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CROSS-CULTURAL TESTING OF FACE THREATS TO PREDICT APOLOGY AND THANKS INTENTIONS.

We examined whether Koreans intended to make an apology and North Americans intended to express thanks in a message asking for a favor. Because one reason for apologizing or thanking is to lessen the face threat occurred by favor asking, four face threats were empirically measured to predict participants' intentions. Participants were 104 North American and 90 Korean college students who took the role of an email sender making a favor request and selected from options for apologizing or thanking the receiver to lessen the four types of face threat. Results showed that North Americans intended to express thanks, and both North Americans and Koreans intended to make an apology when asking a favor; further, for Koreans, a speaker's positive face threat triggered intention to make an apology and, for North Americans, a receiver's negative face threat triggered an intention to express thanks. Implications and future research directions are discussed.

Keywords: apology, thanks, face threats, speech acts, cross-cultural communication.

People easily learn how to say "I'm sorry" and "thank you" in different languages and assume that apologies and thanks are universal polite expressions (Coulmas, 1981). Although apologies and thanks are common to almost all cultures and languages, their norms and functions vary from one culture to another. For example, it has previously been established that Koreans' favor-asking messages contain apologies more than messages from North Americans do, whereas North Americans use thanks more often than Koreans do (Lee & Park, 2011). Apologies in a message asking for a favor are perceived positively by Koreans, whereas North Americans report positive responses to thanks in a favor-asking message (Lee, 2014). This means that apologies and thanks may not sound sincere or gracious in a cultural community if these speech acts are not used appropriately. Therefore, understanding cultural differences is important for effective intercultural communication.

Although apologies and thanks deliver the clear goals of expressing emotions of regret and gratitude, respectively, both can be used to ask favors in a polite way (Ide, 1998). In favor asking, if indebtedness or imposition is perceived more saliently by the speaker, apologies will be included, but if the speaker perceives that a subsequent benefit to himself or herself is related more closely to the situation, thanks will be preferred. However, findings reported in research have shown that cultures do not all share the same values for apologies and thanks in the same communication contexts. Koreans and North Americans show a preference for different speech acts (apology vs. thanks) in the same situation (Lee & Park, 2011; Park & Lee, 2012). In the current study we extended our previous research into whether Koreans were more inclined to make an apology and North Americans more often expressed thanks. More importantly, we investigated the reasons for these preferences at a microlevel. As one of the reasons to use apologies and thanks in favor-asking messages is to diminish the face threat associated with the favor asking, we examined what kinds of face threats would predict the different speech act intentions. Additionally, we compared Koreans' responses with those of North Americans in order to understand cross-cultural differences.

Apologies and Thanks as Speech Acts

Apologies and thanks are two types of universal speech act. A speech act refers to a minimal unit of discourse easily transferable from language to language (Coulmas, 1981). When a speaker (S) makes an apology he or she is attempting to support the receiver (R), who is actually or possibly offended by S's behavior, and to reestablish equilibrium between R and S (Olshtain, 1989). S directs thanks to R as a result of some behavior or because of S's certainty that he or she will get a benefit from the act of thanking (Alaoui, 2011).

Favor asking is categorized as a type of request indicating S's wish or need for R to offer some desired action that would not be provided without it being asked for (see e.g., Goldschmidt, 1998). Based on this, favor asking is a face-threatening act, and expressing apologies or thanks along with favor asking can be an effort to diminish the face threat incurred by the request for a favor (Coulmas, 1981). Because favor asking implies that S could not avoid hindering R's freedom of action (Brown & Levinson, 1987), these speech acts may reduce impressions of imposition (Roloff, Janiszewski, McGrath, Burns, & Manrai, 1988). If S aims attention at the following benefit to himself or herself, thanks will be expressed in favor asking. In contrast, if indebtedness or imposition is perceived more saliently, apologies will be included. To date, it has not been empirically investigated whether or not the intention of making an apology and expressing thanks is predicted by face threats caused by favor asking.

