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How Different Are We? An Investigation Of Confucian Values In The United States.

As a result of the increased globalization of markets in recent years, a large number of researchers have focused their efforts on many of the interesting differences that exist across diverse cultures (i.e. Adler, 1983; Hofstede, 1980, 1991; Husted et al., 1996; Schlegelmilch and Robertson, 1995; Trompenaars, 1994). The work of Hofstede (1980, 1983, 1984) and his four cultural dimensions of individualism/collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity, and power distance has been extremely well documented in the literature (Abratt et al., 1992; Geletkanycz, 1997; Vitell et al., 1993). Hofstede and Bond (1988) recently developed a fifth dimension, Confucian Dynamism, which is designed to assess a culture's tendency toward certain Confucian traits such as concept of time. While there have been myriad studies which have analyzed culture at the societal level of analysis, little has been done to explore how individual members of certain cultures may vary in their perceptions of cultural traits (Dorfman and Howe ll, 1988). In fact, many of the generalizations about cultural implications related to organizational behavior have minimal support at the individual level and may be inappropriate (Chen et at., 1998).

Although many economists have projected that the Chinese economy will be one of the world's largest in the next decade, the Western understanding of traditional Chinese work values is marginal. Much of the recent industrial success of Hong Kong and Taiwan has been attributed to Confucianism (Yeung and Tung, 1996). As the level of influence on world trade patterns by traditional Confucian societies increases it will be advantageous for trade partners to obtain a better conceptualization of how Confucian values relate to their own traditional value systems. Moreover, growing ethnic diversity within the United States, in particular the increase of descendants from Asian nations, has added credence to the study of cultural differences between Asian and Anglo value sets. Managers in multinational firms that either employ Asian workers or engage in trade with Asian firms will be at a serious competitive disadvantage if they overlook the importance of Asian traditions and values in the workplace as we approach the new millennium.

The purpose of this article is to report the results from a test of the relationship between Confucian Dynamism and Hofstede's (1980) four initial cultural dimensions at the individual level of analysis. Subsequent studies by Triandis et al. (1985) and Dorfman and Howell (1988) have found significant support for the existence of Hofstede's (1980) dimensions at the individual level. Hofstede (1980, 1991) also contends that variation does exist related to his cultural dimensions within societies. Nevertheless, researchers have overlooked the link between Confucian Dynamism and Hofstede's (1980) initial dimensions at the individual level.

A study of this nature is important for both theoretical and practical reasons. From a theory development perspective, the extension of Confucian Dynamism to the individual-level of analysis will help build on the prior work of Triandis et al. (1985) and Dorfman and Howell (1988). While individual-level measures have been developed and validated for dimensions such as individualism versus collectivism and uncertainty avoidance, the work on Confucian Dynamism at this level is still in its infancy stage. Executives and managers in nations that have a wealth of people from diverse backgrounds may also find the results of this study interesting. As the Overseas Chinese population continues to swell worldwide, a deeper understanding of Confucian values will be useful. Further, a knowledge of the different perceptions of time among workers has implications for motivation, training, and policy development.

In the next section, the initial cultural dimensions of Hofstede (1980) will be reviewed. This will be followed by an analysis of Confucian Dynamism (Hofstede and Bond, 1988) and how these societal level cultural dimensions have been extended to individuals. Next, formal hypotheses will be developed, tested, and empirical results will be reviewed. The article concludes with a discussion of the results of the present study, limitations, managerial implications, and potential research areas to be explored in the future.


In this section the work of Hofstede (1980) and Hofstede and Bond (1988) will be reviewed. This is followed by an analysis of how these societal-level traits relate to the individual level of analysis.

Hofstede's Dimensions

The research of culture that has consistently received convincing recognition by both scholars and practitioners is the work of Hofstede (1980, 1983, 1984). Hofstede's four dimensions of individualism vs. collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity, and power distance have dominated the literature in the past two decades (Geletkanycz, 1997; Hickson, 1996; Vitell et al., 1993). The dimensions developed and empirically examined by Hofstede (1980) represent a lifetime of work surrounding the often complex phenomena of culture. Hofstede's data set, which contains over 116,000 subjects from 66 nations, is decidedly the most exhaustive sample of culture-based research that exists today. The sample was collected over a number of years and the survey employed was designed to measure different values that are dominant among people from different nations. These values were then classified into cultural dimensions which were Hofstede's basis for generalizations about national culture.

Hofstede does acknowledge that every person in a nation does not necessarily have all of the characteristics assigned to that culture, and as a result subsequent studies have developed scales and explored how individuals within different nations relate to Hofstede's dimensions (i.e., Dorfman and Howell, 1988; Vitell at al., 1993). Hofstede's (1980) dimensions are defined as follows:

Individualism versus Collectivism: the tendency of people to look after themselves and their immediate family and neglect the needs of society.

Uncertainty Avoidance: the extent to which people in a society feel threatened by ambiguous situations.

Masculinity: the degree of typical masculine values such as assertiveness, paternalism, and a lack of concern for others.

Power Distance: the level of acceptance by a society of unequal distribution in power.

Confucian Dynamism

More recently Hofstede and Bond (1988) have identified a fifth dimension which is called Confucian Dynamism. This cultural dimension was empirically established in Hofstede and Bond's (1988) 22-country study, yet has received little attention since its initial analysis. Nonetheless, this dimension is unique and interesting in that it focuses on time orientation and Confucian values. It is based on the Chinese Value Survey which was originally developed in China by the Chinese Culture Connection (Hofstede and Bond, 1988). Prior to this study nearly all cross-cultural studies of values were based on survey instruments developed by Western researchers.

