Experimental Management Research – Using experiments in cross-cultural research

Cultural dimension models lead to ad hoc interpretations of behavior. Cross-cultural experiments can provide the missing link //

The widely believed advantage of exploring behavior by using experimental methods is that it provides empirical results that is directly affected by monetary rewards (incentives). Hence, incentivized experiments are believed to trigger intrinsically motivated behavior (“attitudes in action”) to a much higher extent than, for instance, questionnaire-based surveys would do. A further advantage is that factors that influence decision-making behavior can be controlled and that data gathering itself can be replicated at the same or in different places (labs) or by using subject pools from different countries.

“Experiments are believed to trigger intrinsically motivated behavior to a much higher extent than, for instance, questionnaire-based surveys”

Advantages of the experimental methodology are seen especially in its ability to examine the causality of individual and group behavior. Therefore, it is possible to determine in greater detail the circumstances under which culture is and is not influential. The resulting findings can contribute to the advancement of management theory, for example in the area of cooperation behavior in individualistic and collectivistic culture groups. It can also contribute to a better understanding of what determines the establishment of trust and trustworthiness across and between cultures, how fairness is interpreted across cultures and how it is enforced. These questions can be answered by integrating context-specific variables into an experimental research design. From a practical point of view, by means of an experimental methodology, differences in decision making behavior can be examined, including questions of practical importance such as why inter-cultural negotiations are more difficult to conduct or why they fail, or how cross- and inter-cultural leadership can be improved.

Here is the suggestion: While it is obvious that culture influences decision making behavior, explaining the cultural variables of why behavior differs has remained less explored so far from an experimental point of view. Conventional categories of culture classification (i.e. dimensional models) are often too bipolar to respond to cultural specifics and may not fully explain cultural dynamics, particularity in fast-growing emerging countries. The need to better understand the distinct nature or underlying factors that causes culturally-induced behavioral differences has been raised. Dissatisfaction with conventional categories of culture classifications and the need to understand distinctive cultural characteristics and their effects better are in particular raised in the International Business discipline in the field or cross-cultural research.

“An experimental research design consisting of three stages might help to explore the effect of specific cultural variables on behavior”

In this field, typically questionnaire-based surveys, interviews, comparative case analysis or ethnographic inquiry is applied. How to investigate the influence of distinctive local cultural phenomena? An experimental research design consisting of three stages might help here: By pursuing an experimental research approach, distinctive cultural variables can be ‘extracted’ in a first step by using interviews, and then in a second step integrated into a controlled behavioral experiment in order to test their effects on behavior. A third stage can be implemented by conducting either post-experimental interviews or using a post-experimental questionnaire in order to support validity.

More here:
Horak, S. 2018. From Cross-Cultural Economic Experiments to Experimental Indigenous Management Research – A Suggestion. Management and Organization Review, 14(4), 651-691. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/mor.2018.39

* Photo credit: “Experiments with Long exposure and lights-015” by Tea, two sugars is licensed with CC BY 2.0.

Published by Sven Horak