Culture, Cognition and Conflict: How Neuroscience Can Help to Explain Cultural Differences in Negotiation and Conflict Management

John F. McCarthy
Fairfield University

Carl A. Scheraga
Fairfield University – Charles F. Dolan School of Business

Donald E. Gibson
Fairfield University – Charles F. Dolan School of Business

November 9, 2008

IACM 21st Annual Conference Paper

Abstract:

In negotiation and conflict management situations, understanding cultural patterns and tendencies is critical to whether a negotiation will accomplish the goals of the involved parties. While differences in cultural norms have been identified in the current literature, what is needed is a more fine-grained approach that examines differences below the level of behavioural norms. Drawing on recent social neuroscience approaches, we argue that differing negotiating styles may not only be related to differing cultural norms, but to differences in underlying language processing strategies in the brain, suggesting that cultural difference may influence neuropsychological processes. If this is the case, we expect that individuals from different cultures will exhibit different neuropsychological tendencies.

Consistent with our hypothesis, using EEG measured responses, native German-speaking German participants took significantly more time to indicate when they understood a sentence than did native English-speaking American participants. This result is consistent with the theory that individuals from different cultures develop unique language processing strategies that affect behaviour. A deliberative cognitive style used by Germans could account for this difference in comprehension reaction time. This study demonstrates that social neuroscience may provide a new way of understanding micro-processes in cross-cultural negotiations and conflict resolution.

Culture, Cognition and Conflict- How Neuroscience Can Help to Explain Cultural Differences in Negotiation and Conflict Management

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