Hofstede and Migliore – rebuttal and response

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Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal

ISSN: 1352-7606

Article publication date: 2 August 2011


Chudzikowski, K., Fink, G. and Mayrhofer, W. (2011), "Hofstede and Migliore – rebuttal and response", Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, Vol. 18 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/ccm.2011.13618caa.002



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Hofstede and Migliore – rebuttal and response

Article Type: Letters to the Editor From: Cross Cultural Management, Volume 18, Issue 3

The study of any field or phenomenon as multifaceted as culture is wrought with a susceptibility to conflicts that arise from differences in assumptions, perspectives and application of findings. There is also an inherent tendency of any published work to take on a life of its own as it is reinterpreted and appropriated in new contexts, often diverging from the author’s original intention or vision. When these factors collide over a specific article or proposition, the resulting debate has been known, on occasion, to leave one or many participants wounded or resentful. However, when undertaken with a view towards mutual growth and understanding, these moments of conflict have sparked great advances in the field by elucidating the rationale behind the different perspectives and clarifying the respective merits and applications of the different propositions.

While some cultures do value scars, we at Cross Cultural Management (CCM) are pleased to have an opportunity to pursue the latter approach. On March 31, I received a message (hereafter) from Dr Geert Hofstede commenting on misuse and misinterpretation of some of his work in an article published in CCM by Laura Ann Migliore in issue 18(1) entitled: “Relation between big five personality traits and Hofstede’s cultural dimensions: samples from the USA and India” (2011, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 38-54) which was part of a special issue by Guest Editors Katharina Chudzikowski, Gerhard Fink and Wolfgang Mayrhofer on: “Knowledge migration, communication and value change”.

Among others, I see my role as an Editor as providing platform for debate, more so in the case of the celebrated work of Dr Geert Hofstede. Thus, I had asked Dr Hofstede for permission to publish his comments and have invited both the Guest Editors and Dr Laura Migliore to respond. All parties involved in this rebuttal are credible academics with a long trajectory of scholarly activities and publications in top tier journals.

I therefore include in this essay all contributions, with only minor copyediting changes, and hope that the readers of CCM will find this discourse interesting and educational. I really hope that this kind of initiative will add value to the scholar community interested in cross-cultural research.

Simon L. DolanEditor-in-Chief

Geert Hofstede comments

(Received March 31, 2011)

Dear Professor Dolan,

I have received a copy of CCM Vol. 18 No. 1, and I am pleased to see that Dr Minkov’s overview of the evolution of my doctrine prominently figuring as the lead article. Allow me to make you and your guest editors aware of one unfortunate coincidence. Point (2) on page 12 refers to my repeated warnings that my dimensions are meaningless as descriptors of individuals or as predictors of individual differences because the variables that define them do not correlate meaningfully across individuals. Point (4) on page 13 stresses that what the dimensions describe are differences between national cultures; their absolute scores therefore have no meaning.

Alas, the same journal issue contains an article by Laura Ann Migliore, with my name in the title, that flagrantly violates these two warnings. The author assumes she has a n=216, but as a cross-cultural study its n=2. The article confuses the individual and the national level of analysis; in fact the author does not show awareness that such a thing as a level of analysis exists. Also, the author uses absolute country scores from her study to draw conclusions about national culture changes. The result has been utter nonsense; the fact that your reviewers seem to have missed this is regrettable.

Of course Dr Migliore is not the only sinner in this respect. The confusion of levels of analysis is especially common among US authors; mainstream US culture has no concept of society, and attributes everything that happens in the world to individuals. Psychology is an American science, sociology a European science.

As cross-cultural management cannot exist without a clear awareness of the difference between individuals and societies, I hope you will be able to avoid such confusion in your future articles.

Kind regards,Geert Hofstede

Migliore’s response to Hofstede: national versus individual analysis

(Received May 3, 2011)

Dear Professor Hofstede,

Thank you for pioneering the cultural values territory, which provided a roadmap for other scholars to follow and expand upon with other strategies of inquiry. Your contributions in cross-cultural research are hallmark and inspire many researchers from all over the world to go further in building upon your cornerstone model. Your latest co-authored article “The evolution of Hofstede’s doctrine” (Minkov and Hofstede, 2011, p. 10) in the CCM special issue is truly a testament to the historical impact of empirical analysis on national cultures, and the dimensions as a way to separate and understand different values.

However, your comment about my violation of the national versus individual level of analysis in the paper I had published in the special issue (Migliore, 2011) is inaccurate. As such, an explanation follows.

