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Abstract

Cultural influences on individual judgment and decision making are increasingly understood in terms of dynamic constructive processing and the structures in social environments that shape distinct processing styles, directing initial attentional foci, activating particular judgment schemas and decision strategies, and ultimately reinforcing some judgment and decision making (JDM) patterns over others. These structures include the society's observable patterns of normative actions and responses, its prevalent forms of interpersonal interaction, the typical size and density of social networks, the ideational frames represented publically in texts and institutions, and so forth. We review this emerging perspective on culture and JDM in both economic and social domains, noting the distinctive insights it yields. We suggest new ways that cultural research is becoming relevant to mainstream JDM researchers, while also recognizing issues in need of further research. © The Author(s) 2010.
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Perspectives on Psychological
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DOI: 10.1177/1745691610375556
2010 5: 410Perspectives on Psychological Science
Elke U. Weber and Michael W. Morris
Culture and Judgment and Decision Making: The Constructivist Turn
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Culture and Judgment and Decision
Making: The Constructivist Turn
Elke U. Weber and Michael W. Morris
Center for Decision Sciences, Columbia University, New York
Abstract
Cultural influences on individual judgment and decision making are increasingly understood in terms of dynamic constructive
processing and the structures in social environments that shape distinct processing styles, directing initial attentional foci,
activating particular judgment schemas and decision strategies, and ultimately reinforcing some judgment and decision making
(JDM) patterns over others. These structures include the society’s observable patterns of normative actions and responses,
its prevalent forms of interpersonal interaction, the typical size and density of social networks, the ideational frames
represented publically in texts and institutions, and so forth. We review this emerging perspective on culture and JDM in both
economic and social domains, noting the distinctive insights it yields. We suggest new ways that cultural research is becoming
relevant to mainstream JDM researchers, while also recognizing issues in need of further research.
Keywords
judgment and decision making, culture, preference construction, social construction.
The field of judgment and decision making (JDM) encom-
passes the study of economic and policy choices that involve
assessing risks and benefits (Kahneman & Tversky, 1984) and
of interpersonal and social choices that involve attributions and
expectancies (Nisbett & Ross, 1980). Although traditionally
cultural psychology and JDM scarcely overlapped, an informal
analysis of representative journals
1
suggests that interest in
culture within JDM is increasing; the culture literature features
increasing rates of social choice (11% vs. 15%) and economic
choice (2% vs. 3%) research and, correspondingly, the rate of
culture-focused research is increasing in the social JDM
(1% vs. 5%) and economic JDM fields (2% vs. 3%).
The uptick in JDM attention to culture may reflect
changes in how psychologists model cultural influence. The
dominant past model accounts for country effects, usually
contrasts between Western and East Asian nations, in terms
of traits such as individualist versus collectivist value orienta-
tions (Schwartz, 1992; Triandis, 2001), independent versus
interdependent self-concepts (Markus & Kitayama, 1991), or
individuating versus holistic cognitive styles (Nisbett, 2003).
Drawing tools from personality psychology, the trait approach
offered a way to go beyond using nationality as a proxy for
culture. Yet it may be ultimately limited in its appeal to JDM,
a field in which theoretical tastes favor task and context effects
rather than individual difference effects.
In the past decade, trait approaches to culture have encoun-
tered empirical challenges. The central hypothesis that
cross-national differences in JDM would be mediated by
individual-difference measures of values, self-concepts, and
cognitive style has not found consistent support (Cole, 1996;
Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002). Whereas trait
accounts posit stable worldviews, cultural differences in JDM
have been found to vary with task conditions, such as atten-
tional load, time pressure, and choice format (e.g., Briley,
Morris, & Simonson, 2000; Chiu, Morris, Hong, & Menon,
2000; Knowles et al., 2001). Finally, whereas trait models hold
that to change worldviews imprinted by early socialization
requires a sustained and traumatic enculturation process
(Berry, 1992), recent research highlights that many immigrants
and other biculturals switch effortlessly between heritage and
host culture styles of judgment as the situation demands (Hong,
Morris, Chiu, & Benet-Martinez, 2000).
In response to such evidence, researchers increasingly pro-
pose that cultural styles of JDM reflect not fixed worldviews
but evoked frames of mind—situated meaning construction
Corresponding Author:
Elke U. Weber, Columbia University, 3022 Broadway, New York, NY 10027.
E-mail: euw2@columbia.edu
Perspectives on Psychological Science
5(4) 410–419
ª The Author(s) 2010
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processes reflecting internal cultural representations from
memory as well as external structures in the cultural environ-
ment (e.g., Morris, Menon, & Ames, 2001). On this constructi-
vist view, cultures are traditions of thought and practice,
and living in one imbues a person with a host of representations
(schemas, categories, rules, procedures, goals, etc.) that are
discrete yet loosely associated in memory. Cultural representa-
tions guide judgments and decisions to the extent that they
become activated in framing a problem so as to constrain atten-
tion, evidential search, and inference. Activation depends
largely on applicability and accessibility, which in turn hinges
on recency and frequency of use (Higgins, 1996). Frames
coalesce through integrating internally accessible schemas
with features of the external task as it is encountered by the
perceiver, including its many layers of context: the place, the
people present, the relationships a perceiver carries into the sit-
uation, the institutionalized practices or activities surrounding
the task, and so forth. In its attention to the many roles of exter-
nal environmental structures, constructivism has much in com-
mon with sociocultural approaches (Cole, 1996) rooted in
Vygotsky’s (1962/1986) emphasis on the proximal environ-
ment and also with contemporary models of situated cognition
(Smith & Semin, 2007).
Within JDM research, constructivist approaches are not new.
A theoretical impetus of JDM research on economic decisions
(Kahneman & Tversky, 1984; Simon, 1957) is challenging the
economists’ assumption of stable, prestored preferences by
demonstrating that decisions depend on features of the decision
and task context. These features affect constructed preferences
through selective attention (Weber & Johnson, 2009) and mem-
ory processes, including activation of knowledge structures
(Weber & Johnson, 2006) and task environment conditioned
retrieval processes (Johnson, Haubl, & Keinan, 2007; Weber
et al., 2007). Likewise, research on social judgment and choice
emphasizes the role of contextual and task features in activating
schemas and of schemas in constraining attention and interpre-
tation (Higgins, 1996; Nisbett & Ross, 1980). The constructivist
turn in cultural psychology has the potential to inform JDM
literatures by drawing attention to a yet wider range of construc-
tive processes, especially ways in which choice schemas and
procedures are primed or reinforced by culturally specific
features of the social environment that provide the contexts of
judgment and decision making.
In this article, we review emerging constructivist, structuralist
accounts in several JDM areas. In the social domain, we con-
sider causal attribution judgments and conflict decisions.
Turning to the economic domain, we examine the literature
on overconfidence, risk perception, and the related area of
risky choice. Finally, we consider the fast-growing area of
intertemporal choice.
Causal Attributions
The ‘fundamental attribution error’ (Nisbett & Ross, 1980)
refers to excessive attention to others’ personal dispositions
as an explanation of their behavior while overlooking
situational causes. Cultures differ in this tendency in everyday
explanations (Miller, 1984) and judgments of causal relevance
(Choi, Dalal, Kim-Prieto, & Park, 2003). Morris and Peng
(1994) tested online causal perceptions with animated dis-
plays—for example, one fish swimming in front of others could
be traced to internal goals (leading) or situational pressure
(being chased)—and found that American perceivers attributed
more to the actor’s internal properties, whereas Chinese
perceivers attributed more to the situational context. Masuda
and Nisbett (2006) presented fish displays followed by a mem-
ory task and found that American perceivers remembered more
about the central figure in the scene and that East Asians
remembered more about the surrounding context. Similar
differences show in saccadic eye movements (H.F. Chua,
Boland, & Nisbett, 2005) and change detection accuracy
(Boduroglu, Shah, & Nisbett, 2009). In sum, starting with basic
visual attention and continuing to attribution of causality for
behavior, Westerners tend to focus in on the central figure,
whereas Easterners focus more broadly on the context.
Could this difference in constructive processing reflect
features in the environments of Western and East Asian perceiv-
ers? One feature that differs between the two cultures is
behavioral norms. First, perceivers observe different norms of
action. The contingencies of action differ—for instance,
personality accounts for more variance and situational con-
straints account for less variance in Britain as compared with
Japan (Argyle, Shimoda, & Little, 1978). Investigating differ-
ences in the press of situations across 35 countries, Gelfand and
collaborators (Gelfand, 2008; Gelfand, Nishii, & Raver, 2006)
found that perceived situational constraint is associated with
institutional ‘tightness’ (e.g., strictness of rule enforcement
by family, school, and legal institutions) and psychological
‘uptightness’ about situations (e.g., high impulse control, self-
monitoring, and prevention focus). Situational action norms may
give rise to situational attribution biases: Frequent observation of
situation-driven behavior would render perceivers’ situational-
causality schemas chronically accessible, and the accuracy
(or ecological rationality) of situational attributions would rein-
force their use as a default attributional strategy.
In addition to norms of action, settings also differ in
norms of judgment. Perceivers notice the modal attributions
of their peers and consciously and nonconsciously imitate
these strategies. Several recent studies find strikingly that
East–West differences in attribution are mediated less by per-
sonal beliefs in values or implicit theories than by perceived
norms of judgment or perceived consensus (Shteynberg,
Gelfand, & Kim, 2009; Zou et al., 2009). Consistent with
this, Chiu et al. (2000) found that culturally typical
attribution differences are most likely when individuals are
motivated to think consensually or conventionally
(Kruglanski, Pierro, Mannetti, & De Grada, 2006).
If the dynamic through which norms influence people is like
marination (immersion and slow permeation), then the influ-
ence of cultural primes is more like detonation (triggering an
internal buried device). Cultural tendencies in judgment can
be primed in two distinct ways. Direct semantic priming of
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individualism–collectivism, independence–interdependence,
and individuation–contextualization has been demonstrated by
engaging these schemas with prior tasks, such as reading and
commenting on stories (Trafimow, Triandis, & Goto, 1991) or
circling ‘I and ‘we’ (Gardner, Gabriel, & Lee, 1999). This
manipulation primes individuating and contextualizing process-
ing, even for nonsocial stimuli (Kuhnen & Oyserman, 2002;
Oyserman & Lee, 2008). East Asian environments contain
ubiquitous primes including collectivistically structured rela-
tionships, organizations, and institutions (Hofstede, 1991);
holistic intellectual and medical traditions (Nisbett, 2003);
and even contextually stimulating architecture and urban
design (Miyamoto, Nisbett, & Masuda, 2006). Self-
conceptions may also be differentially primed by distinctive
linguistic practices, such as the East Asian practices of drop-
ping first-person pronouns or addressing groups rather than
individuals (Kashima, 2008).
In addition to direct priming, there is indirect or associative
priming. In every culture there are representative emblems
and symbols—images, sounds, and activities—that act like
magnets of meaning in that they powerfully evoke or make
accessible other representations of the culture. For an Ameri-
can, the sound of jazz music, the taste of apple pie, or the sight
of a baseball game might stir up culturally related memories
and emotions, as well as independence, individualism, and
individuating schemas, not because of any semantic overlap,
but simply because these American icons are central nodes in
the cognitive network of American representations. Hong
et al. (2000) exposed Western-Chinese biculturals in Hong
Kong (HK) to iconic images of Western (Chinese) culture and
found shifts toward more dispositional (contextual) biases in
attributions. Cultural symbols are encountered not only
visually but verbally, in the subtle references to shared con-
cepts that ground ingroup conversations (Kashima, 2008). Fu
et al. (2007) showed that being primed by subtle verbal refer-
ences, like getting inside jokes, requires insider knowledge.
Chinese-American biculturals were primed by both American
references (e.g., ‘A game played with diamond, glove, and a
ball’ for baseball) and Chinese references (‘‘An underground
army’’ for the terra cotta soldiers of Xi’an), whereas monocul-
tural participants were only primed by references to their own
culture. In sum, associative priming can be triggered by the
culturally laden images and discourses that saturate a cultural
environment. Although the mechanism of behavioral norms
would contribute to the chronic accessibility of culturally
typical schemas, direct and associative priming would add
frequent bursts of enhanced temporary accessibility. Hence,
without positing fixed worldviews, it still may be the case that
these schemas shape frames of judgment much of the time.
Conflict Decisions
Cooperate or compete, accommodate or resist, conform or
dissent? Such decisions within social interactions involve con-
flict between collective interests and self interest. In ingroup
interactions, East Asians have a stronger tendency toward
collective-interest strategies than do Westerners (Triandis,
2001). These preferences may arise from Easterners’ broader
attentional focus and their more (charitably) contextualist
attributions (Morris, Leung, & Iyengar, 2004; Valenzuela,
Srivastava, & Lee, 2005). Also there is evidence that the
cross-national differences in group-oriented choices are
mediated by perceived norms beyond effects of personal values
(Ohbuchi & Saito, 2007; Zou et al., 2009), and, consistent with
the norm mechanism, differences are exhibited most when
individuals have motivations to think consensually or conven-
tionally (Fu et al., 2007). Priming is also important. In HK
biculturals, compromising tendencies are elicited by exposure
to collectivist (individualist) words (Briley & Wyer, 2002) or
Chinese (English) language instructions (Briley et al., 2000).
Questions about Chinese (American) holidays induced
Chinese-Americans toward more cooperative decisions in a
prisoner’s dilemma game and toward preferences for majority
rather than unique options in a set (LeBoeuf, Shafir, & Bayuk,
2009). Wong and Hong (2005) showed bicultural HK students
either Chinese (kung fu), American (football), or culturally
neutral pictures, and then gave them a prisoners’ dilemma
facing ingroup or outgroup counterparts. Cooperation was
highest in the Chinese prime condition for ingroup but not
outgroup counterparts; that is, more typically Chinese deci-
sions were made when the cultural schema was accessible and
applicable.
In addition to behavioral norms and primes, other environ-
mental properties may figure in culturally typical conflict deci-
sions. Particularly important in formal negotiations are the
constituencies to whom a negotiator must answer. Gelfand and
Realo (1999) argued that because accountability to audiences
with known views creates a tendency to adhere to these views
(Lerner & Tetlock, 1999), negotiators accountable to cultural
ingroups would adhere to cultural norms about conflict resolu-
tion. They found that such accountability made collectivistic
negotiators more cooperative, whereas it made individualistic
negotiators more competitive.