Below the values in line with Confucian Dynamism analyzed by Hofstede and Bond (1988) are presented. Hofstede and Bond state "the values on the left select those teachings of Confucius that are more oriented toward the future (especially perseverance and thrift), whereas those on the right select Confucian values oriented toward the past and present" (1988: 16).


The Relative Importance of:

Persistence (Perseverance)

Ordering relationships by status


Having a sense of shame

Past, Present

The Relative Unimportance of:

Personal steadiness and stability

Protecting your face

Respect for tradition

Reciprocation of greetings, favors, gifts

The essential purpose of Confucian Dynamism is to identify the time orientation of cultures, and is based in part on the work of the great Chinese philosopher Confucius. A high score along this dimension reflects a culture's tendency toward a future-minded mentality. Hofstede and Bond (1988) contend that people in nations that have high Confucian Dynamism scores tend to associate more with the values of persistence, respect for status, thrift, and having a sense of shame. Empirical results (Hofstede and Bond, 1988) indicate that people from Hong Kong, Thailand, and Japan are high in Confucian Dynamism values.

Low scores along this dimension reveal a culture's orientation toward the present and past. Members of low Confucian Dynamism cultures value the relative importance of personal steadiness and stability, saving face, respect for tradition, and reciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts. Nations that scored low along this dimension included Canada, Pakistan, and the United States (Hofstede and Bond, 1988).

Hofstede and Bond (1988) have theorized that there is an overlap between some of the values incorporated in the Confucian Dynamism dimension and the four original Hofstede cultural dimensions. Specifically, Hofstede and Bond (1988) propose that nations which are high in Confucian Dynamism (neo-Confucian countries) will score high on power distance, low on individualism, and mid-range on masculinity. Interestingly, no relationship was hypothesized between Confucian Dynamism and uncertainty avoidance. This may have occurred as a result of the dichotomous nature of Confucian Dynamism (with high scores as future-minded and low scores as present/past oriented).

Culture at the Individual Level

While many researchers have identified vast differences across cultures (e.g., Hofstede, 1980; Trompenaars, 1994) an obvious recognition of differences within cultures has also been important to this research stream (Hofstede, 1991; Rokeach, 1973). The recent works of Triandis et al. (1985; 1988) and Dorfman and Howell (1988) have attempted to identify some of the many values that lead to cultural heterogeneity within societies.

Perhaps the most pivotal studies of culture at the individual level can be traced to the ongoing work of Triandis and his associates (1972, 1985, 1988). Triandis has performed numerous studies of how societal-level cultural patterns translate to the individual level of analysis. For example, Triandis et al. (1985) utilized a survey instrument to measure individual level cultural tendencies of 159 undergraduate students. The focus of the study was on the psychological dimension allocentrism versus idiocentrism which corresponds at the societal level to collectivism versus individualism (Hofstede, 1980). Allocentrism refers to collectivist traits such as need for social support and low levels of alienation while idiocentrism refers to individualist traits such as emphasis on achievement (Triandis et al., 1985). The conclusion was that there are many people with a collectivist set of values that live in an individualist society (allocentric people) as well as people with individualist values (idiocentric people ).

Dorfman and Howell (1988) performed an interesting study which was designed to extend the measurement of culture to the individual level (the scale used in Dorfman and Howell's (1988) study was also included as part of the survey instrument for the present project). Based on Hofstede's (1980) four cultural dimensions a scale was developed and refined which ultimately resulted in 22 items. Data for the empirical testing of the scale was collected from managers in multinational firms in Mexico (n=243) and Taiwan (n=509). After performing a confirmatory factor analysis, correlation analyses, ANOVA procedures, and tests for moderation, the scale was found to be valid and reliable. Moreover, a number of interesting parallels and differences were noted when compared to Hofstede's (1980) macro-level scale. The most notable trend was that while scores on Dorfman and Howell's (1988) scale were consistent with Hofstede's (1980) dimension scores, there was extensive variation within each national group. This provides s trong evidence for the many differences that exist among individuals within cultures.


This study has been designed to explore how Confucian Dynamism relates to Hofstede's initial four dimensions at the individual level of analysis. While Triandis et al. (1985, 1988) and Dorfman and Howell (1988) have found significant relationships between cultural traits at the individual and societal levels the dimension of Confucian Dynamism has been overlooked. It appears logical and consistent for Confucian Dynamism to exist at the micro level as well if the other four dimensions also exist.

As stated earlier, Hofstede and Bond (1988) purported that nations which are high in Confucian Dynamism will score high on power distance, low on individualism, and midrange on masculinity. Based on this premise and the empirical results of Triandis et al. (1985, 1988) and Dorfman and Howell (1988), the following hypothesis was developed:

Hypothesis 1: Individual scores on Confucian Dynamism will be positively related to power distance, negatively related to individualism, and unrelated to masculinity.

Moreover, while Hofstede and Bond (1988) did not find a relationship between Confucian Dynamism and uncertainty avoidance, Hofstede's (1980) initial work suggests that high uncertainty avoidance cultures are more worried about the future and low uncertainty avoidance cultures tend to live day by day. By definition uncertainty avoidance and the future are theoretically linked (Wines and Napier, 1992). It makes intuitive sense that a person who has high uncertainty avoidance would be more worried about the future than a person who has a low concern for uncertainty. Hofstede and Bond (1988) differentiate between present/past Confucian values and future values.


Hypothesis 2a: Individual scores on the present and past values of Confucian Dynamism will be negatively related to uncertainty avoidance.

Hypothesis 2b: Individual scores on the future values of Confucian Dynamism will be positively related to uncertainty avoidance.



The sample for this study consisted of 255 upper-level undergraduate business students, all volunteers, at a large university in the southeastern region of the United States. Over 80 percent of the surveys that were issued were returned. The mean age of the students was 21.5 years and the sample consisted of 48% women and 52% men. