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Geoff Crane

That's the truth. I lived in Singapore for ten years, working all over Asia. In my early days (as an arrogant youngster hehe), anger was my first response when I didn't get my way. In the face of that behaviour, my new Asian counterparts would visibly shut down. The approach seldom worked, and when it did, it was usually to just get me out of their hair.

What I found worked much better was a long fuse, patience and logic during negotiations. Coming home to Canada with ten years of cultivated zen generally made negotiations infuriating as my once-again-Western counterparts couldn't believe I could outlast them. LOL

Arata Mitsumatsu

This study makes a lot of sense to me. In the East Asian culture showing anger means you can't control your emotions. If you can't control yourself there is noway you can control others and obviously an organization.
Easily showing anger indicates you have low emotional control skills which shows your not tough or immature.
Oh, and off course there are people in East Asia who think showing anger looks tough so not trying to generalize anything but don't think it's a majority.
Not a good or bad thing. Just the matter of the value system and I think it has lot to do with the farming system. I believe the irrigation for rice farming develops a "collectivistic" culture. There is even a four letter character "my paddy pull water" which means "Selfish".

By the way I use both :-)

Paul Reist

Interesting. I seem to recall reading that the Inuit have a very low tolerance for anger and emotional displays. Anyone exhibit overt signs of anger may be shunned by the community, or treated as insane. Emotional displays by babies apparently are given minimal attention, to condition the child toward acceptance.


Reminds me of when I sold cars in Dallas, TX. Chinese customers were great, but you would spend half a day negotiating with them.

No science, but we all knew to approach customers differently by race, ethnicity, economic, and social appearance.

You just did not try to take half a day with a busy American executive-type. You did not try to close a deal in thirty minutes with a Chinese customer. And Indians, women, men, lesbians, et. al. were all handled diffrently (if you wanted to make a sale).


It is interesting research. However, I think there are limitations to it's generalizability, mostly because the research design did not address multiple audiences.

Signals are rarely sent in a vacuum. Particularly when it comes to business, people rarely interact in a purely one-on-one setting, where their actions are guaranteed to stay hidden from any third parties. Typically, the signals we send will be seen and interpreted by multiple audiences and this can significantly complicate negotiations. Public bullying may backfire and cause the target to dig in their heels instead of offering concessions. Signals must not only be clear enough to minimize the variance around their interpretation. They must also avoid creating a situation that actually makes it harder for the target to behave in the way the sender wants them to.

The research by Adam, et al., looked at pairs of negotiators separated from other observers. If they had introduced third parties my guess is that their results would have been different. Backing down to an aggressive threat would likely be viewed as unacceptable across both Western and East Asian subjects for related reasons. For many Westerners, backing down to a threat would signal weakness and a lack of resolve. If third parties are present and see this they may assume that the subject that made the concession could be bullied in a similar manner in the future. In order to avoid being challenged in this way by multiple actors down the road, the subject is more likely to stand firm and avoid giving any concessions under duress. A similar dynamic is likely to play out with those of East Asian decent given the importance of “face” and honor in those cultures. When additional subjects are introduced into the experiment the results are less likely to break down among cultural lines.


I would like to highlight Pr. Richard Nisbett research. His suggestions is that social systems create different "naive metaphysics" and "tacit epistemology".

see in particular:

Nisbett, R. E., Peng, K., Choi, I., & Norenzayan, A. (2001). Culture and systems of thought: Holistic vs. analytic cognition.
Psychological Review, 108, 291-310.

other publications:

of course, this creates another question: why does East and West have different social systems? One answer might come form Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs and Steel). If social systems are shaped by the environment and by how people manage it (e.g. agriculture vs. pastoral cultures, herding vs. farming), then the root cause of these cognitive patterns might be in how ancestral societies dealt collectively with natural resources. This also how Nisbett explains the difference between American culture wrt violence in the North and the South ( Culture of Honor: The Psychology of Violence in the South ).


Asia includes a huge range of cultures that don't seem to have much in common. I can't grasp why the people of eastern China are considered to be representative of all Asians?

I find Westerners much more collectivist than Indians as evident from the numerous social organizations, such as Churches, in the West.

Frode H

"Asians are from "collectivistic" cultures and that Westerners are from "individualistic" cultures."

- This is a huge factor. I have been reading a lot about burnouts, motivation, depression and so on lately. And the individualistic culture is getting a lot of blame.

An individualistic culture is great, there is only one problem with it, when wester culture became individualistic we also hit generation Y and at the same time developed a narcissistic culture. This gives us a strong ego. An individualistic culture works at its best when the individual is closer to alturism than narcissism. This is a very interesting study.

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