In informal conflicts, the pattern of greater Eastern ingroup
cooperation may reflect differences in social networks.
Because of higher population density and lower levels of geo-
graphic, social, and career mobility, Eastern societies feature
dense networks, meaning that a person’s associates or contacts
are likely to be themselves interconnected. Network surveys
show for instance that Chinese managers have denser profes-
sional networks than matched American managers (R.Y.J.
Chua, Morris, & Ingram, 2009). Density entails that relation-
ships are embedded within ties to mutually known third parties,
which enables reputational sanctioning against defection and
hence provides social insurance (Menon & Morris, 2001). The
pattern of Asians being more likely than Americans to avoid
conflict and compromise with friends but not with strangers has
been traced to different values (Leung, 1988), but it may
instead reflect decision frames constructed in response to dif-
ferent network contexts (Morris, Podolny, & Ariel, 2000).
Likewise, whereas Kim and Markus (1999) interpreted cultural
differences in preference for unique rather than majority
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options in terms of dispositional need for uniqueness, Yama-
gishi, Hashimoto, and Schug (2008) argued that Japanese
default to the collective-interest strategy because of the high
costs in dense networks being sanctioned for acting selfishly,
showing that the Japanese preference for majority options
declines when sanctioning is inapplicable (i.e., when the parti-
cipant is the last of the group to choose) or infeasible (when the
participant’s choice is anonymous). Similarly, Japanese in trust
games do not decide to trust more in general; they are more
likely to trust others with whom they have initiated a relation-
ship and they are less likely to trust strangers (Kuwabara et al.,
2007). In sum, a penchant to cooperate within enduring, com-
mitted relationships may be an equilibrium response to dense
networks.
Further research highlights the structure of interpersonal
interaction situations. In a research program on cultural differ-
ences in self-related emotions, Kitayama and colleagues
(Kitayama, Markus, Matsumoto, & Norasakkunkit, 1997;
Kitayama, Mesquita, & Karasawa, 2006; Morling, Kitayama, &
Miyamoto, 2002) sampled the everyday interaction situations
that Americans and Japanese experience most frequently, then
presented representative sets of described situations (with their
cultural provenance obscured) to fresh sets of participants, ask-
ing for their (simulated) response to each. They consistently
found situation–culture effects: American situations tend to
evoke feelings of self-enhancement and efficacy, and Japanese
situations tend to evoke self-critical feelings yet relatedness to
others. Kitayama et al. (1997) proposed that the American and
Japanese settings are conducive to these different modes of self
experience because they make different biased pools of sym-
bolic resources available for the construction of meanings and
emotional responses. Results also show participant–culture
effects in which Americans were generally more likely to exhi-
bit the independent-self responses and Japanese were more
likely to exhibit the interdependent responses, suggesting that
the responses afforded or invited by the modal situations in a
given society become default responses.
2
Taking this approach to the domain of conflict decisions,
Savani, Morris, Naidu, Kumar, and Berlia (in press) have pro-
posed that the situation-scapes found in America and those
found in India differentially reinforce accommodative
responses to influence attempts. Content analysis of sampled
situations showed that Indian influence attempts are twice as
likely to be driven by other-serving motives, whether sampled
from influencees or influencers. Participants were shown a
large set of representative Indian and American situations and
asked to report their expectation about the consequences of
accommodation and their decision to accommodate or not.
Results showed predicted situation–culture and participant–
culture effects; situations from India evoked more positive
expectations and more accommodation decisions, and Indian
participants generally accommodated more than did the Ameri-
can participants. It is interesting to note that the participant–
culture effect diminished over the many trials (with increasing
exposure to situations from the other culture), whereas the sit-
uation–culture effect did not. This suggests participants’
decision tendencies are tuned to the affordances of their
society’s situation-scape while still being dynamically adaptive
to recent experiences.
Confidence Judgments
Judging the accuracy of one’s beliefs is important in both social
and economic domains. Although overconfidence is present in
Western cultures, Yates, Lee, and Bush (1997) found it to be
stronger in East Asian societies (albeit not Japan). A common
strategy for constructing confidence judgments is comparing
reasons for and against one’s answer. Yates, Lee, and Shinot-
suka (1996) prompted American, Japanese, and Chinese
respondents to generate reasons that argued either for or against
the correctness of their answers to general knowledge
questions. For the Japanese and American sample, 48% and
41% of generated reasons were reasons that critically argued
against respondents’ answers. This was only true for 24% of
reasons for the Chinese sample. Yates et al. (1996) traces this
to differences in educational practices encouraging critical
thinking, which reinforce counterarguing as a mental habit.
