A content analysis of arguing behaviors: a case study of Romania as compared to the United States.
Argumentation research has a well-established tradition in the United States (U.S.), where scholars have examined how individuals argue from multiple perspectives (e.g., rhetoric, informal logic, and interpersonal argumentation). The same is not true of other cultures where argumentation undoubtedly occurs but knowledge of its specific functions, manifestations, and consequences is limited. The goal of this manuscript is to examine naive actors' perceptions of interpersonal argumentation in Romania from an emic standpoint, and based on structuration theory (Giddens, 1984). Data from the U.S. are used as a comparison point against which arguing behaviors in Romania are discussed.
Such an investigation is useful for several reasons. First, it provides a description of arguing behaviors in a different culture, which enhances cross-cultural argumentation knowledge. Specifically, this study explains Romanian youth's daily argumentation practices such as topics they argue about, people they argue with, and goals they pursue via arguing. In addition, the study examines Romanians' perceptions of the appropriateness of interpersonal arguing and its role in Romanian life and society. Because extant research examining Romanian communication practices is rare, understanding social and cultural perceptions of arguing is valuable to people interested in studying Romanian cultural customs as well as to people who anticipate interacting with Romanians. More Romanians now work or study abroad; an estimated 3 million Romanians (roughly 15% of the population) worked abroad (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2012), and approximately 28,000 Romanian students studied abroad in 2010 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2014).
Second, the study highlights social and cultural influences at play in a former Eastern European communist country that have led to a unique array of values (Smith, Dugan, & Trompenaars, 1996). Romania's case is interesting because the country has undergone social, economic, and political changes following the 1989 revolution and the integration into the European Union in 2007. This transition may have affected public and interpersonal argumentation. For example, Robila and Krishnakumar (2005) found that increased economic pressures were associated positively with marital conflict (i.e., arguing) among Romanian women, whereas Bancila, Mittelmark, and Hetland (2006) found that stressful interpersonal relationships increased Romanians' levels of psychological distress, regardless of gender. Thus, Romania represents a case study that illustrates the complexities of arguing behaviors in other post-communist Eastern European democracies. In what follows, the manuscript outlines key concepts of structuration theory that aid the analysis, conceptualizes arguing behaviors, and presents an overview of Romania compared to the U.S.
STRUCTURATION THEORY AND ARGUING BEHAVIORS
According to Giddens (1984), "human social activities (...) are recursive. That is to say, they are not brought into being by social actors but continually recreated by them via the very means whereby they express themselves as actors" (p. 2). This claim suggests that arguing, as a social activity (Hample, 2005), is continuously recreated in argumentative exchanges. The present study addresses the question of, "how do argument processes unfold and function within and between groups?" (Seibold & Meyers, 2007, p. 315).
Several scholars (e.g., Poole, Seibold, & McPhee, 1985, 1986, 1996; Seibold, McPhee, & Poole, 1980; Seibold & Myers, 2005) have applied structuration theory to group arguments and deliberation. According to Meyers, Seibold, and Brashers (1991), group arguments illustrate a structure and a system that highlights an "observable interactive practice" (p. 48). These structures can unveil rules and resources (e.g., logical principles) members of a group rely on, and how they deliberate to reach conclusions (Poole, 2013). If the group is a culture, structuration theory can reveal how its members organize argument behaviors-that is, what repertoire of resources they rely on for reenacting the structure imposed on such behaviors, and how the cultural group conceptualizes arguing as a system of everyday practices.
Seibold and Meyers (2007) explained that "viewed as a system, argument is communicative patterns of disagreement, reason giving and reason defending, and resolution seeking" (p. 315). This notion resembles previous definitions of arguing. For example, O'Keefe (1977) explained that, in one sense, an argument is an interactional exchange between two people. Willard (1989) also supported this idea of argument as interaction, based on two individuals' incompatible positions. Similarly, Jackson and jacobs (1980) viewed arguments as "disagreement relevant speech events" (p. 254). In these conceptualizations, the focus is on individual actors, which makes this approach the most suitable for the present cross-cultural analysis, given that we rely on naive actors' reports. Although these reports may be biased or incomplete, they reflect individuals' perceptions, illuminating how they appropriate and reenact cultural norms.
This theoretical conceptualization is applicable across cultures insofar as people in other cultures also argue with others. According to structuration theory, social practices are "ordered across space and time" (Giddens, 1984, p. 2). Structuring properties "make it possible for discernibly similar social practices to exist across varying spans of time and space" (Giddens, 1984, p. 17). In other words, arguing is a social practice instantiated in a particular culture, at a particular moment in time, but drawing from a culturally common reservoir of similar systemic structural properties.
Furthermore, argumentative exchanges have been classified in many ways, depending on goals and normative rules (Walton, 1998). In argumentation theory, most attention has been paid to the argumentative discussion, also termed critical discussion or persuasive dialogue (Barth & Krabbe, 1982; van Eemeren & Grootendorst, 1984; Walton & Krabbe, 1995). Other forms exist, including negotiation, deliberation, and eristic dialogues (Walton & Krabbe, 1995). Walton (1998) explained that the prototypical example of an eristic dialogue, and the most frequent in everyday interactions, is a quarrel. While other forms of dialogue are constructive and follow logical reasoning, the quarrel is often destructive, plagued by logical fallacies, and highly emotional. Cionea (2013) for example, found that persuasion, negotiation, and information seeking tended to be associated with positive interaction goals such as expressing positive feelings and relational concerns, whereas the eristic dialogue tended to be associated with negative ones such as dominance and expressing negativity.
