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Cultural factors and the international space station


Abstract and Figures

The American and Russian/Soviet space programs independently uncovered psychosocial risks inherent in long-duration space missions. Now that these two countries are working together on the International Space Station (ISS), American-Russian cultural differences pose an additional set of risk factors. These may echo cultural differences that have been observed in the general population of the two countries and in space analogue settings, but little is known about how relevant these are to the select population of space program personnel. The evidence for the existence of mission-relevant cultural differences is reviewed and includes cultural values, emotional expressivity, personal space norms, and personality characteristics. The review is focused primarily on Russia and the United States, but also includes other ISS partner countries. Cultural differences among space program personnel may have a wide range of effects. Moreover, culture-related strains may increase the probability of distress and impairment. Such factors could affect the individual and interpersonal functioning of both crewmembers and mission control personnel, whose performance is also critical for mission safety and success. Examples from the anecdotal and empirical literature are given to illustrate these points. The use of existing assessment strategies runs the risk of overlooking important early warning signs of behavioral health difficulties. By paying more attention to cultural differences and how they might be manifested, we are more likely to detect problems early while they are still mild and resolvable.
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Cultural Factors and the International Space Station
Jennifer Boyd Ritsher
RITSHER JB. Cultural factors and the International Space Station.
Aviat Space Environ Med 2005; 76(6, Suppl.):B135–44.
The American and Russian/Soviet space programs independently un-
covered psychosocial risks inherent in long-duration space missions.
Now that these two countries are working together on the International
Space Station (ISS), American-Russian cultural differences pose an ad-
ditional set of risk factors. These may echo cultural differences that have
been observed in the general population of the two countries and in
space analogue settings, but little is known about how relevant these are
to the select population of space program personnel. The evidence for
the existence of mission-relevant cultural differences is reviewed and
includes cultural values, emotional expressivity, personal space norms,
and personality characteristics. The review is focused primarily on Rus-
sia and the United States, but also includes other ISS partner countries.
Cultural differences among space program personnel may have a wide
range of effects. Moreover, culture-related strains may increase the
probability of distress and impairment. Such factors could affect the
individual and interpersonal functioning of both crewmembers and
mission control personnel, whose performance is also critical for mis-
sion safety and success. Examples from the anecdotal and empirical
literature are given to illustrate these points. The use of existing assess-
ment strategies runs the risk of overlooking important early warning
signs of behavioral health difficulties. By paying more attention to
cultural differences and how they might be manifested, we are more
likely to detect problems early while they are still mild and resolvable.
Keywords: culture, spaceflight, mental health.
“WITHOUT A DOUBT, in our country it is much
easier to form a crew for a long-duration space
mission than in capitalist countries. [We] are collectiv-
ists by nature.”—Yuri Gagarin (20).
A generation ago, the “space race” between America
and the U.S.S.R./Russia showed the world that these
two very different cultures could successfully mount
complex human missions to space. Each side discov-
ered over time that psychological factors could pose a
serious threat to crew well-being and, ultimately, to
mission success (4,12,39). Both astronauts and cosmo-
nauts are selected for hardiness but experience great
stress. Thus it is natural that during the 30 yr of space
stations, the experience of distress has not been uncom-
mon on long-duration missions (40,72). Personal, inter-
personal, and behavioral anomalies have resulted
Now that the Russian and American space programs
are partners on joint projects such as the International
Space Station (ISS), they are faced with additional psy-
chological risk factors arising from the fact that mem-
bers of these two different cultures are now working
together. International collaboration also offers poten-
tial benefits, such as a wider repertoire of skills and
experiences among team members (122), but the
present paper will focus solely on the potential mental
health risk posed by having international teams. Unlike
Shuttle-Mir or Apollo-Soyuz missions, ISS missions are
fully international. Each crew contains at least one as-
tronaut and one cosmonaut, and the station itself con-
tains both Russian and American segments. Russian
and American mission control centers jointly direct the
operations, and Russian and American science experi-
ments are given equal priority. Other nations have con-
tributed station elements, crewmembers, support, and
experiments as well. Historically, both the American
and Russian space programs have had numerous mis-
sions with international and multicultural crews, and
each side brings the benefit of this experience to bear on
their current interactions.
For the sake of brevity and clarity, the focus here is
primarily focused on differences between Russian and
American cultures. This is the most salient cultural
contrast in the ISS program because these two countries
have been responsible for all human access to space
stations, and because crewmembers from other coun-
tries are primarily trained within either the American or
Russian program and are, thus, oriented toward one of
these two dominant cultures. Moreover, there is a much
more substantial literature on mission-relevant Rus-
sian-American cultural differences than on other cultur-
ally contrasting groups.
The risk factors associated with international space
program teams may reflect the specific Russian-Amer-
ican cultural differences that have been observed in the
general populations of the two countries and in space
analogue settings, but little is known about whether
these particular cultural differences also occur to the
same extent among the select population of space pro-
gram personnel. It is important to generate and test
specific hypotheses based on objective data in order to
avoid stereotyping and over-generalizing. As with
other group-level differences such as gender differ-
ences, the variability within groups can be larger than
the variability between groups. Therefore, on a partic-
ular team, contrasts in personality or other individual
idiosyncrasies may produce more strain than cultural
factors. Still, group-level information can be useful if it
provides a meaningful increase in our ability to under-
stand and predict important mental health and perfor-
From the Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San
Francisco, and the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center,
San Francisco, CA.
Address reprint requests to: Jennifer Boyd Ritsher, Ph.D., 4150
Clement Street (116A), San Francisco, CA 94121;
Reprint & Copyright © by Aerospace Medical Association, Alexan-
dria, VA.
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mance issues that could affect international teams. It is
hoped that the present review will help to focus and
encourage such work.