Hofstede and McCrae’s (2004, p. 68) research showed that “all five personality factors were significantly associated with at least one dimension of culture, and all four culture dimensions were related to a least one personality factor,”. While Hofstede and McCrae agree upon using multiple regressions to predict one variable from other, disagreement focused on which variables should be predictors and which ones the criteria – continuing the nature versus nurture debate and asking the question, “Do dimensions of culture explain mean level of traits or do mean level traits explain features of culture?” (p. 69). Keeping objective perspective on the nature verses nurture debate, Migliore utilized the theoretical framework of Hofstede and McCrae to confirm the inter-relational aspects of personality and national culture, using two clearly defined cultural groups from the USA and India by making use of advances in technology and online research panels not available at the time of Hofstede’s (1980) original study on national culture.

In addition, Migliore (2011) acknowledges the principles of Hofstede’s doctrine stating:

Hofstede is resolute to differentiate between the different levels of culture at the national level, culture at the group or organizational level, and personality at the individual level (Hofstede et al., 2008, p. 42).

In addition, Migliore views the inter-relational aspects of personality and national culture as a means “to help avoid the stereotyping trap and recognize the individual differences of people, as well as the influence of work-related values in the business environment” (p. 39). However, Migliore also acknowledges a gap in the field of cross-cultural research and levels of analysis, recommending advanced data analysis using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM). According to Migliore (2011):

The field of cross-cultural research has a large gap in disentanglement of hypothesized cultural values from other moderating variables within nested data frameworks at the national-culture level, organizational-culture level, and individual-culture level – indication of need for advanced data analysis using hierarchical linear modeling (HLM) to aggregate properly nested data and measure hypothesized cultural values (Tsui et al., 2007). In addition, the debate of universal approaches to culture and culture-specific approaches indicates need for a systematic framework that addresses the construct of culture at its very core – in other words, where do cultural values come from – what is the etiology of cultural values (p. 48).

Migliore agrees in principle, but disagrees with the absoluteness of Minkov and Hofstede’s (2011) statement that Hofstede’s “dimensions are meaningless as descriptors of individuals or as predictors of individual differences because the variables that define them do not correlate meaningfully across individuals” (p. 12). The dimensions provide descriptors of individual perceptions of motivations, but these perceptions are rooted in national culture values, which interact with personality at the individual level (Hofstede and McCrae, 2004). However, the ongoing opportunity in the field of cross-cultural research is to determine meaningful correlations of the variables, which reside in nested data frameworks and in advanced data analysis using HLM (Tsui et al., 2007). In addition, opportunities exist for continued inquiry to determine if a preeminence exists between personality (i.e. nature) and culture (i.e. nurture), as well as the refining of multiple regressions to predict certain variables from others.

In conclusion, Migliore (2011) has not violated the national versus individual level of analysis, but has upheld Hofstede’s principles for distinction between these two levels of analysis, studying the inter-relational aspects of personality and culture as posited by Hofstede and McCrae (2004). As such, Migliore thanks Hofstede for the scholarly debate and the continued inspiration to explore further the fascinating domains of the inter-relational aspects of personality and culture.

Laura Migliore

Guest Editors’ response to Geert Hofstede

(Received May 3, 2011)

Dear Professor Hofstede,

Let us first thank you and Michael Minkov for your excellent article in CCM, Vol. 18 No. 1. We are honoured and pleased by your important contribution. We strongly recommend this article as outstanding reading of the impressive history from the “four original Hofstede dimensions” to the Hofstede et al. (2008) extensions to seven dimensions in the VSM08 (Value Survey Module, 2008). The earlier extension to five dimensions and the 2008 adoption of two more dimensions are a strong indication of your flexibility when new important results emerge.

In the manual to the VSM08 and in your comment on the contribution by Laura Ann Migliore (2011) you address the issues that levels of analysis should not be mixed and that construct validity may differ at different level of analysis. While we agree with you in principle, we would not go as far as you write, namely that your “dimensions are meaningless as descriptors of individuals or as predictors of individual differences because the variables that define them do not correlate meaningfully across individuals”.

Considering the seminal work of the young Geert Hofstede, we learn that from a large sample of questionnaires apparently designed by psychologists in order to get ideas about individuals, a bright young scholar with an unprecedented meta-analysis could derive deep and new insights into the sociological concept of values across nations. That was a breakthrough development, which laid the foundations of the “Hofstede paradigm” most notably after the student edition of the book was published, what we consider as a clear indication of the importance of different publication outlets.