Several empirical studies have provided support for this somewhat dichotomous classification of arguments as either positive exchanges (i.e., argumentative discussions) or relatively negative ones (i.e., quarrels). For example, Benoit (1982) found that naive actors distinguished between an argument and a discussion. The former elicited descriptions that resemble a quarrel: loud voices, emotional displays, and negativity. The latter elicited characterizations that resemble the constructive dialogues Walton (1998) outlined: problem solving, understanding the other's point of view, information exchange, and negotiation. Hample and Dallinger (2002) replicated these results. Hample (2005) concluded that quarreling "is the more punishing experience" (p. 26).
Given the focus of this study, another relevant element in the conceptualization of arguing behaviors is the conceptual vocabulary of the Romanian language. In Romanian, "to argue" has different translations: 1) to quarrel, which is a negative exchange characterized by loud voices, tension, and emotional outbursts, and 2) to debate or discuss something, which involves an intellectual exchange of reasons and explanations, civility, and persuasion. Therefore, participants in each culture were asked to report on a specific type of argument a quarrel or a debate/discussion.
ARGUING BEHAVIORS IN ROMANIA AND THE UNITED STATES
The two cultures selected for comparison were convenient and different, yet these differences ought to affect the content of arguing behaviors, not the very existence of arguing in interpersonal exchanges. In other words, the structuration of arguing as a social practice ought to permit arguments among members of both cultures; individuals ought to rely on cultural rules and resources for enacting and reinforcing the structure each culture has created for arguing.
There are also cultural and sociological reasons that make these cultures interesting cases for analysis. These reasons affect the available resources on which individuals will rely while arguing, which may lead to different instantiations of argument structures. From a cultural standpoint, the U.S. is an individualistic culture, relatively masculine and with a moderate to low power distance index (Hofstede, Hofstede, & Minkov, 2010). Romania is a relatively collectivistic culture, moderately masculine, and with a high power distance index (Albu, 2006; Hofstede et al., 2010). These differences may affect arguing behaviors. For example, individualism and collectivism suggest that, in the U.S., people may be more inclined to argue for self-oriented goals, whereas in Romania, people may be more inclined to argue for collective goals. In the U.S., people may argue with superiors or authority figures but this may not be the case in Romania, given the power distance scores of each culture.
From a sociological, political, and economic standpoint, the U.S. is an older democracy and a multi-ethnic, multi-racial society, with a powerful capitalist economy (Central Intelligence Agency, 2013). Romania is a typical Eastern European young democracy, still recovering from decades of communism, with few ethnic groups and a transitioning, still imbalanced, economy (Central Intelligence Agency, 2013; Krauss, 2006; Nadolu, Nadolu, & Asay, 2007). In an older democracy, such as the U.S., the structures that regulate arguing behaviors and their enactment in public practices may be more clearly articulated, whereas in a younger democracy, such as Romania, the mechanisms that structure argumentation in the public sphere may be in their infancy, or not yet delineated well. For example, Cristea (2013) noted that debates or discussions in the Romanian public sphere were essentially quarrels, with ad hominem attacks and hasty generalizations, suggesting a need to cultivate appropriate forms of arguing.
To investigate how argument processes unfold, this study examines everyday practices in the two cultures. One emergent property of culturally embedded arguments reflective of a group's structures and systems for interaction involves the topics people argue about. Therefore, we examine these topics in individuals' everyday exchanges. Argument topics, as content matters, are essentially localized; that is, they are instantiated from the broader system into the specific exchange. For example, people in the U.S. may argue about immigration issues, whereas people in Romania may argue about personal finances, or vice-versa, depending on the urgency and prominence of such topics in their everyday lives. In serial arguments research (i.e., repetitive arguments about the same topic with the same person; K. Johnson & Roloff, 1998), several authors have explicitly coded participants' reports of topics across cultures. For example, Cionea and Hample (2013) found that most serial arguments in the U.S. were about personal issues and behaviors (e.g., time spent together, being on time, cleaning of common spaces). Cionea and Hopartean (2011) reported that, in Romania, serial arguments were mostly about mundane issues (e.g., where to spend time, whose turn it was to clean), and relational issues (e.g., transgressions). Thus, the expected argument topics in both cultures concern aspects of people's everyday lives such as making decisions, discussing issues of interest, or ironing out misunderstandings. The question we pose, however, examines if these topics differ depending on whether the argument is structured as a quarrel or as a debate/discussion (i.e., argument type).
RQ1: Is there a difference in argument topics a) within each culture or b) across the two cultures based on argument type?
Closely related to argument topics are argumentation partners, or the people with whom one argues on a regular basis. Previous research (e.g., Benoit, 1982; Hample & Allen, 2012; Hample & Krueger, 2011; A. Johnson, 2002, 2009) found that individuals in the U.S. argued with friends, romantic partners, family members, work or school colleagues, and roommates. These are all people encountered regularly during everyday activities. Individuals in other cultures come into contact with similar types of people, but the question is whether one quarrels with such people or debates with them, given that culture may influence the acceptability of arguing. On the one hand, collectivism suggests that Romanians are likely to argue with members of outgroups more than with members of ingroups. On the other hand, disapproval of others' behavior and advice giving are frequent in Romania. Therefore, Romanians may be inclined to argue with a variety of people, especially those close to them. Arguing is also a way of accomplishing things in a culture where bureaucracy is omnipresent, and one must often quarrel with public functionaries to receive assistance. In the U.S., higher individualism and lower power distance suggest that people may argue with a variety of others, including people of higher social status or employers. The following research question is proposed:
RQ2: Is there a difference in one's argumentation partners a) within each culture or b) across the two cultures based on argument type?