There is already evidence that Russian-American dif-
ferences have actually affected joint missions
(38,42,50,51). For example, members of our group and
others found that during the Shuttle-Mir Program,
there were systematic Russian-American differences in
the style of relationships between crewmembers and
mission control staff, with Russian crewmembers pre-
ferring more crew self-reliance and seeing their inter-
personal environment on board the station as more
supportive (50). Anecdotal evidence underscores that
such differences appear to have been a source of tension
and disagreement that strained the international crew’s
ability to mount an optimally unified, efficient response
to the emergencies that occurred on the Mir (8,51). The
situation on Mir was different from the ISS in terms of
the high degree of cultural isolation of the American
crewmembers, who were always in the minority and
had relatively rare contact with their compatriots on the
ground (42,43,64). The extent to which such differences
reflect culture, as opposed to situation, is not known.
The ISS is a better laboratory for studying the effects of
culture because the two space programs are on more of
an equal footing in terms of the scale of their contribu-
tion to the environment. As described above, it is a
more truly international setting. In an ongoing study,
our group is testing whether the Russian-American dif-
ferences found during Shuttle-Mir are also found in the
ISS program (40,88).
The psychology, sociology, anthropology, and busi-
ness literatures have documented an array of Russian-
American differences in the general population along
dimensions that are potentially relevant to long-dura-
tion space station missions. While it is important to
avoid over-generalizing from these, they provide an
empirical basis from which to generate testable hypoth-
eses about how they might be observed among space
program personnel. What are some of these differences,
and how might they affect the mental health status of
crewmembers during a long-duration mission?
Potentially Mission-Relevant Russian/American Cultural
Cultural values: There is a large body of research
showing that there are reliable differences in values
between cultures, such as between the United States
and Russia (5,34,36,100). Cultural values are the shared
beliefs about what is right or desirable within a society
(e.g., collectivism, individualism, hierarchy, harmony).
Differences in cultural values are important because
they reflect individuals’ motivations and predict indi-
viduals’ behavior (102,104).
As noted in the introductory quote by Yuri Gagarin
(20), even the first person in space recognized cultural
values as relevant to long-duration spaceflight and as a
potentially important difference between the two cul-
tures’ space programs in particular. Indeed, cross-na-
tional studies show that compared with Americans or
to Western Europeans, Russians tend to value individ-
ualism less, and to value collectivism, power, distance,
paternalism, and uncertainty avoidance more
(5,74,83,116). These studies used Hofstede’s classic di-
mensions (34) and include data collected after the So-
viet era. Building on the pioneering work of Hofstede,
Schwartz and colleagues have validated a structural
model of cultural values across dozens of nations
(101,108). In a recent study using Schwartz’ country-
level value dimensions and a comparison of former
communist countries to Western European countries,
Schwartz and Bardi found that Eastern European coun-
tries such as Russia are more embedded (collectivist),
more hierarchical, less egalitarian, less mastery-ori-
ented, and less interested in intellectual or affective
autonomy (103). Another more sociological program of
research on cultural values has been conducted by
Inglehart and colleagues (36,37,103). Russia scores
higher on being survival-oriented and lower on well-
being compared with the United States and other ISS
countries. Plots of multi-country data along Hofstede’s,
Schwartz’, and Inglehart’s dimensions all show that
Russia is clearly discrepant from the other countries
involved with the ISS, lying far from them on multidi-
mensional plots of basic value orientations (36,81,100).
As Yuri Gagarin pointed out 35 yr ago, cultural values
like collectivism affect psychosocial functioning in ways
relevant to space missions (20). People in cultures such
as Russia who score high on collectivism tend to have a
more interdependent sense of self, more context-sensi-
tivity, a stronger focus on group-enhancing goals, and a
stronger focus on avoiding negative outcomes rather
than achieving positive outcomes (17,22,54,93,103,116).
Although aerospace personnel in different countries
are selected using similar criteria (task aptitude, etc.),
these criteria do not include basic cultural values, which
typically are shared with the selectors (32). Thus, cross-
national differences are likely to persist throughout a
typical selection and training process (32). Studies of
airline crews show substantial cross-national differ-
ences in cultural values that affect behaviors, decisions,
and errors in the cockpit (32,33,68). For example, collec-
tivism is associated with the degree to which pilots
prefer a hierarchical command structure, clear rules and
procedures, and reliance on automation (33). Extremes
on these dimensions, such as uncritical reliance on pro-
cedures, can reduce safety, as can the miscommunica-
tion and role confusion engendered by differences
along these dimensions between members of interna-
tional crews (32,33).
Differences in cultural values may be behind the
operational and group climate differences that have
been observed between Russian and American space
programs (50). For example, the training for space sta-
tion crews tends to be more didactic in Russia and more
hands-on in the United States (52). Moreover, our group
found Russian-American differences in leader support,
task orientation, work pressure, and managerial control
among Shuttle-Mir personnel (43). A more systematic
investigation into the extent of value differences among
space program personnel could clarify the reasons be-
hind stylistic differences, help predict potentially trou-
blesome issues, and work to prevent misunderstand-
ings and tension on international teams.
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Subjective well-being: Subjective well-being refers here
to perceived mental health and also its opposite, mental
distress. The international scientific literature on gen-
eral population samples has shown repeatedly using
various techniques that distress levels tend to be ele-
vated among Russians, but it is unknown if this is
relevant to the select sub-population of space program
personnel (28,31,82,91,106,107). Inglehart’s group found
that Russians experienced a dramatic drop in their al-
ready-low levels of subjective well-being between 1981
and 1990, and again between 1990 and 1995 (36). Coun-
tries that score higher on collectivism, are formerly
communist, and have a lower per capita income also
tend to score lower on measures of subjective well-
being (10,16,37). Because economic, political, and social
changes have been taking place rapidly in recent years
in Russia, these associations may be less relevant now,
and their relevance to space program personnel is as yet
unknown. Furthermore, any apparent difference may
be caused by the fact that Russians and Americans may
react somewhat differently to psychological assessment
methods (86,89).
Emotional expressivity: Emotional expressivity norms
vary greatly across cultures, and on average Russians are
relatively more expressive than Americans and people
from other Western countries (47). When the Minnesota
Multiphasic Personality Inventory was re-normed for the
Russian population, the threshold for clinical significance
had to be raised on the depression scale because Russians
were more willing to report depressive experiences (89).
