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    Cultural Variations in Reasons for Advice Seeking

    ArticleinJournal of Behavioral Decision Making October 2016

    DOI: 10.1002/bdm.1995



    7 authors, including:

    Li- Jun Ji

    Queen's University



    Ning Zhang

    Queen's University



    All content following this page was uploaded by Ning Zhang on 09 October 2017.

    The user has requested enhancement of the downloaded file.

  • Cultural Variations in Reasons for Advice Seeking


    1Queens University, Kingston, Canada2Central China Normal University, Wuhan, China3Beijing University, Beijing, China4Inner Mongolia Normal University, Hohhot, China


    Five studies examined cultural differences in reasons for advice-seeking behaviors. Content analyses in Study 1A and self-ratings in Study 1Bconsistently revealed that Euro-Canadians were more likely than East Asians (mainly Chinese) to seek advice for informational reasons,whereas East Asians were more likely than Euro-Canadians to seek advice for relational reasons. Study 2A showed that Chinese displayeda higher level of relationship concern than Euro-Canadians in deciding from whom to seek advice in a decision dilemma. Study 2B found that,although Chinese and Euro-Canadians did not differ from each other on willingness to pay for informational advice, Chinese were willing topay more for building a relationship with the advisor through advice seeking than Euro-Canadians were. Study 3 explored how the advicegiver might perceive an advice seeker in terms of their competence and the closeness of their relationship after advice was sought for variousreasons. We found that relationally oriented advice seeking increased the perceived competence of the advice seeker among Chinese more thanamong Euro-Canadians. Information-oriented advice seeking increased the perceived closeness between the advice seeker and advice giveramong Chinese more than among Euro-Canadians. Implications for other aspects of advice exchange are discussed. Copyright 2016 JohnWiley & Sons, Ltd.

    key words advice seeking; reasons; information; relationship; cultural differences


    People receive and give advice on a daily basis, from minordecisions such as which movie to watch to important deci-sions such as which university to attend. Given the signifi-cant role of advice exchange in everyday decision making,it is not surprising that research on advice exchange, suchas advice giving and advice taking, has received substantialattention among psychologists, as well as communicationand decision-making researchers (Bonaccio & Dalal, 2006;Sanders, 1980; Yaniv, 2004; Yaniv & Kleinberger, 2000).The present paper will focus on one aspect of advice ex-change that has not been well investigated: advice seekingand the reasons for it. We will examine advice seeking acrosscultures by comparing and contrastin g Euro-Canadians andEast Asians (Chinese in particular). We will first discuss cul-tural differences in emphasis on relationships, then turn tothe literature on advice exchange and explore the implica-tions of cultural differences in relationship emphasis for ad-vice seeking.

    Culture and emphasis on relationshipPeople from different cultures emphasize relationships to dif-ferent degrees. We focus our literature review on comparingEuro-North Americans (Americans and Canadians ofEuropean descent) and East Asians (mainly Chinese,Japanese, and Koreans). We recognize that differences do ex-ist between Americans and Canadians (e.g., Abramson,Keating, & Lane, 1996; Hofstede & Bond, 1984), and be-tween Chinese and other East Asian groups in certain psy-chological phenomena (e.g., Miyamoto, Knoepfler, Ishii, &Ji, 2013; Yates et al., 2010), but also acknowledge that re-search has shown consistent results among NorthAmericans, and among East Asians concerning relationshipemphasis (see Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Markus &Kitayama, 2010 for reviews). Cultural differences in relation-ship emphasis have been observed in a variety of domains,including but not limited to self-concepts, emotional experi-ences, subjective well-being, motivations, and communica-tion practices (see Fiske, Kitayama, Markus, & Nisbett,1998; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Markus & Kitayama,2010; Scollon & Scollon, 1995; Triandis, 1989 for reviews).

    Euro-North Americans and East Asians define the self dif-ferently. While defining the self, Euro-North Americans tendto emphasize independence, personal choice, and self-expression, whereas East Asians tend to emphasize interde-pendence, seeing themselves as part of a relationship, and de-fining themselves in relation to others (e.g., Fiske et al.,1998; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Markus & Kitayama,2010; Triandis, 1989). For example, when asked to definethemselves using the Twenty Statement Test, Chinese partic-ipants were more likely to refer to their relationship withothers (e.g., I am Janes friend) than were American

    *Correspondence to: Li-Jun Ji and Ning Zhang, 62 Arch Street, Departmentof Psychology, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, K7L 3 N6,E-mail, ning.zhang@queensu.caNote: The research was supported by grants from the Social Science and Hu-manities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC Grants 410-2009-0904, 435-2012-1279) to L.J. Ji. We would like to thank Sarah Cabecinha-Alati, DarcieDrew, Shenxing Feng, Hu He, Kelly Huang, Sainan Ji, Siyan Jing, MelissaLucas, Stella Moon, Feiyang Pan, Ermiao Zhang, Jennifer Zhang, ShujunZhang for their help with data collection. We also thank Marissa Walterfor her help with early versions of the paper.

