Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cultural comparison in five dimensions (Geert Hofstede)

I have just come across Geert Hofstede's fascinating five-dimensional quantitative model of culture. Data have been collected for 66 cultures across the globe, including those of US, UK, China, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Ranked by Individualism, one of the five dimensions, US, Australia and UK are the top nations. Ranked by Uncertainty Avoidance, Singapore is the nation most ready for uncertainty.  Surprisingly, Malaysian culture  is the most willing to accept the existence of a power elite.  (For analysis of the Hofstede scores of individual societies, see this.)

Reducing a culture to five numbers is inherently unsatisfactory and subjective. However, such an exercise provides a global perspective that complements the in-depth understanding of an individual culture which each person can only hope to attain for a few cultures in his/her lifetime.

The World Values Survey is a similar project that produces the interesting Inglehart–Welzel Map (map source: Wikipedia), where the vertical axis correlates strongly with Atheism, and the horizontal axis correlates strongly with Wealth. These two dimensions arose out of a factor analysis of ten variables, and account for more than 70% of the variance.

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