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Culture-Based Conversational Constraints Theory

Individual- and Culture- Level Analyses

Author: Min-Sun Kim

A report by Mae Urtal Caralde

Focus is on not what is said but how what is said is

to be said
The manner in which a message is constructed

Major goalto understand why a particular

alternative is chosen cross-culturally;

Goals approach to human intercultural communication

contrasted to rule- or norms-based approach.

Conversational constraints defined

Interdependent, relational self contrasted to separated,

independent self.
Advantages of applying both individual-level and cultural-level


Problem of Norms-Based Explanations

not so helpful in explaining why culture has an

Most research are descriptive in nature.



Problem of Norms-Based Explanations

ex: Americans use request and Koreans use hint for favor

asking strategy.
Studies do not explain why a strategy is chosen. Rely on the

norms, rules and conventions

Appeal to certain norms and rules runs risks of not being

applicable to other situations

Cannot capture a.) ways in which actors infer beyond the

information given to achieve coherence; b.) ways in w/c actors organizes communication functionally.

Goals Approach to Social Interaction

To achieve goals, people must have strategic competence---the

procedural knowledge necessary

Social theorists posit that social interaction and the perceptions

of competence can be analyzed in terms of goals, the plans and strategies necessary to achieve it.

3 Principal levels of interaction goals

1. Tactical or strategic goals 2. Primary communication goals (outcome of conversation) 3. Global constraints

Tactical or strategic goals

STRATEGIES---action sequences that are used to attain goals TACTICS---specific behavioral actions that a person manifest in

their goal-oriented interaction.

Ex: asking a question, breaking eye contact, turning away from


Primary communication goals (outcome of conversation)

Numerous outcomes or primary goals that may be desired from

an entire interaction.
Situation-specific interaction outcomes (gaining compliance,

seeking information, correcting others and testing affinity)---can have wide range of tactics

Global constraints
Meta-goals, meta-plans, supergoals, life theme, supermaxims,

meta-strategies, cross-situational goals, ritual-constraints, sociopragmatic interactional principles.

Tend to affect the general character of every conversation one

Usually responsible for generating the strategies and actions

that guide an individuals conversational style.

2 Global Constraint dimensions

1. CLARITY-conversational behavior is conceptualized as a concern

about achieving a primary goal in the most explicit and shortest way possible.
2. FACE-SUPPORT---concern about achieving a primary goal

without hurting the hearers desired social image and feelings.

CULTURE-BASED Conversational Constraints

Speakers balance the need to be efficient or

indicate urgency and the need to maintain the hearers face.

Task effectiveness is the primary or defining goal

and other concerns (like self-presentational and relational) are secondary issues
Efficiency and appropriateness are/may also be

critical and conflicting---determine peoples choice of conversation strategies.

Contents of Conversational Constraints

1 2 3 4 5

Concern for Clarity Concern for minimizing imposition Concern for avoiding hurting the hearers feelings Concern for avoiding negative evaluation by the hearer Effectiveness

CLARITY--the likelihood of an utterance making ones intention clear and explicit MINIMIZING IMPOSITION---the degree to which an utterance avoids imposing on the hearers autonomy or interfering with the hearers freedom of action. --- negative politeness or deference politeness

--- means for face-saving

Consideration for the others feelings---the speakers perceived

obligation to help the hearer claim and sustain positive selfimage

Risking disapproval for self---the desire to avoid negative

evaluation by the conversational partner. Speakers desire to save his own face.
Effectivenessmay be a basis for judging communicative

competence; if goals are achieved.

1. Concern for clarity

It is important to make my point as clearly and directly as possible I want to come directly to the point while conveying my message.

2. Concern for not hurting the others feelings

I feel it is important to avoid hurting the others feelings

Being considerate of the others feelings is a major concern to me.

3. Concern for Nonimposition It is very important not to intrude upon the other person

It is very important to avoid inconveniencing the other.

4. Concern for avoiding negative evaluation by the hearer It is very important that the other person does not see me in a negative light. It is very important that my message does not cause the other person to dislike me. 5. Concern for Effectiveness It is very important to get the other person to do what I want Making the other person comply with my request is very important.