Research shows that in contrast to Americans, Russians
tend not to feel the need to suppress negative emotions or
to display exaggerated or fabricated positive emotions
during routine interactions such as at the workplace
(66,123). In two multi-country comparison studies, Rus-
sians were the most extreme in their willingness to display
negative emotions such as hostility and dysphoria (13,66).
These differences were found when interacting with col-
leagues but not with strangers (66). Russians also were the
most extreme at displaying positive emotions such as joy
and happiness (13,66). These differences in emotional dis-
play norms may affect the work of international teams
and are well known to the international expatriate busi-
ness community in Russia (11,70,113,115,126). Although
this appears to be a relatively pervasive and enduring
aspect of Russian culture, recent changes in the Russian
business culture may be attenuating this difference, and
its relevance for space crews has not been formally docu-
For space program personnel, the impact of differing
emotional expression norms is likely to be complex. For
example, cosmonauts may display greater expressivity
in their personal relationships but may be more reluc-
tant than astronauts to report negative emotional states
to outsiders (50). In general, in addition to the strains
associated with two historically rival organizations
learning to work together, it seems likely that that
strains associated with differences in emotional expres-
sion norms have affected the working relationships be-
tween members of the Russian and American space
programs. Such strains potentially could have affected
the morale and behavior of the individuals and groups
Privacy and personal space norms: Privacy and personal
space norms are also likely to differ between American
and Russian space program personnel. Such differences
have clear implications for long-duration missions in
isolated and confined environments because they can
trigger conflict in multicultural groups (2,46,63). There
is not even a word for “privacy” in Russian, and little
concept of it (14,85). The closest Russian terms back-
translate into English as aloneness, seclusion, solitude,
keeping secret, and loneliness. Americans living in Rus-
sia commonly remark on what they perceive as the
intrusiveness of their Russian colleagues, such as tele-
phoning with work-related questions late at night.
When Americans express a wish for private time, Rus-
sians may interpret this as indicating that the American
is unwell, unfriendly, or offended. Such differences in
privacy norms could become difficult on a small space
station (46,112). Again, it has not been established
whether these differences exist among actual ISS crew-
Personal space norms are also likely to be quite dif-
ferent (63). Russians tend to be more accustomed than
Americans to living in small spaces, having minimal
personal belongings, and living and working in close
physical proximity to others (14,85). In part, this is a
direct legacy of Soviet-era regulations [e.g., govern-
ment-issued apartments allotted less than 11 square
yards of living space per person nationwide (14)]. Liv-
ing space norms may be changing as it becomes more
common to live in houses outside of the city rather than
in urban apartments, but this is still rare and would
mainly affect the psychology of the cohort of Russians
who are currently children. In a recent study, I noted
that Russians still tend to live in small spaces: the
average person in a sample of Russian adults lived in a
three-person household in a one-bedroom apartment
[n 180; mean household 3.1 persons (SD 1.2),
mean rooms 2.4 (SD 0.9)] (87). Although this was an
urban, psychiatric sample, it was demographically very
similar to the general population (23–25, 87). Even in
small towns and villages, it is normative throughout
Russia and the former U.S.S.R. to live in apartments or
houses that would be considered small or crowded by
American standards. The finding of an average of about
one person per room in Russia is in contrast to the
national American norm of less than 0.5 persons per
room (121). Even in Manhattan, where living spaces are
small, about 90% of households are spacious enough to
have fewer than one person per room (120). The same is
true for Houston, where many space program person-
nel live (119). This suggests that, on average, Russian
crewmembers might be expected to adapt more readily
to living in close proximity to others in the relatively
small volume of a space station.
Compounding the issue of personal space and pri-
vacy are differences in personal hygiene norms. Amer-
icans tend to bathe more frequently than many other
cultural groups, including Russians. This difference is
reflected in the hygiene products and procedures con-
sidered standard in each space program, with the
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Americans using more water for this purpose (52). In-
ternational surveys and anecdotal reports stress that
differences in hygiene norms can be a source of annoy-
ance and interpersonal tension among space crews
Personality: Another potentially mission-relevant dif-
ference has to do with the prevalence of personality
types. A fundamental five-factor structure of personal-
ity has proven to be remarkably invariant across cul-
tures (67) and has been validated in Russia (80). This
means that the basic structure of personality has cross-
cultural validity. Although the dimensions appear to be
universal, the average scores on them vary across cul-
tures (7). Compared with other nations, Americans tend
to score especially high on Extraversion and Openness,
which are likely to be low among Russians
Astronauts are selected to be a homogeneous group
along a variety of personality dimensions, but they
have been shown to vary on some dimensions to the
same degree as people in the general population, and
they may, therefore, be expected to reflect their national
culture in these respects (71). These dimensions include
Extraversion, Openness, and Expressivity (71). Extra-
version has been related to subjective well-being in the
general population (99). Openness has been related to
performance in cross-cultural settings (61). Extraversion
and Openness are likely to be consequential for inter-
national space missions because they have been related
to performance during isolated and confined missions
in Antarctica, in space station simulators, and in terms
of astronaut peer ratings (71,78,92). Expressivity has
been related to coping and mission success (95,96) and
is, therefore, of potential relevance to this population.
Our group’s prior research on personnel involved in the
Shuttle-Mir Program found that Russians seemed to be
more reactive than Americans: when reporting a critical
incident, Russian participants rated the impact of the
incident on themselves and their group to be stronger
than the ratings given by Americans, although this
difference could not be confirmed statistically given the
small samples (43). If confirmed, this finding may be
related to cultural differences in Expressivity. In gen-
eral, it is likely that the combination of personalities in
a crew will affect its style of functioning. If certain
personality types are more common in Russians vs.
Americans, this should be taken into account in com-
posing compatible teams.