Apologies and Thanks as Facework Strategies

Face refers to the public self-image that people would like to present of themselves (Goffman, 1967) and is identified as negative or positive (Brown & Levinson, 1987). Negative face is defined as people's need for freedom and independence from presumptuousness, whereas positive face pertains to the desire for others' gratefulness and appreciation. When two people communicate with each other, positive and negative faces of S and R are possibly involved. In general, in communications, S would like to protect both his or her own face along with that of R (Wilson, 1990).

Favor asking forces R to offer the favor, so it makes a threat to R's negative face (Brown & Levinson, 1987). Also, because asking for a favor may indicate that S cannot handle his or her problem alone (Goldsmith, 1992), or that S is dependent (Craig, Tracy, & Spisak, 1986), favor asking may threaten S's own positive face. Additionally, S may constrain his or her future autonomy by being indebted to R through favor asking (Roloff et al., 1988). This would potentially threaten S's negative face. S will either decide to ask a favor if the benefit from the favor outweighs the threats to his or her negative and positive faces, or will not ask the favor to protect his or her face. Lastly, R's positive face threat would not be concerned with the favor asking because, by doing so, S indicates that R has abilities and/or resources that S needs. However, R's positive face could potentially be threatened if R is not able to offer the favor. Taken together, among the four alternatives, favor asking itself should make the most threat to R's negative face.

Facework strategies, including apologies and thanks, function to reduce or repair the threat caused by favor asking, but their specific effects are different. First, R's negative face threat might predict S making an apology to lessen the threat triggered by favor asking. Regarding S's positive face, two outcomes are possible. On one hand, the positive face threat that S presents to R would lead S to make an apology to R in order to fulfill R's expectation of receiving the apology and, accordingly, repairing R's previous positive impression of S. On the other hand, the positive face threat that S presents would prevent him or her from offering an apology, which would denigrate S through R (Holtgraves, 2002). It has not been established, however, which of these outcomes is the more likely for Koreans or North Americans in favor asking.

In contrast, in the situation of presenting a negative face threat, S would be kept from offering thanks because doing so would indicate S's indebtedness to R and would restrict his or her future freedom of autonomy (Brown & Levinson, 1987). Alternatively, if S offers thanks, this may suggest his or her acknowledgement of the debt to R to indicate that S knows to appreciate any favor that he or she gets from R. Thus, the positive face threat that S presents would predict thanks to R to signal that S is a grateful person. Taken together, either apologies or thanks could be an attempt to reduce the face threats made by favor asking. Thus, we developed the following hypotheses and research questions.

Hypothesis 1a: Koreans will be more likely to have an intention to apologize than will North Americans in favor asking.

Hypothesis 1b: North Americans will be more likely to have an intention to thank than will Koreans in favor asking.

Hypothesis 2: A speaker's negative face threat to the receiver will lead to the speaker's intention to apologize in favor asking.

Hypothesis 3: A speaker's positive face threat to the receiver will lead to the speaker's intention to thank the receiver in favor asking.

Research Question 1: Does the speaker's positive face threat cause intention to apologize to the receiver?

Research Question 2: Does the speaker's negative face threat cause intention to thank the receiver?

If, as we propose in Hypotheses 1a and 1b, Koreans and North Americans tend to use different speech acts in favor asking, their reasons for choosing the speech act should be examined. If their reasons are the same (e.g., S presents a positive face threat), this means that, in the role of S, Koreans apologize to diminish the positive face threat to R, whereas North Americans thank R in order to lessen the positive face threat S is presenting. If Koreans and North Americans have different reasons for choosing a speech act (e.g., apology because of the positive face threat S presents and thanks because of the negative face threat S presents), these different choices show that Koreans and North Americans are paying attention to different face threats during favor asking. Thus, we posed the following research question:

Research Question 3: Are Koreans and North Americans different in terms of how they perceive face threats predicting apology and thanks intentions in a favor-asking message?