How to be appropriate and effective

Salience of effectiveness and social appropriateness would

be essentially the same regardless of cultural context

the MEANS of being effective or appropriate are different Kim,Wilson,Bresnahans study: Resulting data did not support

the 2 hypotheses above relating to the importance of Constraints 4 & 5


a.) certain levels of concern for avoiding negative evaluation and effectiveness are essential for successful interaction in any culture;

b.) while tactics perceived as effective differs in any culture, they may be equally concerned about effectiveness in general.
c.) constraints 4 & 5 may be confounded by the other 3 constraints.

Request tactic evaluation results:

a. both cultures perceived effectiveness functions as a mediating variable between the 4 conversational constraints and the perceived likelihood of use. Koreans---concern for avoiding negative evaluation and avoiding hurting feelings of hearer contribute substantially to prediction of effectiveness. US---clarity is extremely strong predictor of perceived effectiveness of tactics.

Perceived effectives equally important in prediction of likelihood of use in both cultures.

Cultural Variability in the perceived importance of conversational constraints

The dimensions of individualism-collectivism is systematically

related to the perceived importance of clarity, avoiding hurting the hearers feelings and minimizing imposition.
Miyahara and Kims extension of the study: a. Koreans are more collectivistic in conflict management styles.

Focused more on social-relation constraints (avoiding imposition or loss of face of hearer)

b. Japanese focused more on clarity constraints than Koreans

(conveying message clearly and efficiently)

Beyond Nationality
Self-concepts are mental representations of those personal

qualities used by individuals for the purpose of defining themselves and regulating their behavior

Identity develop from social relationships. Relationships with others actually constitute identity.

2. Identity develops as the individual separates from primary

relationships and that features and experiences unique to him or her constitute identity.

Beyond Nationality
cultural and social groups are associated with characteristic

patterns of sociocultural participation (SELFWAYS) or more specifically with characteristic ways of being a person in the world.
Highly developed self-construal---see themselves as separate

from others. To achieve independent and self-actualization. Express their unique strengths.
Highly developed interdependent construals---see themselves

as connected with others. To maintain connectedness and harmony. Suppress abilities, opinions, emotions

Linking culture- and individual-level analyses of conversational constraints

Culture-level individualism Independent self-construal



Linking culture- and individual-level analyses of conversational constraints

Avoiding hurting feelings of hearer Culture-level collectivism Interdependent self-construal Avoiding Nonimposition Avoiding negative eval

Focus on Relational aspects

Intracultural Variability
Within a given culture, individuals will vary in the extent to

which they are typical and construe the self in the typical way.
Culture is NOT uniform within what we nominally designate as

one culture.
The ways in which individuals participate in culture reflect their

position and status in society.

Kim, Sharkey and Singelis study results: a) The higher the level of independent self-construal, the greater

concern for CLARITY;

b) the greater the individuals construal of self as interdependent,

the higher the perceived importance of not hurting hearers feelings

c) And of having concern for negative evaluations in pursuit of

organizational goals.

Multicultural identity
Individualism and collectivism at both culture- and individual

level has long been considered bipolar or at opposite positions.

However, some scholars argue that individuals can possess bith

Redefined individualism and collectivism so that persons can be

viewed as HIGH or LOW on either dimensions---Self construal scale.

Multicultural identity
4 types of culture orientations: 1.

Bicultural---high assoc with independent and low assoc with interdependent characteristics.
Independenthigh assoc with independent and low assoc with interdependent Interdependentlow assoc with independent and high assoc with interdependent characteristic






Marginal---low association with both characteristics

Interaction style is individually goal-driven yet socially structured. Culture influences mediating processes (self-construals) that affect

the perceived importance of conversational constraints.

Cultural variability influences are indirect Behaviors evidenced by members of different cultures are not simply

surface representations of their cultural background, but are deeply tied to the values and self-identity possessed by an individual member. rise to distinct social interaction.

Conversational constraints serves as pressures that shape and give