Foreign language competence: Foreign language compe-
tence is likely to be stronger, on average, among Rus-
sians than Americans. Americans are notorious among
other developed nations for having especially low rates
of foreign language competence, knowledge, and curi-
osity about other countries (6,73,84). Two prior studies
show that Russian space program personnel tend to be
more flexible than their American counterparts regard-
ing working in bilingual teams (42,46). A discrepancy in
foreign language skills reportedly was one of the factors
that provoked a fistfight between crewmembers on a
recent space station simulation (51). Although this
study did not include American crewmembers, the in-
cident demonstrates the importance of language skills
and multicultural competence to crew well-being on
international missions. Our group is currently collect-
ing data on the culture and language background of ISS
crewmembers and mission control staff in both coun-
tries, which should provide initial normative data for
this population.
Gender norms: Adherence to traditional gender roles
varies across cultures and tends to be stronger among
Russians than among Americans (60). Such differences
have been a source of strain on international teams in
analogue environments and space missions (56,57,64).
A recent study conducted in a space station simulator
found that having a mixed-gender crew made a dra-
matic adverse impact on the level of tension and cohe-
sion and on the success of the mission (27,94). However,
another similar study found the opposite effect (97).
Part of the difference in these findings is related to
culture. During the study that included Russians and
Westerners (Europeans and a Canadian), the discrep-
ancy between gender norms among the Russians vs. the
non-Russians seemed to be a major source of friction,
over and above any strain caused by gender differences
per se (94). In other words, a group may be able to
accommodate gender differences if group members all
have compatible understandings of what these differ-
ences are. Our group’s ongoing ISS study is collecting
data on both genders, and promises to yield important
findings on the relation of gender with well-being and
group dynamics on ISS crews. For example, mixed gen-
der crews could have a wider repertoire of leadership
styles available. Across many national cultures, the two
genders are socialized differently such that women tend
to be more skilled at relationship-enhancing functions
and men tend to be more skilled in instrumental func-
tions, both of which are important leadership roles that
can affect the cohesion of the group over time (18,41,58).
These issues should be taken into account when com-
posing crews.
Personal relationships with co-workers: One of the les-
sons learned from the Shuttle-Mir Program was that
personal relationships are crucial for reaching agree-
ments and conducting ordinary work activities in inter-
national Russian-American teams (8,50). Americans
tend to be more accustomed to adhering to well-defined
job roles, such that a new person in the job would be
expected to interface with their Russian counterpart
similarly and without much of a transition. Therefore,
in the absence of cultural training, Americans tend to
underestimate the importance of personal relationships
to conducting productive work with Russian co-work-
ers (15,115). Since international crews are trained to-
gether intensively over a lengthy period, it may be
easier for crewmembers to establish these relationships
than for mission control personnel, who may have less
of an opportunity to develop them. This is one example
of how cultural differences are likely to pose more of a
strain on the working relationships of ground control
members than crewmembers (35).
Cultural heterogeneity in general: Although this review
is intended to focus primarily on Russian-American
national differences, it is important to note that many
other cultural differences could affect missions. Kring
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(52) provides a thorough review of the mission-relevant
dimensions along which cultures may vary. Several
surveys have highlighted the wide range of cultural
issues that are likely to affect international space crews
regardless of the particular nationalities involved
(64,98). Some researchers posit that cultural contrasts
can become magnified during missions (51).
Heterogeneity of any type could pose a risk to crew
communication, cohesion, and functioning (12). For ex-
ample, the inclusion of scientists and others as payload
specialists strained the astronaut group culture for-
merly composed mainly of pilots (76). Subgrouping
along professional lines is common in space analogue
environments such as Antarctica and is likely to be a
factor affecting group dynamics in space as crew size
increases. The formation of cliques has been associated
with distress (79). Issues that arise between crewmem-
bers may not affect the entire crew equally (124). Evi-
dence from space and analogue environments also
shows that each crew develops its own group culture
and that the nature of that culture takes longer to cohere
and is more difficult to predict when crews are more
heterogeneous (76,122). Heterogeneity adds to the
amount of information that crewmembers and mission
control personnel must process in order to accurately
understand the goals, intentions, and situational con-
straints associated with their communications, thereby
increasing the cognitive load required (9).
Furthermore, cultural differences may interact with
each other. For example, there may be within-country
differences between ethnic groups, and at the same time
there may be between-country differences in the degree
and type of prejudices held toward minority groups.
Similarly, there may be differences between genders as
well as differences between nations in the degree and
type of gender differences that are normative within
that culture. Personality may vary by nationality and by
occupational group (110). Cultural differences may be
more pronounced between mission control personnel
than between crewmembers (35). In short, there are
many aspects of culture that could affect a mission, and
the Russian-American distinction is only one example.
Effects of Cultural Differences on Mental Health During
After exploring the cultural differences that may af-
fect mental health on the ISS program, the next step is to
consider how such differences might play out. It is
important to consider both how cultural issues may
affect the likelihood of distress and how they may affect
the accuracy of detecting distress.
Cultural differences could affect the likelihood of
distress occurring in a crewmember. If the base rate of
distress is higher in the general population of one cul-
ture, then the prevalence of distress may be commen-
surately higher among crewmembers from that culture,
unless the difference does not survive the crew selec-
tion process. Cultural differences could also affect the
likelihood of distress by serving as a source of stress or
strain on international crews caused, for example, by
misunderstandings, more effortful relationships, or a
sense of cultural isolation. If culture affects the likeli-
hood of distress, this would be observed as differences
by culture in the frequency of distress or in the intensity
of distress, as indicated by mental health assessment
methods, such as questionnaires and interviews. How-
ever, it is impossible to interpret such differences with-
out first establishing that the methods work in an equiv-
alent fashion in both cultures. My research suggests
that psychological assessment tools do not always func-
tion equivalently in Russia and the United States
Cultural differences may affect the accuracy of meth-
ods for detecting distress so that methods will not work
equivalently. Early, accurate detection of even mild
syndromes is important in long-duration space mis-
sions because of the extraordinarily high level of sus-
tained performance required for safety and mission
success. Regardless of whether there are differences by
culture in the frequency or intensity of distress, there
may be differences between cultures in the way that
symptoms cluster together (90). If indicators are pat-
terned differently, this may impede the early detection
of problems. Assessment methods that assume one type
of pattern may be inaccurate at detecting another type.
Cultural differences in clustering of symptoms can
impede case identification, as seen in the following
schematic example (Fig. 1). If a patient has all 3 of the
symptoms that are indicators of Disorder 1 (dark gray
boxes in Fig. 1A), and none of the symptoms connected
with Disorder 2 or 3, this is clearly a case of Disorder 1.
A doctor from the dark gray culture would make this
diagnosis using a test corresponding to the dark gray
culture’s model of illness. If a person has one symptom
from each disorder, as shown by the three dark gray
Fig. 1. Effect of cultural differences on case identification. One cul-
ture is denoted as dark gray and another culture as light gray. Symptoms
are shown as boxes and disorders as ovals. All represent forms of distress
that could jeopardize mission safety. In case (A), the patient has all three
symptoms of Disorder 1 and would be diagnosed. In case (B), the patient
also has three symptoms, representing an equivalent amount of distress,
but would not be diagnosed by a doctor from the dark gray culture.
However, case (C) shows that these three symptoms would meet criteria
for Disorder 4, which is recognized only by the light gray culture. Using
diagnostic criteria from both cultures would result in increased case
identification. This is especially true if additional symptoms from the
light gray culture’s diagnostic system were also included in the assess-
ment. Case (D) shows that such an expanded assessment would allow
for a more thorough, culturally appropriate evaluation of Disorder 4 and
also would allow detection of Disorder 5. Assessment tools based only
on the dark gray culture’s diagnostic system would result in under-
diagnosis and under-detection of important forms of distress.
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boxes in Fig. 1B, the patient would not meet criteria for
any disorder and would not be identified as in need of
clinical attention, even though he or she is suffering
from the same number of symptoms. Suppose, how-
ever, that the patient is from the light gray culture and
that these three symptoms are cardinal symptoms of
another disorder in that culture, but this was not re-
flected in the assessment tool used by the evaluating
doctor (Fig. 1C shows these three symptoms connected
to a light gray disorder). Thus, a cultural bias has led to
a false negative—the erroneous judgment that there
was no disorder present. Doctors aware of both sets of
models (the dark gray and the light gray) could use
both algorithms to identify cases from this overall set of
symptoms. However, there could be additional symp-
toms or disorders that are common in the light gray
culture which are not included in the standard assess-
ment tool that contains only the dark gray symptoms
(Fig. 1D shows an additional light gray disorder with
associated symptoms). Thus, both the range of symp-
toms and their patterning needs to be taken into ac-
count for all cultures in which the tool will be used.
The ethnopsychiatric and epidemiologic literatures
are replete with examples of cultural differences in the
patterning of mental health syndromes (e.g.,
19,21,26,48,118). This is a real-world problem, and we
have some evidence that it may be relevant to Russian
and American crewmembers and mission control per-
sonnel during long-duration space station missions.
Even aside from the issue of whether there actually are
differences in the way that distress is experienced or
expressed, there are definitely differences in the Rus-
sian and American models of distress that are used in
mental health evaluations. These differences pertain to
the historical separation of the Russian and American
space programs and of Russian and American psychi-
A space-related example comes to mind. There is a
syndrome that Russian cosmonauts are monitored for,
psychological asthenization (psikhicheskaya asteniza-
tsiya), which is considered a mild, reversible form of
neurasthenia. It is not considered a form of psychopa-
thology, but it is at one end of that spectrum. In addi-
tion to mood states such as depression and irritability,
neurasthenia-spectrum disorders include a range of
psychosomatic features such as fatigue, weakness, pain,
headaches, sleep disturbances, and heightened sensitiv-
ity to stimuli (3,44,49,72). Neurasthenia-spectrum syn-
dromes are thought to result from prolonged mental
strain, such as that which might occur during a space
mission or other types of prolonged mental activity
(55,72,105). In Russia, psychological asthenia and neur-
asthenia are considered to be a common form of dis-
tress, both by clinicians and by laypersons (62). Neur-
asthenia is seen as a bona fide mental disorder in the
Russian and European psychiatric classification sys-
tems, but not in the American system, where it does not
appear in the American Diagnostic and Statistical Man-
ual, 4
Edition (DSM-IV) (1,44,69,125). Similarly, there
is debate in Russia about whether American models are
accurate for the Russian population (114).
According to the American conception of psycholog-
ical distress, depression frequently is linked with anxi-
ety. A recent factor analysis of data from a major epi-
demiologic investigation in the general population
confirmed that depression and anxiety form a single
joint construct among Americans (45,53). Fatigue may
occur as a secondary feature in the context of depres-
sion, but syndromes where fatigue is prominent are
typically diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome or a
somatoform disorder (109).
Accordingly, we sought to test these differences in
the patterning of distress indicators. In a recent analysis
of mood state data collected during Shuttle-Mir mis-
sions and a Mir simulator study (45), we found some
evidence for Russian-American differences in the pat-
terning of indicators on the Profile of Mood States (88).
Table I shows the results of mixed-model linear regres-
sion analyses controlling for the varying number of
responses per person. We found that, as predicted,
fatigue is associated with depression in the three Rus-
sian samples but not in the two American ones. This
association is in the positive direction for the Russian
Human Behavior in Extended Spaceflight (HUBES)
study crewmembers and the Shuttle-Mir ground per-
sonnel. For cosmonauts in space, the association is neg-
ative. However, for these same cosmonauts on the
ground during the baseline data collection periods (not
shown on the table), it was positive (t3.18, p 0.005,
pooled preflight and postflight data). Also as predicted,
anxiety is associated with depression in both American
samples but not any of the three Russian ones. We had
also predicted that anger/irritability would be more
strongly related to depression among Russians. For the
Variable Predicting
Russian American
Mir Simulator
(N 3)
Ground Personnel
(N 16)
Cosmonauts on
(N 8)
Ground Personnel
(N 42)
Astronauts on
(N 5)
Fatigue 0.12* 0.19* 0.08* 0.07 0.04
Anxiety 0.09 0.08 0.07 0.27* 0.51*
Anger 0.04 0.53* 0.37* 0.23* 0.09
Vigor 0.001 0.03* 0.01 0.02* 0.01
Confusion 0.19 0.29* 0.09 0.12 0.68*
*p 0.05.