Method

Participants

We recruited 194 undergraduate students as participants. The North Americans were students (n = 104, [M.sub.age] = 21.65 years, SD = 2.22, range = 18-29 years; 58.8% women, 41.2% men, and 71.9% Caucasian, 28.1% African American, Asian American, Hispanic, and multiethnic) at major Midwestern universities in the US. The Koreans (n = 90, [M.sub.age] = 21.13 years, SD = 2.20, range = 18-29 years, and 54.3% women, 45.7% men) were students at major universities in South Korea. The universities and participants were selected by convenience sampling.

Procedure

We developed a survey in both English and Korean after checking for equivalency of meaning in both versions by several researchers who are fluent in these two languages. Because all hypotheses and research questions are about intentions and perceptions, a survey is an ideal method. Participants completed the survey taking the role of S in their native languages. The following prototype of an email message as well as the description of the situation was given to each participant:
In a large lecture class you are taking this semester, the professor
has randomly assigned students to groups for a project, so you have not
met the members of your group in person, but have only communicated
with them by email. You are supposed to have the first meeting with
your three group members for the project tomorrow. You have been sick
since last week, and it has only gotten worse today, so you would like
to stay home tomorrow, if possible. Right now, you are emailing your
group members to let them know that you are very sick and to ask if the
meeting can be rescheduled.

Subject: Could we reschedule our meeting?

Hello all,

This is () from COM (***). I know we're supposed to have our first
meeting for the group assignment tomorrow, but I've been sick since
last week, and it's gotten worse today, so I'd really like to stay home
tomorrow, if possible.

Could we reschedule our meeting for later this week?

Sincerely,

()


Measurement

A 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree, 5 = strongly agree) was used for the participants' responses about speech act intentions and four face threats. After reading the email message for the given situation, intention to apologize and intention to express thanks were each measured with six items (see Appendix for items). In an effort to counterbalance the order, approximately half of the participants were asked about their intention to apologize first and then their intention to include a statement expressing gratitude, and the other half of the participants were first asked about their intention to include thanks. Also, in their role as S, participants recorded their response to presenting a negative face threat to R with five items (M = 3.08, SD = 0.80 for Koreans and M = 3.34, SD = 0.60 for North Americans), R's positive face threat with five items (M = 2.64, SD = 0.78 for Koreans and M = 2.88, SD = 0.64 for North Americans), S's negative face threat with four items (M = 3.13, SD = 0.83 for Koreans and M = 3.10, SD = 0.75 for North Americans), and S's positive face threat with five items (M = 3.01, SD = 0.76 for Koreans and M = 2.89, SD = 0.62 for North Americans). The reliabilities (Cronbach's [alpha]) were from .73 to .96 for North Americans and .76 to .96 for Koreans. The correlations among the four types of face threat were from -.03 to .62 in the U.S. participant group and from -.31 to .63 for the Koreans. Separate confirmatory factor analyses (CFAs) indicated that measures of the negative and positive face threats of R and S were unidimensional for the U.S. data and the Korean data. The major CFA fit indexes yielded .90 for all measures. The face-threat items and the detailed reliabilities and CFA results are set out in Lee and Park's 2011 study.

Results

Intention to Apologize and to Thank

In Hypothesis 1a, we proposed that Koreans would be more likely to intend to apologize than would North Americans in favor asking, whereas in Hypothesis 1b, we proposed that North Americans would be more likely to intend to express thanks than would Koreans. To allow for the possibility that the order in which apology intention items and thanks intention items were presented could affect the results, the order of presentation was included as a factor in the analysis. Because apology intention and thanks intention were not significantly correlated, r(97) = .10, p = .34, we performed an analysis of variance (ANOVA) separately for each variable.