In addition to topic and partners, argument goals can shed light on the function of arguing in interpersonal exchanges as goals drive human behavior (Berger, 1997). People report several primary goals for arguing-instrumental (meant to accomplish something concrete such as persuading someone of one's point of view), dominance (either seeking or resisting), identity (arguing in defense of one's identity), and play (i.e., arguing for fun) (Hample, 2005). Secondary goals include cooperation or competition with one's argumentation partner (Hample, 2005). It is likely that members of other cultures, too, pursue such goals given the omnipresence of arguing in everyday interactions. Preference for a type of goal, however, may be influenced by what is culturally perceived as valuable goal pursuit. For example, if a culture values achievement and power, dominance goals may motivate arguing; if a culture values cooperation, relational goals may motivate arguing. To examine these possibilities, the following research question is proposed:
RQ3: Is there a significant difference in argument goals a) within each culture or b) across the two cultures based on argument type?
An important aspect affecting the structuration of arguments concerns the standards or rules dictating acceptable contexts for arguing. We examine perceptions of both situational appropriateness and person appropriateness (i.e., individuals with whom arguing is inappropriate). Appropriateness norms are informed by values and beliefs regarding arguing but also by broader social and political considerations. For example, high power distance (Albu, 2006; Hofstede, 2001) suggests Romanians may not be inclined to argue with elders, superiors, or those of higher social status, which would not be the case in the U.S., whose power distance level is lower. In addition, politeness theory (Brown & Levinson, 1987) suggests individuals suppress arguing in situations that threaten another's face. Power distance and politeness considerations prevent one from behaving in a face-threatening manner (e.g., arguing), especially with higher status individuals. Indeed, research suggests people consider issues of politeness and context in cognitively editing their messages (e.g., Hample & Dallinger, 1987). Thus, the following research questions are proposed:
RQ4: Is there a significant difference in situations in which arguing is perceived as inappropriate a) within each culture or b) across the two cultures based on argument type?
RQ5: Is there a significant difference in persons with whom arguing is perceived as inappropriate a) within each culture or b) across the two cultures based on argument type?
Finally, an element we believe is important for understanding argumentation systems pertains to the role this form of interaction has in people's lives and in society. We believe the role of arguing in one's life to be a personalized representation of the cultural perception of the role of arguing in one's society. In other words, culture sanctions the value and importance of arguing via its norms and rules. Individuals learn these sanctions through enculturation. At the individual level, the cultural perspective is affected by a multitude of factors, including predisposition to approach or avoid arguments (Infante & Rancer, 1982), educational opportunities (e.g., whether argumentation training is available), or upbringing (e.g., growing up in an argumentative family). The role of arguing in one's culture may reflect social considerations, including the value of public debate and open discussion. This logic suggests that U.S. Americans (referred to as Americans hereafter) may perceive arguing as a way of enacting democracy or exercising their freedom of expression. Romanians, however, have both a communist legacy of stifled public discourse and a current political scene inundated by inflammatory public discourse, which suggests Romanians may not believe arguing has a constructive role in their culture. The following research questions are proposed:
RQ6: Is there a significant difference in arguing's role in one's life a) within each culture or b) across the two cultures based on argument type?
RQ7: Is there a significant difference in arguing's role in one's society a) within each culture orb) across the two cultures based on argument type?
Romania. Participants in the study were 166 undergraduate and graduate students at a large Northwestern university. They ranged in age from 18 to 53 years old (M = 22.05, SD = 4.09). More participants were females (n = 128) than males (n = 36) and two participants did not report their sex. Fifty-six participants were freshmen, 12 were sophomores, 40 were juniors, and 55 were graduate students. Three participants did not indicate their class standing. Most participants were of Romanian (n = 145), followed by Hungarian (n = 17) ethnicity, which is typical for Romania. The remaining participants were a combination of the previous two ethnicities (n = 1), some other ethnicity (n = 1), or did not answer this question (n = 2).
United States. Participants in the study were 236 undergraduate students at a large South-Atlantic university. They ranged in age from 18 to 27 years old (M = 19.91, SD = 1.55). Of the 236 participants, 109 were male and 126 were female, and one participant did not answer this question. Eighty-five participants were freshmen, 59 were sophomores, 47 were juniors, 44 were seniors, and one participant indicated another class standing. Most participants were White (n = 143), some participants were Asian (n = 30), some were Black or African-American (n = 36), Hispanic or Latino/Latina (n = 14), and 13 participants were a combination of these ethnicities.
Romania. Participants were recruited from English courses in a Business School and completed a paper-and-pencil questionnaire voluntarily. The questionnaire contained two forms: one with questions pertaining to a quarrel and another with questions pertaining to a debate/discussion. Questionnaires were randomly distributed, but not all of them were returned. Ninety-six participants described arguing behaviors in quarrels and 70 participants described arguing behaviors in debates/discussions. Each questionnaire contained a consent form (which participants were instructed to detach from the rest of the questionnaire), demographic questions, and open-ended questions about arguing behaviors. All materials were in Romanian (following translation and back-translation procedures).
United States. Participants were recruited from Communication courses, completed the study online, and received extra credit for their participation. The first page of the online questionnaire contained a consent form. If respondents agreed to participate, they continued to the demographic questions. The rest of the online questionnaire contained the same two forms as the Romanian questionnaire did. Participants were randomly assigned to complete one of the forms. One hundred and twelve participants described arguing behaviors in quarrels and 124 described arguing behaviors in debates/discussions. All materials were in English. The Institutional Review Board of the South-Atlantic University where the U.S. data were collected approved the research.
Participants answered several open-ended questions indicating what they argued about, with whom they argued, what they usually tried to achieve when arguing, whether there were situations in which it was not appropriate to argue or people with whom it was not appropriate to argue, and what the role of arguing was in their personal life and in the Romanian or American society, respectively (See Tables 1 through 7).