Note: Table adapted from Ritsher, Kanas, Salnitskiy (88). Each column represents one model. Beta weights are shown for fixed-effect terms. Each
model was controlled for repeated-measure subject effect (not shown). Items with zero mean and SD among all cosmonauts or all astronauts
were not included in calculating POMS scores.
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Shuttle-Mir samples, this was true for the crew and to a
lesser extent for the mission control personnel. This
finding did not replicate for the HUBES sample. We did
not have hypotheses about how vigor or confusion
would relate to depression differentially by culture. A
study of ISS personnel using the same measures is
currently underway and will allow for replication of
these analyses. For the purposes of the present paper,
these data are presented to illustrate how cultural fac-
tors may affect the way distress is manifested.
Basic research: Further research is needed to establish
the extent to which these potentially mission-relevant
cultural differences, which have been found in the gen-
eral population, are actually present among the select
population of space program personnel. This work
should focus on all ISS partner countries. Such findings
can be used to generate specific, empirically based hy-
potheses about the effects of cultural differences on
behavioral health during long-duration international
missions. Furthermore, they could be used as norms
against which to compare the characteristics of future
ISS crews or related international work groups on the
Cross-cultural psychometric validation and integration of
assessment methods: The use of existing (separate Rus-
sian and American) mental health assessment strategies
runs the risk of overlooking important early warning
signs of behavioral health difficulties. By paying more
attention to cultural differences, we are more likely to
detect problems early while they are still mild and
resolvable and do not reach major pathological propor-
tions. Existing assessment methods should be psycho-
metrically validated for each of the cultural groups with
whom they will be used. Moreover, the methods should
be integrated and expanded so that the full array of
culturally relevant symptoms and syndromes may be
assessed in a uniform and systematic manner. Mental
health personnel supporting an international mission
should be cross-trained accordingly. For example,
American doctors should be trained to recognize the
early signs of psychological asthenization. As part of
the Multilateral Medical Operations Panel, the Space-
flight Human Behavior and Performance Work Group
has already begun integrating the training, evaluation,
and intervention strategies used by ISS partner coun-
Crew selection: Cultural competence should be as-
sessed when selecting individuals for international mis-
sions, and cross-cultural compatibility should be as-
sessed when composing specific crews (30). For
example, having a commander who is a woman or
younger than the other crewmembers may pose a po-
tential difficulty with some combinations of cultures
but not others. A crewmember who has a low level of
skills at noticing and reading the non-verbal behavior of
people from another culture may not pose as much of a
risk to the crew if that crewmember has a compatriot on
board who is highly skilled in that area.
Training: Up-to-date information about mission-rele-
vant cultural differences should be taught to crewmem-
bers and others working on ISS missions. This type of
training should include team-building exercises and
other experiential components in addition to lectures.
In addition to promoting interdependence and bond-
ing, these activities would help crewmembers from dif-
ferent cultures learn to read one another more accu-
rately. Although the cultural content could be bolstered
and made more consistent across agencies, such train-
ing techniques are already in use. The Russian, Amer-
ican, and European space programs all offer team
building and group activities as part of pre-selection
training. Mental health staff in the Russian space pro-
gram continuously evaluate crewmembers during the
course of their routine training and socialization activ-
ities and monitor for incompatibilities, and these eval-
uations have led to changes in crew composition even
after the crews have been selected (77).
As part of their post-selection training, crews should
also be encouraged to systematically identify ways that
cultural differences and other types of heterogeneity
(e.g., gender, age) may affect their particular group, and
they should be led through a process aimed at devel-
oping consensus about strategies for dealing with them
(52,75). Since crewmembers are often reluctant to air
their interpersonal difficulties to outsiders, a crewmem-
ber could be trained and assigned to support the crew’s
psychological health during flight, just as a crewmem-
ber is designated as the medical officer (50,75). This
crewmember should be trained to recognize the influ-
ence of culture on individual and group functioning.
This could be a rotating position and would ideally be
outside of the main chain of command (111). Family
members may be able to provide more helpful support
to one another and to their crewmember family mem-
ber if they have cultural training as well. It is also likely
that this type of information and procedure would be
helpful for mission support personnel who will be
working together—not just cultural training for people
who will be stationed overseas, but for any administra-
tive or operations staff who will have ongoing working
relationships with their international counterparts.
Cultural-psychological factors are especially impor-
tant now for mission success because of the Interna-
tional Space Station program. Although a great deal has
been learned about how to work together, fundamental
differences persist and cause strain. Furthermore, the
effects of this strain may not be accurately detected
early if there is cultural bias in the assessment method-
ology. The potential for culture-related risks to mental
health will only be compounded as there is more par-
ticipation from other international partners. These fac-
tors will become even more important as we prepare for
much longer exploration-class missions to Mars and
beyond. Improved prediction, prevention, and treat-
ment of distress will improve the safety of international
long-duration space missions.
The author would like to thank Vadim Gushin, Nick Kanas, Vy-
acheslav Salnitskiy, and Stephanie Saylor for their helpful comments
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B144 Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine Vol. 76, No. 6, Section II June 2005
This chapter reviews the current “state of the art” and considers new countermeasures for preventing or reducing the likelihood of psychological problems and supporting psychological resilience among crewmembers during long-duration space missions. Here emphasis will be put on effective astronaut selection, crew composition, training, and support of multicultural crews on long-duration missions. Historic differences among national space agencies in their attention to and application of psychological methods spanning the selection through the mission process are discussed. The continuation of future multinational long-duration space missions requires further culturally sensitive psychological research and operational planning to maintain health and performance, and prevent human errors and accidents. The next steps of future technology such as virtual reality or robotic assistants open new opportunities that need to be discussed before and tested also on Earth and Earth orbit as well, also with their impact on the crews’ health and well-being. The development of these technologies is crucial for supporting crews not only on a voyage to Mars but also during their stay on the planetary surface.