Risk Perception
Perceptions of risk in a societal policy or choice option are not
just reflections of objective information; they are constructed
judgments that differ across individuals and cultures. Luce and
Weber (1986) proposed that such perceptions can be modeled
as conjoint expected risk (CER): the linear combination of the
probability of breaking even, of a gain, and of a loss; and the
conditional expectations of power-function transformed gains
and losses, respectively. The CER model captures both simila-
rities in people’s risk judgments (by a common functional form
through which probabilities and outcomes of risky options are
combined) and individual and group differences (by model
parameters that reflect the relative attention and thus weight
given to different components). When the CER model was
fitted to financial risk judgments of business students and
security analysts in HK, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and the
United States, the differences in model parameters corre-
sponded to a Chinese–Western division (Bontempo, Bottom, &
Weber, 1997) consistent with country level differences in
uncertainty avoidance (Hofstede, 1991). Also, positive out-
comes reduced risk perceptions less for the Chinese than it did
for the Western samples, and the magnitude of losses had a
larger effect on the risk perceptions for the Chinese samples.
The psychometric paradigm (Slovic, Fischhoff, &
Lichtenstein, 1986) treats risk perception as a multidimensional
construct, incorporating more than just possible outcomes and
their probabilities. Laypeople’s perceptions of risk are system-
atically biased (compared with experts) in the way they
overweight risk associated with infrequent, catastrophic, and
involuntary events and underweight the risk associated with
frequent, familiar, and voluntary events. Although some cul-
tural differences in risk perception for technological hazards
have been found, respondents across countries or cultures seem
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to share the same factor structure. Differences in where cultures
placed a particular hazard (e.g., nuclear power) within this fac-
tor space are interpretable given their specific national expo-
sures and socioeconomic concerns (see Weber & Hsee, 2000).
Hypotheses about cultural differences in perceptions of
technology hazards and other societal risks follow from
Douglas and Wildavsky’s (1982) theory that, through
collective-level processes of selectively attending and ignoring
evidence, cultures construe particular activities as dangerous in
order to maintain their structure of social relationships and cor-
responding cultural worldviews. According to the theory, indi-
vidualist cultures where people interact according to market
logic should dismiss risks of environmental catastrophe from
overconsumption, as it suggests failure of market institutions,
yet should exaggerate risks associated with socialized medi-
cine. Hierarchist cultures should minimize the risk of nuclear
power, as such technologies inherently involve deference to
experts, yet should exaggerate the dangers of civil disobe-
dience, as this empowers nonelites. While rejecting the func-
tionalist assumptions of Douglas and Wildavsky’s theory,
researchers have investigated its assertions about the affinities
between particular risk perceptions and worldviews by survey-
ing individual and group differences. Dake (1991) found indi-
vidual differences in social attitudes related to the cultural
dimensions correlated systematically with perceived political
and technological risks (albeit not with economic risks). Much
evidence suggests that White males have more individualistic
and hierarchist attitudes and more reduced perceptions of tech-
nological risks than do other Americans (e.g., Finucane et al.,
2000). In a representative sample of Americans (Kahan,
Braman, Gastil, Slovic, & Mertz, 2007), attitudinal measures
of cultural worldviews predicted perceived policy risks beyond
that predicted by race and gender. Results suggest risk percep-
tions are distorted by identity-protective motivated reasoning.
A question for future research is to what extent the distinctive
cultural attitudes and risk perceptions of White males are
evoked constructively by their distinctive interaction, relation-
ship, and institutional structures.
Risky Choice
Preference for risk in the financial domain has traditionally
been modeled within the expected utility framework, inferring
risk aversion or risk seeking from the shape of the utility func-
tion inferred from a set of choices. However, alternative forma-
lizations exist, including the risk–return framework (Weber &
Milliman, 1997), in which willingness to pay (WTP) for a risky
option is seen as a compromise between the option’s return and
its risk, a tradeoff between greed and fear. Whereas finance
models equate ‘return’ with the expected value of the option
and ‘risk’ with its variance and assume that decision makers
seek to minimize the risk of a portfolio for a given level of
expected return, psychophysical models treat risk and return
as psychological variables that can vary as a function of situa-
tional contexts, including cultural settings. Weber and Hsee
(1998) presented American, German, Polish, and Chinese
participants with a set of financial investment options and mea-
sured WTP and perceived riskiness, finding cross-national dif-
ferences on both. Chinese showed lowest risk perception and
highest WTP, and Americans were the opposite extreme. In a
regression of WTP on expected return and perceived risk, the
coefficient on perceived risk (i.e., risk attitude) did not differ
as a function of nationality. Cross-national differences in WTP
were completely accounted for by those in risk perception.
How is it that Chinese and Americans construct and act on
different perceptions of the same financial choice options?