For intention to use an apology, a 2 (culture) X 2 (order) ANOVA showed that the main effect for culture was nonsignificant, F(1, 99) = 0.40, p = .531, [[eta].sup.2] = .004. Both mean scores were significantly higher than the scale midpoint of 3, one-sample t(49) = 8.65, p < .001 for Koreans (M = 3.99, SD = 0.81); one-sample t(48) = 9.07, p < .001 for North Americans (M = 4.07, SD = 0.82). The main effect for order was significant, F(1, 99) = 6.63, p < .05, [[eta].sup.2] = .065. Participants were significantly more likely to intend to use an apology when intention to apologize was asked about first (M = 4.24, SD = 0.73) than when intention to apologize was asked about after intention to include thanks was asked about (M = 3.84, SD = 0.85). The interaction between culture and order was not significant, F(1, 99) = 1.75, p = .19, [[eta].sup.2] = .018. When intention to apologize was asked about first, the results were, M = 4.09, SD = 0.81 for Koreans and M = 4.41, SD = 0.62 for North Americans. When intention to apologize was asked about after intention to thank, the results were, M = 3.89, SD = 0.82 for Koreans and M = 3.78, SD = 0.89 for North Americans.

For intention to express thanks, results of a 2 (culture) X 2 (order) ANOVA showed that the main effect for culture was significant, F(1, 99) = 40.20, p < .001, [[eta].sup.2] = .297. North American participants were significantly more likely to intend to express thanks (M = 4.06, SD = 0.77) compared with Koreans (M = 2.87, SD = 0.11). The mean score for Koreans was not significantly different from the scale midpoint of 3, whereas the mean score for Americans was significantly higher than the scale midpoint of 3: one-sample t(49) = -0.89, p = .377 for Koreans; one-sample t(48) = 9.73, p < .001 for North Americans. The main effect for order was nonsignificant, F(1, 99) = 0.01, p = .941, [[eta].sup.2] = .000. The interaction between culture and order was nonsignificant, F(1, 99) = 1.17, p = .282, [[eta].sup.2] = .012.

Therefore, the data supported Hypothesis 1b, but not Hypothesis 1a. Both Koreans and North Americans had strong intentions to make an apology. North Americans showed strong intentions to express thanks, but Koreans did not.

Face Threats to Predict Apology Intention

We performed two separate multiple regression analyses for the two cultural groups instead of a model with a dummy variable (see, Holgersson, Nordstrom, & Oner, 2014). There was minimum collinearity among the four predictors (i.e., S's positive and negative face threats, R's positive and negative face threats) because tolerance of the predictors ranged from .50 to .62, and the variance inflation factor (VIF) ranged from 1.61 to 2.00. To protect against nonessential multicollinearity and to achieve easier interpretation (Cohen, Cohen, West, & Aiken, 2003), the predictors were centered before entering into the equation. For Koreans, the analysis result showed significance, adjusted [R.sup.2] = .12, F(4, 89) = 4.05, p < .01 (see Table 1). S's positive face threat ([beta] = .26, t = 2.09, p < .05) positively predicted intention to include an apology. The other face threats did not predict apology intention in the favor-asking message. For North Americans, the analysis results showed nonsignificance, adjusted [R.sup.2] = -.01, F(4, 109) = 0.62, p = .651. None of the face threats predicted an apology intention in a favor-asking message. Therefore, the data were not consistent with Hypothesis 2, in which we predicted that R's negative face threat would lead S to an apology intention in favor asking. To answer Research Question 1 we examined whether or not S's positive face threat led to an apology intention and we found that it did so among Korean participants.

Face Threats to Predict Thanks Intention

We performed two separate multiple regression analyses for the two cultural groups. There was minimum collinearity among the four predictors because tolerance of the predictors ranged from .50 to .62, and VIF ranged from 1.61 to 2.00. For Koreans, the analysis result showed nonsignificance, adjusted [R.sup.2] = -.02, F(4, 89) = 0.44, p = .776 (see Table 1). None of the face threats predicted thanks intention in a favor-asking message. For North Americans, the analysis result showed significance, adjusted [R.sup.2] = .12, F(4, 109) = 4.81, p < .01. R's negative face threat ([beta] = .30, t = 2.59, p < .05) positively predicted S's thanks intention. The other face threats did not predict S's thanks intention. The results did not support Hypothesis 3, in which we predicted that S's positive face threat would lead to his or her thanks intention in favor asking. To answer Research Question 2 we examined whether or not S's negative face threat led to his or her thanks intention and we found that it did so among North American participants. Finally, to answer Research Question 3 we investigated whether or not Koreans and North Americans differed in terms of perception of face threat predicting apology and thanks intentions in a favor-asking message, and the results showed that S's positive face threat led to intention to make an apology for Koreans and R's negative face threat led to intention to express thanks for North Americans.