    Copyright 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

    Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, J. Behav. Dec. Making, 30: 708718 (2017)Published online 3 October 2016 in Wiley Online Library ( DOI: 10.1002/bdm.1995

  • participants (Bond & Cheung, 1983; Ip & Bond, 1995). Ac-cordingly, East Asians are more likely than Euro-NorthAmericans to attend to others, which is necessary for main-taining ones relationships and to achieve interpersonal har-mony with others. Specifically, Ji, Schwarz, and Nisbett(2000) have shown that Chinese relied less than Americanson the frequency scale presented along with questions whenreporting others observable behavior frequencies, suggest-ing that Chinese were more knowledgeable about others be-haviors and did not have to resort to the frequency scale foran estimate.

    Cultural differences in emphasis on relationships are alsomanifested in peoples emotional experiences and subjectivewell-being. Given that East Asians are more likely thanEuro-North Americans to construe the self in terms of theirrelationships with others, it is not surprising that their rela-tionships with others play a stronger role in their emotionalexperiences. Kitayama, Markus, and Kurokawa (2000); andKitayama, Mesquita, and Karasawa (2006) investigatedsocially engaging and disengaging emotions across cultures.Socially engaging emotions are about themes related to inter-dependence and relationship harmony, such as friendly feel-ings when relationship harmony is achieved or guilt whenharmony is disrupted. Socially disengaging emotions areabout themes related to independence and personal goals,such as pride when independence is realized and anger whenindependence is challenged. Across different situations,Kitayama and colleagues found that Japanese experiencedmore socially engaging emotions than socially disengagingemotions, whereas Americans experienced more sociallydisengaging emotions than engaging emotions, reflectingJapanese cultures emphasis on social interdependence andrelational harmony and American cultures emphasis onindependence and autonomy. In addition, positive engagingemotions best predicted Japanese subjective well-being,whereas positive disengaging emotions best predictedAmericans subjective well-being. In relation to this,researchers have found that relative to self-esteem, relationalharmony has a greater impact on life satisfaction amongHong Kong Chinese than among Americans (Kwan, Bond,& Singelis, 1997). Thus, East Asians conceptions of subjec-tive well-being are more socially oriented compared withEuro-North Americans. For East Asians, subjective well-being is achieved by fulfilling ones role obligations ininterdependent relationships, creating and maintaining inter-personal harmony, and promoting collective (e.g., family)welfare and prosperity (Lu & Gilmour, 2004).

    Cultural differences in relationship emphasis also emergein achievement motivation. North Americans tend to defineachievement or success as achieving goals motivated by theindividuals own aspiration, whereas Chinese define achieve-ment as the realization of individual aspirations and gettingsocietal approval (Chang, Wong, & Teo, 2000). Indeed,socially oriented achievement motivation is more prominentthan individually oriented ones among Chinese. People strivefor externally defined goals and socially prescribed distinc-tion (Yu & Yang, 1994). Because of a greater emphasis oninterpersonal relationships than on self-directed accomplish-ments in collectivistic East Asian cultures (Kagitcibasi,

    1994), relationships are very important to East Asians forconstruing the meaning of achievement.

    Cultural differences in emphasis on relationships may alsobe observed in communication. Scollon and Scollon (1995)propose that the two main functions of communication, toconvey information and to maintain relationships betweenparticipants in the communication, are emphasized differ-ently in Western and Eastern cultures. Specifically, they sug-gest that Western cultures (e.g., the USA) place a high valueon the informational function of communication and rela-tively little value on the relational function of communica-tion, whereas Eastern cultures (e.g., Chinese, Japanese, andKorean) place more emphasis on the relational function ofcommunication and relatively less emphasis on the informa-tion function of communication (Scollon & Scollon, 1995,p. 138140). Such cultural differences in the emphasis of in-formational versus relational functions of communicationcould guide the advice exchange process for people from dif-ferent cultural backgrounds.

    Advice giving and takingAdvice exchange, such as advice giving and taking, involvesinteractions between different people, which may be affectedby cultural values and beliefs. Researchers have documentedthat other than its informational function, advice giving alsosatisfies the needs of the relational bond between advicegiver and advice receiver. For example, Morrow (2006) ana-lyzed the discourse features of advice giving from a linguisticperspective and found that advice giving was typically asso-ciated with expression of positive regard and solidarity, andtherefore served the purpose of maintaining a positive rela-tionship between advice giver and advice receiver. Giventhat cultures differ in their emphasis on relationship harmony(Fiske et al., 1998; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Triandis,1989), communication researchers postulate that differentcultural upbringings could also cultivate different under-standings of advice giving, and ultimately, different advice-giving behavior (Goldsmith & Fitch, 1997). Indeed, recentresearch has documented that the practice and understandingof advice giving vary substantially across cultures. For exam-ple, Chentsova-Dutton and Vaughn (2012) compared the fre-quencies and types of advice giving between Russians andEuro-Americans. They found that interdependent Russianswere more likely than independent Euro-Americans to viewadvice giving as supportive, and more likely to give unsolic-ited and practical advice to others. Likewise, in a recent com-parison between Chinese and Euro-Americans, Feng (2015)found that Chinese, compared with Euro-Americans,displayed a more favorable attitude toward advice givingand felt more obligated to help others through giving advice.In addition, people who display a high level of autonomy areless likely to take advice fr...