Compelling evidence suggests the perceived risk of financial
choices depends on the implicit context of the decision maker’s
social network (Weber & Hsee, 1999). Collectivist societies are
often described as tightly knit social fabrics in which individu-
als are suspended in a web of interdependent relationships.
Hsee and Weber (1999) compared the size and nature of social
networks of students in the United States, the People’s Repub-
lic of China, and a range of other Western countries and found
that economic support networks tend to be larger in collectivist
settings than they are in individualist settings. Recent research
reveals that, compared with Americans, Chinese managers’
economic support relationships overlap more with their friend-
ships and are more likely to be imbued with affective trust; in
short, Chinese society involves more relationships combining
economic support and affectivity, like family ties (R.Y.J. Chua,
Morris, & Ingram, 2009). The cushion hypothesis (Weber &
Hsee, 1998) argues that large networks of these economic
support ties insure individuals against financial worst-case out-
comes, and Hsee and Weber (1999) found that the size of this
network mediated cross-cultural differences in risk prefer-
ences. The cushion hypothesis also correctly predicted that
cross-cultural differences in risk preference between Chinese
and Americans were restricted to outcomes that can be trans-
ferred between members of a network (i.e., money, but not
health or grades; Hsee & Weber, 1999).
Weber, Hsee, and Sokolowska (1998) compared the content
of Chinese and American proverbs, using ratings by both
Chinese and American evaluators, to gain further insight into
the sources of cultural differences in risk taking—in particular,
whether observed differences in behavior reflect long-standing
differences in cultural values or differences in the current
socio-economic or political situation. Regardless of the nation-
ality of the raters, Chinese proverbs were judged to advise
greater risk taking than American proverbs, suggesting that
observed differences in risk-taking stem, at least in part, from
norms encoded in traditional teachings. In addition, Chinese
raters perceived both Chinese and American proverbs to advo-
cate greater risk taking than did American raters, but only for
financial risks and not for social risks, as expected because col-
lective financial (or material) risk insurance requires that social
networks will be maintained and social risks avoided.
Intertemporal Choice
Economic choices often involve dilemmas between options
that vary in amount and timing. Surprisingly little research has
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examined cultural influences on intertemporal choice, given
that cultures differ in perceptions of time, attitudes towards
time, and valuation of the long term (Gell, 1992; Hoftstede,
1991). Researchers may assume that the drivers of people’s dis-
counting of delayed outcomes are mostly biological and
thus (more) universal across cultures. A hyperbolic discount
function, which models steep discounting for initial delays and
more moderate discounting for subsequent delays, seems to fit
not just human choices but those of a wide range of other
species (Green & Myerson, 2004). For instance, a recent
paper reporting Japanese studies of delay discounting does
not consider cultural influence (Ohmura, Takahashi, &
Kitamura, 2005).
Yet there is also much evidence that delay decisions vary
with individual and contextual differences, suggesting they
involve constructive processing and not just hardwired biologi-
cal responses. Age greatly affects delay discounting (Read &
Read, 2004). Discounting is greater for delayed gains than
for losses, for smaller outcomes than for larger outcomes, and
for health than for monetary or environmental outcomes
(Hardisty & Weber, 2009). Discounting is also lower in the
context of accelerating consumption than it is for delaying con-
sumption (Weber et al., 2007). Further, the link between Asian
cultures and patience is suggested by the higher savings rates
and educational attainments among Asian-Americans in com-
parison with White Americans (Springstead & Wilson, 2000;
Sue & Okazaki, 1990). An initial test by Du, Green, and
Myerson (2002) compared American, Chinese, and Japanese
graduate students in the United States in both an intertemporal
and a risky choice task. The risky choice results replicated
Weber and Hsee’s (1998) results (i.e., the Chinese were signif-
icantly less risk averse than the Americans and Japanese stu-
dents). The intertemporal choice results showed hyperbolic
discount functions for all three groups, but Americans and
Chinese discounted delayed rewards more than the Japanese.
Cross-national differences in pace of life are unable to account
for these differences, as Japan and Western countries are simi-
larly fast-paced (Levine & Norenzayan, 1999). On measures of
long-term orientation (Hofstede, 1991), Japan scores far higher
than the U.S. but so do the culturally Chinese countries. So
what features of Japanese communities may be conducive to
cultural patience? Perhaps their financial-support networks are,
if not larger, more enduring and this cushions against delay.
Also, it may be that Chinese societies as well as Japanese soci-
eties have relational and institutional structures conducive to
patience, yet Chinese graduate students in the U.S. are
comparatively more cut off from these than are their Japanese
counterparts. More research is needed, and constructivist anal-
yses call our attention to the influence of decision makers’ pres-
ent, proximal environment and not just their cultural heritage.