Discussion

The key purposes of the current study were to examine whether or not Koreans would be more likely to intend to apologize and whether or not North Americans would be more likely to intend to express thanks in a favor-asking message, and also to measure the four types of face threats to predict the intentions of the speakers in each case. The results we obtained in the study showed that in a favor-asking message North Americans had a thanks intention and both North Americans and Koreans had an apology intention. For Koreans, only S's positive face threat positively predicted an apology intention. Although the North American participants responded that they would include an apology in a favor-asking message, no specific type of face threat was related to this intention. In contrast, the North Americans' intention to express thanks was explained by their perception of R's negative face threat. These findings show that apologies and thanks are, indeed, attempts to lessen the face threats caused by favor asking.

Lee and Park (2011) reported that Koreans habitually use apologies without this speech act having any real meaning. They found that one apology or one statement of thanks did not change the face threat significantly, but giving repeated statements of thanks or apology reduced some face threats. In the current study, we additionally found that intention to make an apology or to express thanks in a favor-asking message is perceived as a gracious way to ask when there are certain face threats.

These findings have at least three implications. In general, North Americans and Koreans responded to the four face threats similarly in the favor-asking message, without any apology or thanks. This is consistent with the findings of Wilson, Aleman, and Leatham (1998) who argued that potential face threats in favor asking do not vary across cultures. However, Koreans and North Americans have dissimilar intentions: for Koreans, S's positive face threat, and for North Americans, R's negative face threat, led to these differences in intention. That is, Koreans and North Americans form different speech act intentions in favor asking for different reasons.

Our findings also indicate that a certain facework tactic that is familiar to one culture will not work as expected by the people belonging to that culture if used in a different culture where the tactic is not familiar. In particular, both apology and thanks are widely identified as universal polite speech acts; however, using them would not be effective in a culture where their functions are not common. People should know when, or with whom, certain speech acts could be used, based on the different facework approaches in each culture. For instance, if North Americans proffer thanks in favor-asking situations, it may be interpreted by Koreans as pressure to grant the favor. Similarly, Koreans should not say "I am terribly sorry for asking this" because it may not be an effective favor-asking message in the US.

Finally, our findings enhance empirical support for Brown and Levinson's (1987) theory of politeness and extend its explanations and its application regarding face-threatening acts. When deciding to perform the face-threatening act with a direct message, people have a universal desire to lessen that threat by some facework. In the current study, we showed that certain face threats motivate people to include apologies and thanks in certain cultures, and we empirically identified that some actions of redress, such as apologies and thanks, focus on different face threats. Brown and Levinson's politeness theory has been criticized because of its universal framework (Al-Duleimi, Rashid, & Abdullah, 2016), but our findings in this study offer a case indicating the utility of the theory.

Limitations and Future Directions

We measured intentions and perceptions in a hypothetical situation. Although a strong relationship between behavior intentions and actual behaviors has been reported (see e.g., Webb & Sheeran, 2006), interpreting findings derived from responses to a hypothetical situation needs some caution. The situation used in the current study would not produce any severe face threat. To reinforce the external validity of the findings, various favor-asking situations should be examined in the future. In our study only responses from young college students were analyzed, but age could be a factor in how often apologies are made (see e.g., Jamuna, 2015). In the current study our focus was on just two cultures in order to clarify cultural differences in use of apologies and thanks. More cross-cultural comparisons should be made to decide the extent to which the predictions supported by our findings are replicated and/or supported.