Data Unitization and Coding
Participants' open-ended answers contained multiple responses for most questions. For example, when asked with whom they argued, participants indicated several persons; when asked what they wanted to accomplish by arguing, participants indicated several goals. Therefore, all answers were first unitized to create coding units (Krippendorf, 2004). Two native Romanian speakers worked with the Romanian data and two native English speakers worked with the U.S. data. Each coding unit consisted of a single argument topic, person, goal, situation, or role. The inter-coder agreement for the unitization process was assessed with Guetzkow's (1950) U index, which indicates the disagreement between coders (Folger, Hewes, & Poole, 1984). An index value was calculated for each question unitized, and individual values were then averaged to create an overall index for each culture. The final Uvalue was .01 (i.e., .99 agreement) for the Romanian data and .09 (i.e., .91 agreement) for the U.S. data.
For the Romania data, the unitization process yielded 296 coding units for topics, 305 coding units for argumentation partners, 223 coding units for arguing goals, 190 coding units for situations in which arguing was perceived as inappropriate, 238 coding units for persons with whom it was not appropriate to argue, 222 coding units for the role of arguing in one's life, and 204 coding units for the role of arguing in Romanian society. The U.S. data yielded 451 coding units for topics, 365 coding units for argumentation partners, 291 coding units for arguing goals, 293 coding units for situations in which arguing was inappropriate, 294 coding units for persons with whom it was not appropriate to argue, 310 coding units for the role of arguing in one's life, and 304 coding units for the role of arguing in American society.
Next, a coding scheme was developed based on patterns identified in participants' responses for each question, in both cultures. The categories created were discussed among coders and functional definitions of each category were developed, with examples from participants' answers (see Table 1). The coders (same individuals who unitized the data) were trained by discussing the categories and their definitions, then randomly selecting a few answers from the data set and examining the codes that coders assigned to these answers. Then, each coder coded the unitized answers independently. Intercoder reliability (assessed with Cohen's kappa) was .87 for the Romanian data and .88 for the American data, which indicates excellent agreement between coders (Landis & Koch, 1977). Disagreements were resolved through discussions among each pair of coders.
To address the research questions, the frequency of responses in each category of the coding scheme for each question was separated based on argument type (quarrel or debate/ discussion) and culture (Romania or U.S.). Coding units were reduced further to eliminate duplicate codes provided by the same person, in the same category. For example, if a respondent indicated he/she argued about sports, music, and movies (all coded as entertainment matters), the response was counted as one unit, instead of three units. Z-tests comparing the number of answers in a category to the total number of answers for that type of argument or that culture were then performed using an online calculator (Social Science Statistics, 2014).
RQ1a asked whether arguing topics differed in each culture depending on whether the argument was a quarrel or a debate/discussion. In Romania, individuals quarreled significantly more about trivial matters than they debated/discussed such topics, z = 3.71, p < .001, and about matters of appropriateness, z = 2.73, p < .01, but they debated/discussed their future more than they quarreled about it, z = 2.00, p < .05. In the U.S., individuals debated/discussed socio-political matters, z = 2.02, p < .05, and occupational matters, Z = 2.29, p < .05, significantly more than they quarreled about them. They quarreled more about relational matters than they debated/discussed such issues, z = 5.14, p < .001.
RQ1b asked whether a significant difference in argument topics existed between Romania and the U.S. with respect to quarrels and debates/discussions. Romanians quarreled more than Americans did about matters of appropriateness, z = 3.08, p < .01, whereas Americans quarreled more than Romanians did about entertainment matters, z = 3.19, p < .01, and relational matters, z = 5.14, p < .001. They also debated/discussed trivial matters, z = 2.38, p < .05, and entertainment matters, z = 2.61, p < .001, more than Romanians did. Finally, significantly more Americans indicated that they simply did not engage in debates/discussions, compared to Romanians, z = 2.28, p < .05.
RQ2a asked whether argumentation partners differed in each culture based on whether the argument was a quarrel or a debate/discussion. Results indicated several differences existed within each culture based on argument type. Specifically, Romanians reported quarreling with their romantic partners more than they debated/discussed issues with them, z = 3.10 , p < .01. They debated/discussed issues with their friends, z = 2.70, p < .01, and professional others (e.g., work colleagues), z = 2.36, p < .05, more than they quarreled with such individuals. Americans debated/discussed issues with their acquaintances more than they quarreled with such individuals, z = 2.17, p < .05.
RQ2b asked whether individuals with whom one argued differed across the two cultures, depending on the type of argument. Results indicated several differences existed between the two cultures. Specifically, Americans quarreled more than Romanians did with their friends, z = 3.07, p < .01, and their roommates, z = 2.57, p < .05, whereas Romanians engaged in more debates/discussions than Americans did with professional others, z = 2.97, p < .01.
RQ3a asked whether goals differed within each culture. The only difference in Romania was in respect to learning. Romanians reported trying to learn more in debates/discussions than in quarrels, z = 2.74, p < .01. No differences emerged with respect to goals in the U.S. RQ3b asked whether arguing goals differed across the two cultures. No significant differences were found.
RQ4a asked whether cultures differed in perceptions of situational appropriateness for arguing depending on argument type. Romanians indicated that it was inappropriate to quarrel in any situation when compared to debating/discussing something, z = 2.73, p < .01, and that it was not appropriate to debate/discuss taboo topics such as religion or race, z = 1.97, p < .05. No differences existed in the U.S. based on argument type.