Evidence that Chinese culture supports financial patience
like other East Asian cultures comes from priming studies
with bicultural populations. Chen, Ng, and Rao (2005) exposed
bicultural Singaporean students to Western (vs. Singaporean)
icons and found they increased several measures of impatience,
including WTP for 1-day book delivery as opposed to 5-day
book delivery. Benjamin, Choi, and Strickland (in press) made
Asian-Americans’ ethnic identity salient by varying the pres-
ence of questions about family languages and immigration his-
tory within a background questionnaire and then presented
them with dozens of intertemporal choices, finding that Asian
identity salience begets more patient choices.
Insights From the Constructivist Approach
Although cultural constructivist research is just beginning in
some areas of JDM, our review illustrates ways in which this
approach elucidates novel aspects of cultural influences. Two
distinguishing features of the constructivist view are its empha-
sis on the dynamics of schema activation and the external
features of social environments that play numerous roles in
perpetuating cultural patterns of judgments and decisions.
The premise that cultural representations are dynamic sche-
mas rather than ever-present personality traits has sensitized
researchers to the variability in how much a person’s cultural
background affects his or her judgments and decisions from
one occasion to the next. The notion that cultural representa-
tions are not always active also enables an understanding of
how bicultural or polycultural individuals can be fluent in more
than one culture without simply blending their biases. In these
ways, the premise of dynamic representations moves cultural
psychology away from some simplifying assumptions of the
trait model that bordered on stereotyping.
The assumption of dynamism has opened up new topics of
research. Whereas previously mixed findings with different
task conditions discouraged cultural researchers, for construc-
tivists task context effects suggest insights about how the
cultural influence operates. The question has shifted from
‘Does culture matter?’’ to ‘‘When does culture matter?’’ Some
task conditions (attentional load) increase reliance on prior
knowledge rather than attention to stimulus details. Some
response formats (requiring reasons) lead people to recruit ver-
balizable decision rules rather than more intuitive perceptual
processes. Hence, for constructivists, the conditions under
which a cultural difference appears and disappears are proba-
tive to what cultural representations or environmental features
are at play in the frames that produce the cultural difference.
The constructivist emphasis on dynamism underlies the
method of studying bicultural participants with priming experi-
ments. This method is appealing to JDM researchers, as it has
greater internal validity than is possible in comparative, quasi-
experimental studies. It has also elucidated the psychological
process of switching between cultural frames in response
to situational cues. This process is by no means unique to
biculturals—it is descriptive of anyone who balances a cultural
identity with other identities. Constructivism views people as
active rather than passive in the interpretations that guide their
responses, and hence predicts that conscious and nonconscious
motivations moderate individuals’ assimilation to salient
cultural cues (Briley, Morris, & Simonson, 2005; Fu et al.,
2007). Moreover, recent research documents reactance to
cultural primes in the judgments of biculturals with
Culture and JDM 415
415
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disidentification motives or conflicted identities (Benet-
Martinez, Leu, Lee, & Morris, 2002; Zou, Morris, & Benet-
Martinez, 2008).
Other insights relate to the constructivist emphasis on the
role of external environments. The notion that cultural habits
of thinking in some ways are reflections of cultural environ-
ments suggests that adopting those of another culture may not
always require the traumatic process of internalizing a new
worldview. Intriguing evidence shows that Western sojourners
in Japan take on East Asian processes of attending to context,
even in nonsocial judgments (Kitayama, Duffy, Kawamura, &
Larsen, 2003). Perhaps only moderate familiarity with a culture
is enough to begin marinating in its behavioral norms and
thereby internalizing some of its norms of judgment. Sojourners
would also experience priming from the environment, such as
the direct semantic priming or all the associative priming that
affects natives. Although sojourners are likely excused from
social sanctioning for many norm violations, to the extent that
a culture’s situations directly present rewards that reinforce par-
ticular response tendencies, newcomers to a culture should also
be acculturated this way. Overall, some external mechanism of
cultural influence may help newcomers swiftly take on some
cultural patterns of judgment and decision making.
The emphasis on external carriers of culture also suggests
novel insights about persistence and change in cultural pat-
terns. Persistence across generations is a defining feature of
cultural patterns. A trait-centered view, like national character
theories in anthropology, accounts for persistence in terms of
the early inculcation of traits that reproduce themselves by
shaping childrearing in the next generational cycle. An empha-
sis on external carriers of culture, instead, elucidates that much
of the persistence of cultural patterns arises from the continuity
of institutions, texts, practices, and designs. Also, structures of
interaction, like game-theoretic equilibria, can become self-
sustaining through the incentive structures they create (Yama-
gishi et al., 2008).
Constructivist emphasis on external carriers of culture also
elucidates cultural change. Cultural values and practices
sometimes shift dramatically, even within a generation. For
instance, when tendencies are perpetuated by people’s adher-
ence to perceived behavioral norms, then shifts in the behavior
of a fraction of the community can cascade into larger shifts in
constructed preferences, as the perceived norm passes its
tipping point (Cohen, 2001). This dynamic suggests quite dif-
ferent strategies for fostering change than are implied by a view
of cultural preferences as expressing deeply inculcated values.