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Appendix

Apology intention

1. In this situation, I should include "I am sorry" in the message.

2. In this situation, I would be willing to apologize in the message.

3. In this situation, I would say, "I am sorry."

4. In this situation, I would intend to say, "I am sorry."

5. In this kind of message, it is routine to include "I am sorry."

6. It is normal to include "I am sorry" in the message.

Thanks intention

1. In this situation, I should include "I appreciate this" in the message.

2. In this situation, I would be willing to say, "Thank you" in the message.

3. In this situation, I would say, "I appreciate this" in the message.

4. In this situation, I would intend to say, "Thank you" in the message.

5. In this kind of message, it is routine to include "I appreciate this."

6. It is normal to include "I appreciate this" in the message.

HYE EUN LEE

Ewha Womans University

HYUNJIN PARK

Sungkyunkwan University

Hye Eun Lee, School of Communication and Media, Ewha Womans University; Hyunjin Park, School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Sungkyunkwan University.

This work was supported by the Academy of Korean Studies (AKS-2014-R20) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) of Korea (NRF-2016R1A2B4008545).

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Hyunjin Park, School of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Sungkyunkwan University, Suwon 16419, Republic of Korea. Email: hyunjinp@skku.edu

doi.org/10.2224/sbp.6468
Table 1. The Effects of Four Types of Face Threat on Intention to Use
an Apology and Thanks

Korea                                                    b      SE

Intention to make an apology
  S's positive face threat                                0.33  0.16
  S's negative face threat                                0.02  0.15
  R's positive face threat                               -0.33  0.17
  R's negative face threat                               -0.33  0.17
F(4, 89) = 4.05, p < .01, adjusted [R.sup.2] = .12
                                                         b      SE
Intention to express thanks
  S's positive face threat                               -0.22  0.19
  S's negative face threat                                0.08  0.18
  R's positive face threat                                0.10  0.20
  R's negative face threat                                0.08  0.20
  F(4, 89) = 0.44, p = .776, adjusted [R.sup.2] = -.02
USA                                                      b      SE
Intention to make an apology
  S's positive face threat                               -0.06  0.16
  S's negative face threat                                0.20  0.13
  R's positive face threat                               -0.15  0.16
  R's negative face threat                               -0.02  0.16
  F(4, 109) = 0.62, p = .651, adjusted [R.sup.2] = -.01
                                                         b      SE
Intention to express thanks
  S's positive face threat                                0.32  0.18
  S's negative face threat                                0.01  0.15
  R's positive face threat                               -0.26  0.18
  R's negative face threat                                0.48  0.17
  F(4, 109) = 4.81, p < .01, adjusted [R.sup.2] = .12

Korea                                                  [beta]  t

Intention to make an apology
  S's positive face threat                              0.26   2.09 (*)
  S's negative face threat                              0.01   0.10
  R's positive face threat                             -0.27  -1.97
  R's negative face threat                             -0.27  -1.98
F(4, 89) = 4.05, p < .01, adjusted [R.sup.2] = .12
                                                         [beta]  t
Intention to express thanks
  S's positive face threat                               -0.16   -1.17
  S's negative face threat                                0.06    0.41
  R's positive face threat                                0.07    0.50
  R's negative face threat                                0.06    0.38
  F(4, 89) = 0.44, p = .776, adjusted [R.sup.2] = -.02
USA                                                      [beta]  t
Intention to make an apology
  S's positive face threat                               -0.04   -0.35
  S's negative face threat                                0.19    1.54
  R's positive face threat                               -0.12   -0.93
  R's negative face threat                               -0.01   -0.10
  F(4, 109) = 0.62, p = .651, adjusted
  [R.sup.2] = -.01
                                                       [beta]  t
Intention to express thanks
  S's positive face threat                              .21     1.75
  S's negative face threat                              .01     0.44
  R's positive face threat                             -.18    -1.44
  R's negative face threat                              .30     2.59 (*)
  F(4, 109) = 4.81, p < .01, adjusted [R.sup.2] = .12

Note. S = speaker, R = receiver. (*) p < .05
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Author:Lee, Hye Eun; Park, Hyunjin
Publication:Social Behavior and Personality: An International Journal
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:100NA
Date:Nov 1, 2017
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