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Thu December 8, 2011
Dr. Dominik Guess, University of North Florida - Cultural Thinking and Problem Solving
Albany, NY – In today's Academic Minute, Dr. Dominik Guess of the University of North Florida explains how an individual's approach to problem solving is shaped by cultural attitudes.
Dr. C. Dominik Guess is an associate professor of psychology at the University of North Florida, where he
teaches courses in cognitive psychology and cross-cultural psychology. His five-country study on complex problem-solving and culture is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Humboldt Foundation. Recently, articles on his work have appeared in Cognitive Science and the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. He holds a Ph.D. from Otto-Friedrich Universit t Bamberg, Germany.
Dr. Dominik Guess - Cultural Thinking and Problem Solving
Philosopher Sir Karl Popper once said, "All life is problem solving." People of all cultures experience problems and must make decisions every day.
We might think we are autonomous individuals making our own rational decisions, but not entirely, as I have learned in my research.
We compared problem solving and decision making of over 500 participants from Germany and the United States (more individualistic countries) and, Brazil, India, and the Philippines (more collectivistic countries). Participants took the roles of fire-fighting commanders and store managers in two computer-simulated virtual environments and answered surveys assessing their cultural values.
First, we found that participants from the five countries differed in their problem solving: in how much information they collected, time spent planning, strategies used, and decisions made. For example, Indian participants approached problems quite actively. Participants from the U.S. followed a pragmatic approach. Germans focused on clarifying goals and planning.
Participants also differed in whether they expressed positive or negative emotions and to what extent they showed emotions at all. For instance, Brazilians showed more positive emotions, but also more negative emotions than participants from the other countries.
Second, we tested a model hypothesizing that cultural values would affect individuals' complex problem-solving strategies. Results showed that cultural values influenced the choice of an active or more passive strategy and detailed or less detailed planning. For example, participants from individualistic cultures engaged in more active strategies and more detailed planning.
In sum, results showed that culture is within us. We are not so much autonomous individuals, as cultural beings. Even if we are not aware of it, culture influences how we approach problems and how we solve them.