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Int J Psychol. 2009 Apr;44(2):120-8. doi: 10.1080/00207590701545684.

The relationship between relational models and individualism and collectivism: evidence from culturally diverse work groups.

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David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA.


Relational models theory (Fiske, 1991 ) proposes that all thinking about social relationships is based on four elementary mental models: communal sharing, authority ranking, equality matching, and market pricing. Triandis and his colleagues (e.g., Triandis, Kurowski, & Gelfand, 1994 ) have suggested a relationship between the constructs of horizontal and vertical individualism and collectivism and Fiske's relational models. However, no previous research has examined this proposed relationship empirically. The objective of the current study was to test the association between the two frameworks in order to further our understanding of why members of culturally diverse groups may prefer different relational models in interactions with other group members. Findings from this study support a relationship between Triandis' constructs and Fiske's four relational models and uphold Fiske's ( 1991 ) claim that the use of the relational models is culturally dependent. As hypothesized, horizontal collectivism was associated with a preference for equality matching and communal sharing, vertical individualism was related to a preference for authority ranking, and vertical collectivism was related to a preference for authority ranking and communal sharing. However, contrary to expectations, horizontal individualism was not related to a preference for equality matching and market pricing, and vertical individualism was not associated with market pricing. By showing that there is a relationship between Triandis' and Fiske's frameworks, this study closes a gap in relational models theory, namely how culture relates to people's preferences for relational models. Thus, the findings from this study will enable future researchers to explain and predict what relational models are likely to be used in a certain cultural context.

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