Uncertainty avoidance

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In cross-cultural psychology, uncertainty avoidance is a society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity. Uncertainty avoidance is one of five key qualities or dimensions measured by the researchers who developed the Hofstede model of cultural dimensions to quantify cultural differences across international lines and better understand why some ideas and business practices work better in some countries than in others. [1]

The uncertainty avoidance dimension relates to the degree to which individuals of a specific society are comfortable with uncertainty and the unknown. Countries displaying strong uncertainty avoidance index (UAI) believe and behave in a strict manner. Individuals belonging to those countries also avoid unconventional ways of thinking and behaving. Weak UAI societies display more ease in regards to uncertainty.[2]

People in cultures with high uncertainty avoidance try to minimize the occurrence of unknown and unusual circumstances and to proceed with careful changes step by step by planning and by implementing rules, laws and regulations. In contrast, low uncertainty avoidance cultures accept and feel comfortable in unstructured situations or changeable environments and try to have as few rules as possible. People in these cultures tend to be more pragmatic and more tolerant of change.[3]

Key concepts[edit]

High uncertainty avoidance[edit]

There are many ways to detect if someone has a high amount of uncertainty avoidance. Typically, the use of formality in interaction with others, dependence of formalized policies and procedures, apparent resistance of change, and intolerance of untraditional ways are all characteristics of high uncertainty avoidance.[4]

People in high uncertainty avoidance societies may be afraid of people whom are different than them. They may show signs of Xenophobia. [5]

High uncertainty avoidance countries[edit]

Some of the highest uncertainty avoidance countries include Greece, Guatemala, and Portugal. [6]

Low uncertainty avoidance[edit]

In contrast, people can also exhibit characteristics of low uncertainty avoidance. Unlike high UA, those with a low level use informality in interaction with others, they often rely on informal norms and behaviors in most matters. Also, they will show moderate resistance to change.[7]

Additionally, people with low uncertainty avoidance will not have any difficulty with interacting with people whom are different than them. [8]

Low uncertainty avoidance countries[edit]

Some of the lowest uncertainty avoidance countries include the Jamaica, Denmark, and Singapore. [9]

Risk[edit]

Uncertainty avoidance is commonly mistakenly associated with risk avoidance. However, UAI does not deal with risk avoidance. In fact, it deals with the habits and rituals in which a society feels comfortable practicing.[10]

Applications[edit]

Business[edit]

David S. Baker and Kerry D. Carson performed a study to evaluate uncertainty avoidance among field sales personnel. They selected 155 subjects from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Their research pointed towards individuals using both attachment and avoidance to lower their uncertainty avoidance in the workplace. People who were high on uncertainty avoidance and those low on it behaved differently. Sales personnel who were low on uncertainty avoidance saw no need to attach with their team or adapt to their environment, but those high on it used both avoidance and attachment to deal with situations. Those who reported moderate levels of uncertainty avoidance preferred to use adaptation rather than attachment when needed. [11]

In a study conducted by Nelson O. Ndubisi, Naresh K. Malhotra , Dilber Ulas, and Gibson C. Ndubisi it was found that customer loyalty is less in countries with low uncertainty avoidance. Additionally, it can be inferred from the study that customer trust is higher in countries with high uncertainty avoidance.[12]

It is also believed that the uncertainty avoidance index (UAI) has a significant effect on consumers' acceptance of unfamiliar brands in the retail market. Brand familiarity, celebrity endorsement, and cultural differences all have an effect on determining an individual's UAI. Eliane Karsaklian has studied the effect UAI has on consumers' attitudes towards familiar and unfamiliar brands in different cultures (specifically American and French). She concludes that uncertainty avoidance has a deep role in shaping consumers' attitudes towards brands.[13] However, the claim that UAI (or any other dimension) has an "effect" is inconsistent with Hofstede's acknowledgement in his reply to Brendan McSweeney (Human Relations, 55.11 - 2002) that "dimensions do not exist" and therefore cannot be causal i.e. they cannot have effects. Like many studies, Karsaklian analysis confuses correlation with causation.