RQ4b asked whether situations in which arguing was inappropriate differed across the two cultures, depending on the type of argument. Americans reported that quarreling was inappropriate significantly more often than Romanians did in situations eliciting respect (e.g., when the elderly are involved), z = 2.29, p < .05. Americans also believed it was inappropriate to debate/discuss issues in sacred situations (e.g., church service), z = 2.30, p < .05, more than Romanians did. Romanians believed it was inappropriate to quarrel in any situation significantly more than Americans, z = 3.07, p < .01. They also believed it was inappropriate to debate/discuss issues when lacking sufficient evidence significantly more than Americans, z = 3.82, p < .001.
RQ5a asked whether differences in perceived appropriateness to argue with specific individuals existed within each culture, depending on argument type. Romanian participants reported it was inappropriate to quarrel with close others significantly more than to debate/ discuss issues with them, z = 4.13, p < .001, and that it was inappropriate to debate/discuss issues with individuals who were unreasonable significantly more than to quarrel with them, Z = 4.50, p < .001. No significant differences emerged for the U.S.
RQ5b examined potential differences in quarrels and debates/discussions between the two cultures. Americans believed it was inappropriate to engage in debates/discussions with authority figures significantly more than Romanians did, z = 2.06, p < .05. Romanians believed quarrelling was inappropriate with close others more than Americans did, z = 3.09, p < .01, and that it was inappropriate to debate/discuss issues with unreasonable individuals more than Americans did, z = 3.90, p < .001.
RQ6a asked about the role of arguing in one's life within each culture depending on argument type. Romanians indicated quarrels allowed emotional release significantly more than debates/discussions, z = 2.02, p < .05 did. Also, Romanians identified quarrels as having no role more than debates/discussions, z = 2.78, p < .01. Romanians further reported debates/discussions promoted learning more than quarrels, z = 2.82, p < .01. No significant differences emerged for the U.S.
RQ6b asked whether the two cultures differed in respect to the perceived role of arguing in one's life, depending on argument type. Americans indicated quarrels permitted personal expression, z = 3.39, p < .001,
and enacting dominance, z = 3.27, p < .01, more than Romanians. Americans also believed debates/discussions enabled them to express themselves, z = 2.39, p < .05, significantly more than Romanians did. Romanians believed that arguing's role in their lives was to enable learning significantly more than Americans did, regardless of whether the argument was a quarrel, z = 3.35, p < .001, or a debate/discussion, z = 4.69, p < .001.
Finally, RQ7 inquired about the perceived role of arguing in society. RQ7a asked whether the role of quarrels and debates/discussions differed within each culture. Romanians perceived quarrels allow emotional release, z = 2.40, p < .05, more than debates/discussions. Americans believed debates/discussions distracted people from important issues or were a waste of time more than quarrels, z = 2.46, p < .05.
RQ7b asked whether differences existed between the two cultures, depending on argument type. Americans believed quarrels' role in society was to permit personal expression, z = 2.93, p < .01, to enact dominance, z = 3.18, p < .01, and to enable persuasion, z = 3.11, p < .01, and believed debates/discussions enabled personal expression, z = 2.09, p < .05, and dominance, z = 2.84, p < .01, more than Romanians did. Romanians believed that quarreling had no role in society, z = 2.85, p < .01, or that its function was to distract from other issues or waste time, z = 2.38, p < .05 more than Americans.
DISCUSSION, LIMITATIONS, AND DIRECTIONS FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
The goal of this analysis was to examine how arguing practices are structured (according to naive actors' reports) in a cultural group and compare these structuration practices between two cultures: Romania and the U.S. We found several differences, both within each culture, depending on how arguing is defined, and between the two cultures.
First, topics of arguments differed across the two cultures. On the one hand, Americans reported discussing/debating and quarreling about a wider variety of topics, compared to Romanians, from entertainment matters, to trivial or relational issues. Arguing is used to exchange opinions about a multitude of subjects in the U.S., which speaks to its ubiquity as a form of interaction. On the other hand, more individuals in the U.S. than in Romania reported that they did not engage in debates/discussions with others. One tentative explanation is that Americans are lower in argumentativeness, although argumentativeness was not measured in this study, unfortunately. In addition, Romanians reported quarrelling significantly more than Americans did but only about appropriate behaviors. Romanians also debated/discussed matters related to their future such as career plans, more than Americans. This behavior may be reflective of Romania's social and economic uncertainty. Individuals are perhaps doubtful of their future prospects, which leads them to discuss their plans with others, and possibly ask for advice from ingroup members.
Topics of argument also differed within each culture, depending on whether arguing was defined as debate/discussion or a quarrel, particularly in Romania. In this culture, quarrels are the way to address matters of appropriate behavior and trivial matters. Quarreling about trivial topics more than debating/discussing such matters may be the result of other factors such as stress or lack of communication. In the U.S., quarrels were used more than debates/discussions only to address relational matters. It may be that arguing occurs at a point where one has already repressed feelings about misunderstandings in a relationship, which triggers recourse to quarreling rather than to the calm discussion of such issues.
Second, there were both within and between culture differences in argumentation partners. Americans engaged their friends and roommates in quarrels significantly more than Romanians did. This behavior may be motivated by situational factors. The sample for our study consisted of undergraduate students, who are at a stage in their lives when they interact frequently with friends and roommates, which comports with literature suggesting propinquity associates with argument frequency (Benoit, 1982; A. Johnson, 2002, 2009). Romanians reported debating/discussing things more with their professional colleagues (who could be other students at the university) than Americans did. These results might be explained by contextual or perceptual factors. For instance, whether the argument is a quarrel or a debate/discussion nuances reports about argumentation partners. Romanians indicated they quarreled with romantic partners more than they debated/discussed issues with them, but they debated/discussed things with their friends or professional others more than they quarreled with them. In the U.S., a distinction was made in respect to acquaintances, with which one debated/discussed issues more than one quarreled. Thus, two possible mechanisms are at work for understanding the two groups' reports about their argumentation partners. First, increased contact increases argument frequency and second, appropriateness norms and rules about engaging influence with whom people are likely to engage.
