Cooperation and Competition in Intercultural Interactions

Are team players more cooperative when they can relate to their teammates?

New research conducted by Drs. David Matsumoto and Hyi Sung Hwang now relates the behavioral ability to cooperatively interact with people to cultural differences between the players.

In this study, US born Americans played a modified Prisoner’s Dilemma game in same sex dyads in one of three conditions: with another American (Control), with an international student (Intercultural Condition), or with another American but under stressful conditions (Stress Condition).

Drs. Matsumoto and Hwang hypothesized that the Intercultural Condition would produce less cooperation and less positive behavioral outcomes than the Control Condition and that these behavioral differences would be linked to cultural differences in the dyad.

As predicted the Intercultural Condition produced less cooperation and more competition than the Control Condition and those behavioral differences were linked to cultural differences in the dyad.

Dr. Hyi Sung Hwang stated that, The study showed that intercultural dyads (subjects from different countries; Americans vs. non-Americans) tended to be less cooperative and more competitive than the dyads of subjects from same countries (i.e., all Americans) when playing Prisoner’s Dilemma. This study was the first to link such behavioral outcomes with actual cultural differences between the interactants. This finding is significant because it shows how difficult intercultural interactions can be without even one’s awareness of it.

The studies’ findings show that intercultural interactions are difficult and potentially costly, especially among strangers, which is important for many to recognize.

Identifying the specific source of the differences can help practitioners to target those variables in order to avoid unnecessary conflict and to facilitate cooperation and harmony in intercultural interactions.  This should be true in health-care interactions, negotiations, and business settings alike.

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