Hofstede concluded that people in high uncertainty avoidance societies may avoid changing jobs. Whereas, people in low uncertainty avoidance societies may feel more at ease with changing jobs.[14][15]

Politics[edit]

In politics, cultures with high uncertainty avoidance citizens tend to have low interest in politics and citizen protests are repressed. This is because political unrest would bring about changes which the majority would not be comfortable with. There also tends to be many laws with laws being more specific as to avoid any uncertainty in the interpretation and to guide which behavior is acceptable. On the other side of the spectrum in cultures with low uncertainty avoidance citizens tend to be very interested in politics as it serves as a tool for change. Protests are accepted as another tool for change and laws are general.[16]

Crime[edit]

In 2005 Robert M. Wiedenhaefer conducted a study on the factors contributing to terrorism. Wiedenhaefer concluded that uncertainty avoidance has a high association with terrorism. He asserted through his analysis he found that uncertainty avoidance is the strongest predictor in such crimes.[17]

Ellen Giebels, Miriam Oostinga, Paul Taylor, and Joanna Curtis conducted a study in February 2017 on the impact between police-civilian interactions. They hypothesized that a clear and more communicative style of interaction would be used by high uncertainty avoidance negotiators. Their study went on to prove their hypothesis. In addition, they found that uncertainty avoidance highly influences interactions between said individuals.[18]

Education[edit]

In cultures with high uncertainty avoidance, teachers are viewed as having all the answers and learning is structured. In cultures with low uncertainty avoidance, teachers are not necessarily viewed as all knowing and the learning is open minded with less focus on facts.[19]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "National Culture - Hofstede Insights". Hofstede Insights.
  2. ^ "National Culture - Hofstede Insights". Hofstede Insights.
  3. ^ Hofstede, Geert (7 March 2015). "10 minutes with Geert Hofstede on Uncertainty Avoidance 01032015". Youtube. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  4. ^ Hofstede, Geert. "National Culture - Hofstede Insights". Hofstede Insights.
  5. ^ Hofstede, Geert (7 March 2015). "10 minutes with Geert Hofstede on Uncertainty Avoidance 01032015". Youtube. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  6. ^ Anbari, F.; Khilkhanova, E.; Romanova, M.; Umpleby, S. (2003). "CROSS CULTURAL DIFFERENCES AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS FOR". www2.gwu.edu. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  7. ^ Hofstede, Geert. "National Culture - Hofstede Insights". Hofstede Insights.
  8. ^ Hofstede, Geert (7 March 2015). "10 minutes with Geert Hofstede on Uncertainty Avoidance 01032015". Youtube. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  9. ^ Anbari, F.; Khilkhanova, E.; Romanova, M.; Umpleby, S. (2003). "CROSS CULTURAL DIFFERENCES AND THEIR IMPLICATIONS FOR". www2.gwu.edu. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
  10. ^ "The 6D model of national culture". Geert Hofstede. 1 February 2016.
  11. ^ Baker, David; Carson, Kerry (1975). "The Two Faces of Uncertainty Avoidance: Attachment and Adaptation" (PDF). Journal of Behavioral & Applied Management. 12 (2): 128-141.
  12. ^ Ndubisi, Nelson Oly; Malhotra, Naresh K.; Ulas, Dilber; Ndubisi, Gibson C. (October 2012). "Examining Uncertainty Avoidance, Relationship Quality, and Customer Loyalty in Two Cultures". Journal of International Consumer Marketing. 24 (5): 320–337. doi:10.1080/08961530.2012.741477.
  13. ^ Karsaklian, Eliane. "When The Packaging Tells More About The Unfamiliar Brands: A Cross-Cultural Research With American and French Consumers" (PDF). ANZMAC 2010. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  14. ^ Hofstede, Geert (7 March 2015). "10 minutes with Geert Hofstede on Uncertainty Avoidance 01032015". Youtube. Retrieved 10 December 2017.
  15. ^ Hofstede, Geert (1 December 2011). "Dimensionalizing Cultures: The Hofstede Model in Context". Online Readings in Psychology and Culture. 2 (1). doi:10.9707/2307-0919.1014.
  16. ^ "Uncertainty Avoidance". Make Sense of Cross Cultural Communication. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  17. ^ Wiedenhaefer, Robert (2006). Ethnopsychological factors associated with terrorism. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
  18. ^ Giebels, Ellen; Oostinga, Miriam S. D.; Taylor, Paul J.; Curtis, Joanna L. "The cultural dimension of uncertainty avoidance impacts police–civilian interaction". Law and Human Behavior. 41 (1): 93–102. doi:10.1037/lhb0000227.
  19. ^ Tidwell, Charles. "Hofstede: Uncertainty Avoidance". Retrieved 20 June 2013.

Further reading[edit]