The results above can be understood better when examined in conjunction with results pertaining to the appropriateness of arguing. Cultural considerations seem to operate for Romanians who reported it was inappropriate to quarrel with close others more than to debate/discuss issues with them. This finding was stronger for Romanians than for Americans. This behavior suggests an interest in not engaging in arguments with members of one's ingroup (Tajfel, 1974), which may be reflective of the culture's collectivistic orientation, as we had speculated. Quarreling with individuals whom one is close to (e.g., family members, romantic partners, or friends) may threaten ingroup harmony or relations (Hofstede, 2001). Therefore, arguing is something to be done with outgroup members, as reflected by the finding mentioned above that Romanians debate/discuss occupational matters (e.g., things learned in school) with professional colleagues.
An interesting significant difference was the perceived inappropriateness of debating/ discussing things with individuals who are unreasonable in the case of Romanians (but not Americans). This result suggests practicality: arguing with those who are not reasonable enough to accept other opinions, or who are stubborn beyond reason, may be perceived as a waste of time, and, therefore, avoided. This result also implies that there may be perceived limits to persuasion: not everyone's mind can be changed, no matter how much a speaker tries.
Importantly, appropriateness standards regarding argumentation partners did not differ in the U.S. based on argument type. One aspect in which Americans scored significantly higher than Romanians was the perceived inappropriateness of debating/discussing issues with authority figures. This finding was contrary to our expectations. We believed Romanians would be more hesitant than Americans to argue with authority figures given the culture's higher power distance index as compared to the U.S. On the contrary, Americans were the ones to enact such power distance considerations in arguments. It may be the case that Romanians do not show the same respect to authority due to the legacy of communism, a time when the state exerted its authoritarian power forcefully, which made people resentful, and potentially resistant to this type of power. Another explanation could be that Romanians believe that they have to argue to accomplish instrumental tasks, which may involve arguing with superiors or people in higher positions. Stefenel (2010) found that Romanians tended "to stand up for [their] own rights and interests in a conflict situation" (p. 9), which suggests arguing could be used for this purpose and, therefore, perceived as appropriate, regardless of one's interlocutor and his or her status.
With respect to situations in which arguing was perceived as inappropriate, several interesting results emerged. Romanians indicated that debating/discussing something without adequate evidence to support one's claims was inappropriate. In other words, Romanians believe that arguing for the sake of it (i.e., arguing as play; Hample, 2005), or sharing an unsupported opinion, is unacceptable. It may be the case that Romanians do not believe they have the necessary evidence to carry on some discussions, which is why they also report engaging in fewer debates/discussions than Americans (RQ1). Popular wisdom dictates that one should speak only when one has something to contribute to the discussion. This result is worth pursuing further because it implies different argument engagement behaviors in the two cultures; Romanians may be more selective of which arguments to engage in based on how much evidence they have to support their claims. They may also believe that not everything they think is worth expressing, be it out of modesty or perceived lack of knowledge about a topic.
Romanians also indicated, significantly more than Americans did, that it was never appropriate to quarrel with others, which reflects cultural values about polite interactions. Children are taught in Romania that it is not nice to quarrel with others and that they should strive for peaceful interactions. Romanians use hedging techniques to avoid offending their conversation partners (Ilie, 2010) and avoid explicit disagreement, polemics, or contradiction (Serbanescu, 2003), which are all viewed negatively. Interestingly, this may be the reason why taboo topics, such as religion or race issues, were also perceived as inappropriate to discuss/debate.
Americans identified several situations in which it was not appropriate to quarrel with others or debate/discuss things with others, including situations that elicit respect or sacred situations such as churches or formal events (for debates/discussions only). This behavior appears to be driven not necessarily by low power distance considerations, but perhaps by politeness or face concerns.
Finally, despite minimal differences reported by individuals with respect to arguing goals (i.e., Romanians perceived debates/discussions as an opportunity to learn more than during quarrels; RQ3), arguing has more nuanced and complex functions in one's life and in society in the U.S. as compared to Romania. Americans indicated that arguing (in either sense of the term) allowed them personal expression, with quarrels also used to enact dominance. Romanians indicated significantly more than Americans did only that arguing (in either sense of the term) enabled individuals to learn new things. At the societal level, a similar pattern emerged. Americans reported arguing's role was to permit personal expression and enact dominance, with quarrels also believed to allow people to persuade others. Romanians reported quarrels functioned as a distraction from important matters, were a waste of time, or had no role in Romanian society. Brashers, Adkins, and Meyers (1994) explained that group arguments are "constructed and maintained in interaction" (p. 267). Our results suggest different structuration practices of group arguments in the two cultures. The resources upon which individuals draw to establish these structures are, historically speaking, different. For example, freedom of expression is an important American value, which informs the activity of arguing; individuals can express their ideas via arguing. The legacy of communism, as well as public talk shows and electoral debates, exemplify in Romania aggressive attitudes, ad hominem attacks, and abusive language (Ilie, 2010). The resulting structure that emerges based on these realities is one that views arguing as lacking public functions.
