coworkers versus nonwork acquaintances across three cultures controlling for variation in individualism--collectivism. Study 4 examined self-reported indirectness in bicultural managers and experimentally manipulated the salience of Western versus Eastern culture. The results showed that Americans, but not East Asians, were less attentive to indirect cues in work than nonwork settings and that East-West differences in indirectness were greater in work than nonwork settings.

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