Cultural Dimensions

From empirical studies, Hofstede et al. derived six bipolar dimensions. Different from the previous manifestations, which can be very specific to a certain culture or subculture (e.g. the ritual of the Japanese tea ceremony), it is argued that these dimensions indicate broad behavioural tendencies shared by the members of the culture. They should be not considered deterministic however, since other factors such as the individual’s personality, also play an important role on human behaviour. The six dimensions can be briefly described as follows:

  1. Power Distance (PDI) – the degree to which less powerful members of the group expect and accept that power is distributed unequally. In small PDI cultures (e.g., Austria), people tend to regard others as equals despite their formal status. In high PDI cultures (e.g., Malaysia), powerful people have more privileges and like to wear symbols that reflect their status.

  1. Individualism (IDV) – versus its opposite, collectivism, indicates the extent to which individuals see themselves integrated into groups. In collectivistic cultures (e.g., Guatemala), everyone looks out for one another in exchange for unquestioning loyalty. On the other hand, in individualistic cultures (e.g., USA), people stress the importance of personal achievements and individual rights. Everyone is expected to be responsible only for themselves and their immediate family.

  1. Masculinity (MAS) – very masculine cultures (e.g., Japan), favour assertiveness, ambition, efficiency, competition and materialism. Also, differences between gender roles are accentuated. On the other hand, in very feminine cultures (e.g., Sweden), relationships and quality of life are more important. Both sexes should have equal rights and responsibilities.

  1. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) – this dimension indicates to what extent people prefer structured over unstructured situations. In low UAI cultures (e.g., Singapore), people have as few rules as possible and unfamiliar risks and ambiguous situations cause no discomfort. In an opposite manner, in high UAI Cultures (e.g., Portugal), people tend to have strict laws and rules and also various safety measures to avoid situations that are novel, unknown, or different from the usual.

  1. Long-Term Orientation (LTO) – indicates to what extent the future has more importance than the past or present. Short-Term oriented cultures (e.g., Nigeria), value the respect for tradition, quick results, fulfilling social obligations, and reciprocation of gifts. On the other hand, in long-term oriented cultures (e.g., China), people give more importance to the future than the past and present.

  1. Indulgence (IND) – versus its opposite restraint, indicates how much do people believe that life should be about having fun or about fulfilling one’s duty. In high indulgent cultures (e.g. Mexico) there is a strong tendency to endorse the gratification of basic and natural human desires related to enjoying life and having fun. On the other hand, in restraint cultures (e.g. Russia), people are inclined to believe that the gratification of one’s needs should be regulated by strict social norms.

References in:

D5.1 Culturally Sensitive Agent Architecture Specification (115)