So what does this study reveal about arguing behaviors? In Romania, arguing structures are clearly delineated as a function of one's understanding of arguments as quarrels or debates/discussions. More differences emerged between these two types in Romania than in the U.S. Second, some of the boundaries of arguing structures at the interpersonal level are different than in the U.S. Specifically, when or with whom it is appropriate to argue is delineated differently in Romania than in the U.S. We have speculated that the influences of communism and cultural values, such as individualism-collectivism (Hofstede, 2001), may affect how arguing is organized within a system of behaviors. Third, the enactment of arguing behaviors in everyday interactions serves similar goals in the two cultures but occurs in different forms (e.g., topics argued, situations, role of arguing in one's life). In the U.S., this study provides additional support for previous findings that have identified how naive actors experience arguing (e.g., Benoit, 1982; Hample, 2005). We have added to that literature our finding that quarrels and debates/discussions have some different uses, although the two share more similarities than differences in the U.S.
The results of this comparative examination enhance our understanding of argumentation practices and the cross-cultural experience of arguing in several ways. Reliance on structuration theory (Giddens, 1984) has enabled us to examine how different resources, such as cultural beliefs and values, or sociological and political conditions, contribute to different articulations of arguing structures in two cultures. This idea suggests that researchers ought to identify and examine what resources members of a cultural group draw upon in their argumentation behaviors in order to understand how such systems are formed. In addition, our analysis revealed that some structuration practices (e.g., goals) are similar, suggesting some pan-cultural features of arguing. Thus, people in different cultures may use arguing to fulfill similar interpersonal communication needs, supporting structuration theory's proposition that similar practices may be enacted at different times, in different places (Giddens, 1984). Furthermore, differences between the two cultures speak to group argumentation practices. Given the lack of research in and about Romania, this study provides a useful description of arguing behaviors in that culture. It also identifies how argument functions at the interpersonal level to regulate interactions among members of this cultural group. At the societal level, the study reveals that arguing is perceived to fulfill different roles in the two cultures, with more complex possibilities for Americans than for Romanians. Finally, Romanians distinguish between debates/discussions and quarrels in multiple ways, consequently differentiating between their uses in everyday interactions potentially more than Americans do. A possible reason is language itself: one word with multiple meanings in English, versus different words for the different meanings in Romanian. The obvious implication here is that researchers examining arguing behaviors in other cultures must be careful when translating terms if they want to make accurate cross-cultural comparisons.
This study is not without limitations. First, cultural dimensions or values that may explain the differences found were not directly measured; rather possible cultural considerations were discussed based on pre-existent cultural scores. The main interest of the study was to identify a basic set of behaviors that could serve as an initial entry point into understanding arguing behaviors; from that standpoint, the study provided important information about these practices in the two cultures. Further research should be conducted to uncover cultural factors that affect arguing behaviors. Second, the Romanian sample was composed of mostly women, so results ought to be interpreted with this limitation in mind. Romanian women may be more hesitant to argue than Romanian men. Their gendered socialization (Guan, Bond, Dinica, & Iliescu, 2008) stressed that women should not be argumentative, which may result in their reporting socially desirable arguing practices or minimizing arguing's role in their lives. Finally, in both cultures, the sample surveyed consisted of college students. Although this sample is adequate for comparison, students may not have been exposed to all forms of arguing (e.g., they may not have engaged in workplace arguments or spousal arguments). A more diverse sample of individuals (e.g., different age, occupation, geographical location) would be more representative of the spectrum of arguing behaviors in the two cultures. Nevertheless, this research constitutes a foundation for investigating arguing, from an emic perspective, to characterize cultures and compare them in an effort to understand where and why differences in arguing behaviors exist.
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Ioana A. Cionea, Department of Communication, University of Oklahoma; Ana-Maria Hopartean, Facultatea de Stiinte Economice si Gestiunea Afacerilor, Universitatea Babes-Bolyai; Carrisa S. Hoelscher, Department of Communication, University of Oklahoma; Irina A. Iles, Department of Communication, University of Maryland; Sara K. Straub, Department of Communication, University of Oklahoma. An earlier version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the National Communication Association, Washington DC, 2013. The authors wish to thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments that have improved the manuscript's quality. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Ioana A. Cionea, Department of Communication, University of Oklahoma, 610 Elm Avenue, Norman, Oklahoma 73019. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