Future Research Directions
A challenge ahead for cultural constructivist research is map-
ping the mechanisms that underlie different cultural patterns
of judgments and decisions. Such mapping should also be done
for more than a single behavior at a time, to see which different
cultural affordances and/or values determine which clusters of
behavior. Whereas there has been a fair amount of research on
risky choice, there is a need for more cultural research on
intertemporal choice and its connection to other tasks (e.g.,
risky choice). There is also a need for research that looks at
connections between JDM in the social and economic domains.
It is unfortunate that these two lines of inquiry have advanced
in parallel—largely published in different sets of journals—
when they would have benefitted more from mutually inform-
ing each other.
There is a need for more research that investigates (rather
than casually invokes) external structural mechanisms. For
instance, Chinese social networks are more dense, enduring,
and multiplex than American social networks, and these are
independent dimensions (Morris, Podolny, & Sullivan,
2008), so researchers need to test which features of networks
relate to particular judgment and decision biases. Finally,
there is a need for research integrating constructivist mechan-
isms with trait mechanisms. Some cultural differences in
behavior are more directed by values and some by norms
(Fischer et al, 2009), and it is likely that the same is true for
differences in JDM.
Conclusion
Research on JDM has traditionally focused on the contextual
factors that influence on-line constructive processes. Individual
differences and, by extension, cultural differences conceptua-
lized as value- or trait-based differences in judgment and
choice have gotten short(er) shrift. The movement of reconcep-
tualizing cultural differences from differences in modal person-
alities to differences in constructive processes, cued and
maintained by differences in the structure of a culture’s social
environment, should result in a much closer alignment of the
explanatory frameworks of JDM and culture research, with the
hope for more fruitful interactions.
Notes
1. Weber and Hsee (2000) tallied the rate of economic judgment and
choice articles in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology and of
cultural articles in the economic JDM journals Organizational
Behavior and Human Decision Processes and Journal of
Behavioral Decision Making for the two decades from 1976 to
1995. Following their method, we tallied the same for 2000–
2009. In the culture journal for both periods, we tallied social JDM
and narrowly defined it as person judgments and interaction
choices (excluding self-judgments, face perception, attitudes, val-
ues, or stereotypes, etc.). Finally, we also tallied the rate of cultural
articles for both periods in a social JDM journal, Journal of Perso-
nality and Social Psychology.
2. Gibson (1979) defined affordances as directly perceived invar-
iances in the person–environment relationship; for example, retinal
optical flow indicates direction of heading and thereby affords
wayfinding (Warren, Morris, & Kalish, 1988). Kitayama’s con-
structivist account is more compatible with Baron and Boudreau’s
(1987) definition of social affordances as everything an interaction
invites subjectively or objectively, which encompasses many dif-
ferent specific mechanisms such as priming and sanctioning.
416 Weber and Morris
416
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Acknowledgments
We thank Michele Gelfand for her constructive feedback and patience.
We thank Sooyun Baik and Ilona Fridman for their help with our
literature search and trend analysis.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The authors declared that they had no conflicts of interest with respect
to their authorship or the publication of this article.
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... Whether the unique regional culture creates a 29 influence enterprise decisions (Hambrick & Mason, 1984). The existing research on the 23 characteristics of senior managers and corporate behaviour or performance focuses on 24 dominant features of the executives-namely, age, gender, and educational level-while 25 ignoring the exploration of recessive and periodic features such as the zodiac year. Based on 26 upper echelons theory, this study uses the recessive characteristics of the 12-year cycle zodiac 27 year as an entry point to identify the factors influencing CIE, which not only expands the scope 28 of application of upper echelons theory but also enriches the connotation of upper echelons 29 theory. ...
... It plays a key 22 role in shaping individual preferences and moral behaviour (Harrison & Huntington, 2013). 23 Informal institutions such as social customs and cultural traditions also influence business 24 decision-makers, who demonstrate different decision-making styles and exhibit behavioural 25 characteristics, which then affect corporate business behaviour. In addition to formal 26 institutions, informal institutions such as culture, social norms, and traditional customs also 27 currently exert a significant effect on company operations, as viewed from a general academic with widespread influences or a relatively indistinct division and high subjectivity. ...
... This perception then alters their risk appetite 17 both for a brief period and cyclically, setting an implicit constraint on their behaviour. From the 18 perspective of behavioural decision theory, the zodiac year is an important factor influencing 19 the psychological deviation and limited rationality of senior managers; in addition, it is mainly 20 embodied in risk cognition and risk appetite (Weber et al., 1998;Weber & Morris, 2010). 21 Studies show that uncertainty interferes with rational thinking, prompting individuals to 22 become more anxious and sensitive to risks (Tversky & Kahneman, 1982). ...
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