Dimensions of Culture: Hofstede
Hofstede is most well known for his work on four dimensions of cultural variability, commonly referred to as "Hofstede's Dimensions." These include: Uncertainty Avoidance, Power Distance, Masculinity-Femininity, Individualism-Collectivism, Confucian Dynamism.Hofstede derived his culture dimensions from examining work-related values in employees of IBM during the 1970s.
Power distance
Power Distance reflects the degree to which a culture believes how institutional and organizational power should be distributed (equally or unequally) and how the decisions of the power holders should be viewed (challenged or accepted). In other words, people in high power distance cultures are much more comfortable with a larger status differential than low power distance cultures.

Power distance is often reflected in the hierarchical organisation of companies, the respect that is expected to be shown by the student towards her or his teacher, the political forms of decentralisation and centralisation, by the belief in society that inequalities among people should be minimised, or that they are expected and desired.

Predictors of Power Distance:

  • Climate, measured by geographical latitude. Cultures in high-latitude climate (moderate or cold climates) tend to have low PDI scores. Cultures that have tropical climate tend to have high PDI scores.
  • Population. Generally, the more people within the culture, the greater the power distance is likely to be.
  • Distribution of Wealth. The more unequally the wealth is distributed within a culture, the greater the culture's power distance.
  • Consequences of Power Distance: most evident are family customs, the relationships between students and teachers, the young and the elderly, language systems and organizational practices.

    Hofstede defines this dimension as: "individualism pertains to societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after himself or herself and his or her immediate family. Collectivism as its opposite pertains to societies in which people from birth onwards are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, which throughout people's lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty."

    Predictors of Individualism/Collectivism:

  • Economic development. Wealthy cultures tend to be individualistic, whereas poor cultures tend to be collectivistic.
  • Climate. Cultures in colder climate tend to be individualistic, whereas cultures in warmer climates tend to be collectivistic.
  • Consequences: Collectivistic cultures tend to be group-oriented, impose a large psychological distance between ingroup and outgroup members and ingroup members are expected to have unquestioning loyalty to their group. In a conflict situation, members of the collectivistic cultures are likely to use avoidance, intermediaries, or other face-saving techniques. Conversely, people in the individualistic cultures do not perceive a large psychological distance between ingroup and outgroup members. They value self-expression, see speaking out as a means of resolving problems, and are likely to use confrontational strategies when dealing with interpersonal problems.

    Masculinity/femininity is an equally powerful, yet often understated, dimension. Hofstede defines this dimension as follows: "masculinity pertains to societies in which social gender roles are clearly distinct (i.e., men are supposed to be assertive, tough, and focused on material success whereas women are supposed to be more modest, tender, and concerned witht the quality of life); femininity pertains to societies in which social gender roles overlap.According to Hofstede, people in high masculinity index (MAS) believe in achievement and ambition, in ostentatious manliness, with very specific behaviors and products associated with male behavior.Low MAS cultures believe less in external achievements and/or manliness, and more in quality of life such as helping others and sympathy for the unfortunate.

    Predictors of Masculinity/femininity:

  • Climate. Masculine cultures tend to live in warmer climate near the equator and feminine cultures are likely to locate in colder climates away from the equator.
  • Consequences: Members of high MAS cultures believe that men should be assertive and women should be nurturant. Sex roles are clearly differentiated, and sexual inequality is seen as beneficial. The reverse is true for members in the feminine cultures.

    Uncertainty avoidance
    Uncertainty Avoidance refers to the extent to which a culture feels threatened by ambiguous, uncertain situations and tries to avoid them by establishing more structure. The high positive scores on the uncertainty avoidance index (UAI) indicate low tolerance for ambiguity. These cultures prefer to avoid uncertainty and dissent as a cultural value and desire consensus. As a result, HIGH uncertainty avoidance cultures prefer formal rules and any uncertainty can express itself in higher anxiety than those from low uncertainty avoidance cultures.

    Cultures with low UAI scores have a high tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity, believe in accepting and encouraging dissenting views among cultural members and in taking risks and trying new things. Thus, cultures which ranked low (compared to other cultures), feel much more comfortable with the unknown.

    Predictors of Uncertainty avoidance:

  • No clear-cut predictors. But in general, high UAI cultures tend to be those that are beginning to modernize and are characterized by a high rate of change. Conversely, low UAI cultures tend to have reached the level of modernization and have more stable or predictable in their rate of change.
  • Consequences: High UAI cultures tend to develop many rules to control social behaviors. Low UAI cultures need few rules to control social behaviors.

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