At the national level, Hofstede and McCrae (2004) found significant correlations between some of the Big Five personality traits and Hofstede dimensions. In your interview, which you gave Gerhard Fink you said:

We show the correlations we found and then we interpret them in two ways: causality going from personality to culture or from culture to personality test scores. Actually, McCrae, who is a psychologist, takes the first position and I, the culture student, take the opposite position (Hofstede and Fink, 2007, p. 16).

If we are willing to assume that there is no spurious correlation between personality traits and culture dimensions on the national level, but an unknown direction of causality, e.g. from national values to personality traits, then we would expect that there is a good chance of some correlation between the value perceptions and the personality traits of individuals. This expectation can be supported by your perception that national value acculturation takes place during childhood. If personality formation and acculturation take place simultaneously, then again, we can expect some correlation.

Hence, there will be a difference between measures of predominant value perceptions at different levels of analysis, as you had emphasized many times, and to our knowledge for the first time this was proven for organizations by Hofstede et al. (1990). At the organizational level, additional “dimensions” are of importance, which you then decided to call “practices”. Nevertheless, Sagiv and Schwartz (2007) have shown that national values also have an impact on organizations. There is some “cultural pressure” on organizations (Sagiv and Schwartz, 2007, p. 178).

Consequently, we can safely draw the conclusion that at any level of analysis, dependent on context some level-specific constructs are of relevance (e.g. organizational practices, normative patterns of group behaviour, etc.) together with higher level constructs (e.g. national values) and personality characteristics (e.g. traits, types, etc. irrespective of different labels given to similar constructs).

We all know that the country scores of cultural dimensions are the result of statistically distributed data, which are processed appropriately to give comparable results. The statistical distributions of worldwide data are large, what we can see from the graphs offered by Brodbeck et al. (2002), and even notably large within national cultures. From that, two conclusions follow: first there is no deterministic link between scores of dimensions and specific action taken. This seem to be a repeated concern of yours you iterated many times when you discussed some wrong interpretations of your intentions and your data. Second scholars should keep off from using the aggregate and processed country scores of Hofstede, Schwartz or GLOBE, etc. at lower levels of aggregation, e.g. organizations, professions or groups. Fink and Mayrhofer (2009) indicated that any sample drawn in a specific context might strongly deviate from a representative country level sample.

The story becomes even more complex when we also consider that all raw data of Hofstede, Schwartz and GLOBE are processed in order to gain comparable country level scores for value dimensions and to eliminate the possible impact of latent psychological and economic variables, e.g. GDP levels. For details, we recommend reading the manual to the VSM08, or Schwartz (2006), etc.

Thus, we have good reasons to believe that individuals take actions guided by their individual perceptions of national values, local organizational practices, and their personality traits. Cognitive interests of the individuals may influence the actual decision-making process. For decisions of higher importance, individuals may devote more cognitive resources to information collection and weighing their arguments. Less important decisions, they may make more spontaneously (Dewberry and Narendran, 2007).

Presently, we are far away from developing comprehensive models that can deal with all issues that are implied in the last six lines. Thus, we have to be happy when research into part of the problem area is undertaken. One important field is research into the links between personality traits and national value perceptions, which you opened together with McCrae in 2004.

Now, we would not have dared to refuse a bright scholar access to publication in CCM with reference to the Master’s openly expressed opinion. What would a letter of rejection have looked like? Please consider a draft letter-of-rejection of the Guest Editors Chudzikowski, Fink and Mayrhofer:

Dear author, Geert Hofstede has written that “Hofstede dimensions are meaningless as descriptors of individuals or as predictors of individual differences because the variables that define them do not correlate meaningfully across individuals”, therefore we are not going to publish your paper. In principle, we like your paper, because you undertook the effort to measure national value perceptions and personality traits of managers in two clearly defined national contexts. Within your sample of managers, you found some small, but significant correlations between some personality traits and a few of the dimensions of national value perceptions. Having read Hofstede and McCrae (2004), we would have expected this result, but to our knowledge, so far no one has published similar results. You also provide data describing the differences in your raw data scores for value dimensions from the original Hofstede country scores and across sub-categories in your sample. This gives an interesting description of your sample characteristics in comparison with the original larger and more balanced national samples of Geert Hofstede. Perhaps, you better use the items not of the Hofstede VSM94, but rather those of Shalom Schwartz (2006) or of Cameron and Quinn (2005).

Katharina Chudzikowski, Gerhard Fink and Wolfgang MayrhoferGuest Special Issue Editors


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