TABLE 1. Argument Topics: Categories and Frequency of Responses for Each Culture and Argument Type Romania United States Debate/ Debate/ Quarrel discussion Quarrel discussion Question: On average, during a week, what do you usually argue about? Trivial matters (e.g., 25 5 28 23 small things, menial issues) Entertainment matters 3 8 25 32 (e.g., sports, pop culture, movies, or a playful exchange) Everyday matters (e.g., 21 20 36 39 day-to-day activities such as where to eat, what to do) Financial matters (e.g., 6 3 6 9 money, salary, spending) Socio-political matters 3 10 11 21 (e.g., politics, economy, public decisions) Relational matters (e.g., 4 1 11 21 misunderstandings, communication, nature of relationship) Matters of 20 6 11 8 appropriateness (e.g., inappropriate behaviors, hurtful words, lying) Future matters (e.g., 1 6 4 5 career plans, decisions about one's future) Occupational matters 14 23 12 24 (e.g., work performance, group projects) Do not argue 3 0 7 8 (participants indicated they do not argue with others) Other (some other topic) 17 27 18 9 Residual (missing answer; 12 12 9 9 ambiguous answer; answer could not be understood) TABLE 2. Argument Partners: Categories and Frequency of Responses for Each Culture and Argument Type Romania United States Debate/ Debate/ Quarrel discussion Quarrel discussion Question: On average, during a week, who do you usually argue with? Romantic partners 24 9 22 14 Friends 22 37 50 42 Family members 56 40 50 38 Professional others 12 23 11 7 (e.g., work colleagues, supervisors, school colleagues) Roommates 11 9 29 18 Acquaintances (e.g., 4 4 2 7 familiar people but not as close as family members or friends) Other (some other person) 13 11 8 1 Residual (missing answer; 11 3 4 3 ambiguous answer; answer could not be understood) TABLE 3. Argument Goals: Categories and Frequency of Responses for Each Culture and Argument Type Romania United States Debate/ Debate/ Quarrel discussion Quarrel discussion Question: What do you usually try to achieve when arguing with someone? Personal expression 28 22 27 30 (e.g., express one's self, voice one's opinion) Dominance/Power (e.g., 22 22 34 34 win, show one is right, feel superior) Persuasion/Compliance 20 15 30 36 gaining (e.g., convince others, make others behave in a certain way) Problem-solving (e.g., 18 9 18 12 find a solution, resolve something, negotiate something) Learning (e.g., learn 5 14 5 14 different viewpoints, sharpen one's skills) Other (some other goal) 15 3 4 5 Residual (missing answer; 4 3 3 5 ambiguous answer; answer could not be understood) TABLE 4. Inappropriate Situations: Categories and Frequency or Responses for Each Culture and Argument Type Romania United States Debate/ Debate/ Quarrel discussion Quarrel discussion Question: Are there situations in which it is not appropriate to argue with others? When power differentials 6 4 4 7 exist (e.g., socially superior others are present) When in public 9 3 15 11 When in sacred places/ 6 2 11 15 occasions (e.g., funerals, weddings, when in church) When respect is elicited 4 3 13 15 but not necessarily because the other person is more powerful (e.g., the elderly or respected individuals are involved) When lacking evidence 10 16 7 5 (e.g., when knowing one is incorrect, when one cannot back up one's arguments) When arguments have 3 7 7 14 harmful consequences or threaten the other person (e.g., tension would be increased, the argument would hurt the other person or put the other person in a bad light) When taboo topics are 0 3 3 8 involved (e.g., religion, race, ethnic issues) It is never appropriate 12 1 2 1 to argue with others Other (some other 10 14 15 13 situation) Residual (missing answer; 46 30 55 48 ambiguous answer; answer could not be understood) * * The large number of residual answers here is due to the fact that numerous participants responded "Yes" or "No" to this question, without further details that could be coded. TABLE 5. Inappropriate Individuals: Categories and Frequency of Responses for Each Culture and Argument Type Romania United States Debate/ Debate/ Quarrel discussion Quarrel discussion Question: Are there any people with whom it is not appropriate to argue? Authority figures/ 26 14 37 39 superior others (e.g., people who have more power or more knowledge, such as doctors, professors, or supervisors) Close others (e.g., 33 3 15 10 friends, family) The elderly 12 11 23 21 Less powerful/ 4 1 7 3 disadvantaged others (e.g., children, ill or upset individuals) Unreasonable others 1 14 2 3 (e.g., individuals who are too stubborn, people who are indoctrinated or become too aggressive) Other (some other person) 11 2 7 6 Residual (missing answer; 39 35 42 47 ambiguous answer; answer could not be understood) * * The large number of residual answers here is due to the fact that numerous participants responded "Yes" or "No" to this question, without further details that could be coded. TABLE 6. Arguing's Role in One's Life: Categories and Frequency of Responses for Each Culture and Argument Type Romania United States Debate/ Debate/ Quarrel discussion Quarrel discussion Question: What do you believe is the role of arguing in your personal life? Personal expression 10 11 37 34 (e.g., allows one to express one's self, voice one's opinion) Dominance/Power (e.g., 2 4 19 10 allows one to show one is right, superior or to win arguments) Persuasion/Compliance 6 3 17 13 gaining (e.g., allows one to convince others, make others behave in a certain way) Problem-solving (e.g., 13 10 9 8 allows one to find a solution or resolve something) Learning (e.g., allows 28 38 14 20 one to learn different viewpoints, sharpen one's skills) Emotional release (e.g., 8 1 16 8 allows one to release stress, tension) No role (i.e., arguing 15 2 19 9 does not have a specific role) Other (some other role) 19 6 4 12 Residual (missing answer; 6 8 5 11 ambiguous answer; answer could not be understood) TABLE 7. Arguing's Role in Society: Categories and Frequency of Responses for Each Culture and Argument Type Romania United States Debate/ Debate/ Quarrel discussion Quarrel discussion Question: What do you believe is the role of arguing in American/ Romanian society? Personal expression 3 5 17 23 (e.g., allows people to express themselves, voice their opinions) Dominance/Power (e.g., 12 4 35 27 allows people to show superiority and win arguments) Persuasion/Compliance 2 5 16 17 gaining (e.g., allows people to convince others, to change viewpoints) Problem-solving/Conflict 9 5 12 8 resolution (e.g., allows people to find solutions, resolve issues) Learning (e.g., allows 6 10 9 9 people to learn different viewpoints, to enhance argumentation skills) Emotional release (e.g., 8 0 6 5 allows people to release stress and tension) Public function (e.g., 6 8 9 14 allows the exercise of democracy, it is a form of public opinion, something used in the public arena) Distraction (e.g., 7 3 1 9 arguing is a waste of time, it is used to distract people from important issues) No role (i.e., arguing 11 3 2 2 does not have a specific role) Other (some other role) 25 9 8 11 Residual (missing answer; 23 25 15 15 ambiguous answer; answer could not be understood) Residual (missing answer; 3 5 17 23 ambiguous answer; answer could not be understood)
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|Author:||Cionea, Ioana A.; Hopartean, Ana-Maria; Hoelscher, Carrisa S.; Iles, Irina A.; Straub, Sara K.|
|Publication:||Argumentation and Advocacy|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2015|
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