Cross-cultural studies in the light of its methology

Essay, 2013

8 Pages, Grade: 1



This paper attempts to bring a clearer view on the cross cultural studies in the light of its methodology, which has been derived from anthropological studies (Gillies, 2010). A theoretical analysis, based on publications and articles indicates that cross-cultural studies are grounded in social sciences and humanities but the cross cultural methodology transcends scientific field divisions.

Cross-cultural studies are defined as a field of study which deals with an interaction between different cultures, often in a business environment. J. Jeanty (2011) claims advances of communications technology have increased the speed of this process, resulting in opening the borders and global population getting closer. As a result, globalization sets into motion an increasing amount of interactions between people whose cultural backgrounds are different. Cross cultural studies, therefore, comprise areas of sociology, psychology, economics and political sciences in order to scrutinize human behaviour and verify theories about the culture and reasoning behind human actions.


When is it appropriate to mention cross-cultural studies as a separate field of science? Cross-cultural studies started to develop as a separate field around 1950’, which has happened mainly at two universities: Yale and Harvard. Both were homes of great thinkers, providing them with resources which further led to world-wide known achievements in the fields of anthropology, sociology, psychology and many others.

George Peter Murdock was connected to the University of Yale from 1928 onwards, where – after having done the PhD in the field of Sociology – he has fulfilled the position of the chairman of the Department of Anthropology for 22 years.[1] In 1948, Murdock came to the conclusion that a much better place can be found for the cross-cultural data. It was the idea that has led to the establishment of Human Relations Area Files. A year later, representatives from such universities as Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Oklahoma, University of Washington and Yale itself met to create a non-for-profit consortium of academic schools, colleges and research institutions.[2] The declared task was to provide data which facilitates the studies of cross-cultural fields as well as human behaviour, society and culture. The organization was based at Yale. Moreover, the idea has originated from “the Cross-Cultural Survey”, a project of the Institute of the Human Relations made by George Murdock where an extensive amount of anthropological data was gathered.[3]

Harvard University was a place of the establishment of another interdisciplinary collaboration important for the development of cross-cultural studies: the Department of Social Relations. It comprised three social departments - anthropology, sociology and psychology. It has taken part as well as financed many studies resulting in approaches aiming at resolving problems of policy or social theory (Blass, 1999).

Literature review

Another well-known figure of the field of anthropology is Clyde Kluckhohn, whose professional career can be connected with many universities including Harvard University. It was the very academic environment where Kluckhohn received Ph.D in 1936, and has worked as a professor until the rest of his life (Kluckhohn, 1960). The key methodological approach which has been developed by Kluckhohn is Value Orientation Theory. He believed (together with Strodtbeck) that Value Orientations result from challenges that all humans face and need to solve, in order to further influence their decisions in life. Such challenges can include considerations of the relation between human and nature, temporal focus of human life or innate human characteristics. Cross-cultural understanding and communication can be simplified by performing an analysis of one’s culture orientation to five crucial aspects of human life, which are: Human Nature, Man-Nature Relationship, Time, Activity and Social Relations (Hills, 2002).

Official beginning of cross-cultural studies started as an interdisciplinary field in 19th and 20th century anthropology. The most known intellectuals of that time include Max Weber as well as other anthropological pioneers: Bronisław Malinowski, Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict (American Ethnography Quasimonthly, 2005). Franz Boas is considered “the founder of modern anthropology as well as the father of American Anthropology” (Morgan, 2001). Boas fame came from thorough scientific methodology as well originating the notion of culture as learned behavior. Boas is also most famous for writing “The Principles of Ethnological Classification”, where he claimed that physical conditional of a certain country or a region are the reasons of humans’ physical and psychical character as well as its growth (Stocking, 1960).

Qualitative and quantitative research

At this point Bronisław Malinowski’s work comes across. Malinowski is considered to be one of most talented anthropologists due to the methodical and well theorized approach of the study of social systems (Young, 2004).

This skilled ethnographer is one of the first to believe in the importance of the detailed participant observation, as well as a thorough interview followed by mixing with its subject. Malinowski believed in the act of experiencing the everyday life with them, and he stressed that anthropologists should have day to day contact with their informants, which can lead to a better understanding of a different culture. Participant observation is, therefore, a crucial data collection method done in the qualitative research. Malinowski believed that getting close and initiating an intimate familiarity with a certain group of individuals was more beneficial for the core of the study rather than doing the fieldwork through interviews without such a private relation.[4]

As qualitative research developed, a new scientist appeared – Geert Hofstede. He carried out a series of studies trying to determine the relation between the culture and values in the workplace.[5] Hofstede claimed to have discovered four (which later became five) dimensions of national culture, according to which countries can be categorized, thus establishing a new paradigm for taking account of cultural elements into various areas of science, such as economics and culture.[6]

Hofstede’s primary data was taken from IBM bank, where employees have done a survey on their attitude towards work, and he statistically analyzed answers to these surveys. The result of his experiment altogether with some further reasoning resulted in four central polar dimensions. McSweeney (2003, p. 4) describes them as Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, Individualism and Masculinity. Using such a factor analysis resulted in the basis of quantitative approach.[7]


[1] Definition by


[3] Article by American Sociology Review, available at: (11.01.2013)

[4] Based on the article about Bronisław Malinowski, available at (11.01.2013)


[6] As above

[7] Based on the article Clearly Cultural available at (12.01.2013)

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Cross-cultural studies in the light of its methology
Warsaw University
Cross-cultural Management
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Bettina Bett (Author), 2013, Cross-cultural studies in the light of its methology, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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