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Local conservative knowledge cut across small-scale ecological natural resource management practices, whilst scientific innovations generates extensive solutions using key principles of empirical study. Assessing tribal peoples' lifestyles, disposition and the preservation of the rich cultural endowments and vegetation fertility, shows linkages of strict enforcement of customary environmentalism to secure livelihood sources. This qualitative study uses descriptive comparison of cross-cultural conservation practices to underscore the reconciliation of cultural knowledge, natural ecology sustainability. Data and case studies from cultural behaviours, perceptions and attitudes of certain tribal groups were processed and presented as strategies and solutions for inclusive propositions. Theories and dataset from previous journals, reports, books and conference communique from multilateral agencies, non-political actors, research institutes were resourceful in arriving at conclusions that will provide a common path that accentuates cultural ecological practices to broaden the campaign for sustainability.
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The objective of this chapter is twofold: (a) to review the current knowledge of cultural, psychological, psychiatric, cognitive, interpersonal, and organizational issues that are relevant to the behavior and performance of astronaut crews and ground support personnel and (b) to make recommendations for future human space missions, including both transit and planetary surface operations involving the Moon or Mars. The focus will be on long-duration missions lasting at least 6 weeks, when important psychological and interpersonal factors begin to take their toll on crewmembers. This information is designed to provide guidelines for astronaut selection and training, in-flight monitoring and support, and post-flight recovery and re-adaptation.
Human performance in space, it is worth repeating, continues to be accomplished in two ways. The first is unmanned by extending ourselves out in the universe through automated spacecraft [1]. The premier achievement to date is undoubtedly the grand planetary tour of the two Voyager spacecraft. Leaving our Solar System at over 50,000 kilometers per hour, these space vehicles have traveled more than 8 billion kilometers from our earthly home where no member of our species has yet gone. The odyssey began over 30 years ago, in 1977, when NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientists launched the most sophisticated robot spacecraft ever built, each weighing nearly one ton at launch and made up of 65,000 parts. Of the two spacecraft in the $865 million joint mission, Voyager 1 flew past Jupiter and Saturn, making a close pass of Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, and was allowed to end its planetary sojourn by zipping out to the stars. Voyager 2 continued outward using the gravitational field of Saturn to fling it on to an encounter with Uranus in 1986. As a result of thousands of images sent back by Voyagers 1/2 from throughout the Solar System, 20 new moons were discovered. The project scientists, under the leadership of chief scientist Edward Stone, vice president of Caltech, have been virtuosos of these complex computerised space probes, each with circuitry equivalent to 2,000 color television sets. Through this unique human-machine interface, their explorations expanded eventually to Neptune and Triton, in 1989, from which radio transmissions traveling at 300,000 kilometers per second reached JPL in Pasadena, California, four hours and six minutes later!
Over the course of 60 years, our understanding of how humans fit into an “engineered” environment has expanded significantly. Successful residence beyond the confines of the Earth’s biosphere, involves many critical technologies that ensure the protection of health and safety of crew members. From Mercury to the Orion, NASA has developed and continues to experiment with different human exploration space craft and habitat designs. On occasion, the combined space flight environment(s) and enabling exploration technology can induce functional and physiological changes in humans. Living and working in a confined space, high energy radiation, during extended duration missions, and performance and protective measures against deconditioning are discussed in this chapter. Exposure to space flight results in adaptive and pathophysiological (by Earth standards) responses in health and well-being of space crews and upon return to Earth. Human health is of concern when landing and exploring other planets and their satellites. Space ergonomics is in its infancy. Communications and robotics are major assistive capabilities for the insertion of “astronaut-centered” systems, increasing crew autonomy, and safe operations in future Solar System missions. Countermeasures to protect astronaut health and performance, and relevant policies and standards are discussed in this chapter.
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BACKGROUND AND METHODS: Life in isolated and confined environments (ICEs) is subject to important constraints which can generate psychosociologically impaired outcomes. This study investigated psychological, social, occupational, and cultural variables which are among the most important determinants in adaptation to a one-year wintering in Antarctica for 13 international subjects. RESULTS: Our findings confirm and give further insight into the role of social (Cohesiveness, Social Support) and occupational (Implementation/Preparedness, Counterproductive Activity, Decision Latitude, and Psychological Job Demands) dimensions of adaptation to ICEs. Relationships between various social and occupational dimensions studies reflected detrimental effects ranging from decrements in cohesiveness (ICE 1, M = 4.44; ICE 7, M = 3.33), social support (ICE 2, M = 4.93; ICE 7, M = 4.28), and work performance (ICE 1, M = 4.33; ICE 6, M = 3.5), which differed across professional status and multicultural factors. DISCUSSION: These psychosocial issues have important implications for pre-mission selection and training, monitoring and support of crews during the mission, and post-mission readaptation. Operational recommendations are suggested to improve adaptation, success, and well-being for long-duration ICE missions, e.g., to Mars and beyond. Nicolas M, Bishop SL, Weiss K, Gaudino M. Social, occupational, and cultural adaptation during a 12-month wintering in Antarctica. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2016; 87(9):781–789.
Shortly after the competitive Moon Race the United States and the Soviet Union joined together for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, an activity that drew attention to cross-cultural issues in space missions. In 1978, the Soviets began their Interkosmos, or “guest cosmonaut,” program, whereby non-Soviet cosmonauts joined Soviet crews on space stations, while Europeans developed Spacelab which flew with the U.S. Space Shuttle Columbia in 1983. Over the years, the largely symbolic Interkosmos program grew into flights involving true international partnerships, and NASA drew payload specialists from an increasing array of nations. In the 1990s, astronauts joined cosmonauts on Mir, and today the International Space Station routinely hosts international crews. Over the past 50 years, both cross-cultural and spaceflight psychology have matured, and we develop the thesis that each offers opportunities and benefits to the other. After sampling relevant research on cultural dimensions, values, and social axioms, we present the culture assimilator and other methods as potential aids for preparing personnel for future missions. We stress the need for additional research on other cultures, especially China, whose representatives are likely to become increasingly prominent in mission planning, management, and execution. We end with a brief discussion of cautions and limitations and conclude that even as spaceflight psychology will benefit from cross-cultural psychology, cross-cultural psychology will benefit from behavioral research pertaining to space.
Anecdotal reports from space and studies from space analogue missions on Earth have suggested four areas of importance that have relevance for human interactions during on-orbit missions: time effects, displacement, leadership roles, and cultural issues (both national and organizational). In a communications questionnaire survey given to astronauts and cosmonauts who had flown in space, it was found that fluency in a common language during the mission was also important, and a number of factors that improved or hindered intra-crew and crew-ground communication were revealed. Following a pilot study of human interactions during the HUman BEhaviour Study (HUBES), my colleagues and I conducted two major studies involving on-orbit missions to the Russian Mir and International Space Stations. We did not find evidence supporting time effects (in particular during the second half or the third quarter of the missions), but we did find evidence for the displacement of crew tension and unpleasant emotions to the ground and support for the importance of task and support leadership roles for group cohesion. We also found cultural differences in work pressure and tension that may have been related to national and/or organizational factors. In a separate study, we found that space is a positive experience for astronauts and cosmonauts, especially with respect to gaining an appreciation for the Earth and its beauty. These studies suggest a number of countermeasures that can be employed during future space mission in terms of crew selection, pre-launch training, mission monitoring and support, and post-return readaptation.
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This paper presents a theory of potentially universal aspects in the content of human values. Ten types of values are distinguished by their motivational goals. The theory also postulates a structure of relations among the value types, based on the conflicts and compatibilities experienced when pursuing them. This structure permits one to relate systems of value priorities, as an integrated whole, to other variables. A new values instrument, based on the theory and suitable for cross-cultural research, is described. Evidence relevant for assessing the theory, from 97 samples in 44 countries, is summarized. Relations of this approach to Rokeach's work on values and to other theories and research on value dimensions are discussed. Application of the approach to social issues is exemplified in the domains of politics and intergroup relations.
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On the basis of self-determination theory (R. M. Ryan & E. L. Deci, 2000) and cultural descriptions drawn from H. C. Triandis (1995), the authors hypothesized that (a) individuals from different cultures internalize different cultural practices; (b) despite these differences, the relative autonomy of individuals' motivation for those practices predicts well-being in all 4 cultures examined; and (c) horizontal practices are more readily internalized than vertical practices across all samples. Five hundred fifty-nine persons from South Korea, Russia, Turkey and the United States participated. Results supported the hypothesized relations between autonomy and well-being across cultures and gender. Results also suggested greater internalization of horizontal relative to vertical practices. Discussion focuses on the distinction between autonomy and individualism and the relative fit of cultural forms with basic psychological needs.
Conference Paper
Background: This paper addresses the impact of cultural heterogeneity on interpersonal tension during multinational space missions. Methods: Data were collected during SFINCSS'99, which simulated the living conditions on ISS. Three crews (n = 12) were confined in connected hyperbaric chambers. Group 1 was confined for 240 d, while Groups 2 and 3 were confined for 110 d. Group 1 was composed of four Russian subjects; Group 2 included three Russian subjects and one non-Russian subject; and Group 3 included Japanese, Russian, Austrian and Canadian subjects. Group 3 included the only female participant. Peer ratings, questionnaires and interviews assessed tension within and between crews, critical incidents and cultural factors impacting on crew interaction. Results: Compared with Group 1, Group 3 evaluated their own group and the Mission Control more negatively. A conflict between Group 1 and 3 was reflected in mutual negative ratings after 1 mo. This situation resulted in an unplanned closure of the hatch between the chambers and in one subject leaving the study prematurely. Group 3 expressed dissatisfaction with mission support and interventions from outside personnel to resolve the interpersonal problems. The entrance of an international visiting crew was reported to alleviate tension between Groups 1 and 3. Language problems and different attitudes toward gender relations were factors identified as having a major impact on the inter-group relationship. Conclusions: The results may demonstrate some of the difficulties faced by crewmembers belonging to cultural minorities when operational control is in the hands of one national organization, as well as the need for countermeasures designed to address these problems.
Despite the political meandering, economic woes and social upheaval, many U.S and western firms believe this is an ideal time to establish themselves in the vast Russian marketplace. Even with hyperinflation and the newly exchanged currency, there is widespread and growing demand demand for American products of all kinds. There are still many hurdles to overcome for large-scale businesses ventures in raw materials and heavy manufacturing. However, importing, wholesaling/distribution, retailing, education and consulting (both business and government) are just a few of the many high-potential opportunities for U.S. firms. But unlike global ventures in countries with established market economies, U.S managers need to have a clear understanding of the wide differences in the cultural makeup of the American and the Russian people. This article contrasts the two sets of cultural values as they affect work habits, ethics, incentives and personal aspirations. Ten suggestions are included to aid U.S. firms in planning their enterprises, in functioning within the Russian system and in dealing with Russian employees.
Conference Paper
Expedition teams provide a number of analogs relevant to crew selection for long-duration space missions. Three groups were studied that varied in team composition. Group I was a two woman international dyad that traversed the Antarctic continent in 97 days. Similarities in problem solving approach, respect for each other's opinions, and a collaborative process of decision making were evident., Group 2 was composed of four women, all from different countries, engaged in a six week trek across Greenland. The most important factors in overcoming interpersonal difficulties and contributing to the successful completion of the expedition were mutual respect and motivation to maintain positive and supportive relationships. Group 3 consisted of three married couples from different countries icelocked on a boat in the High Arctic for a 9 month period. The emotional support of and ability to confide in their partner were extremely important in alleviating interpersonal tensions, and contributed to the generally effective functioning of the group. Women add an element of emotional support and help to other team members that is not as evident in all-male groups. Selection of couples with strong bonds to each other is another paradigm for crew selection for extended missions.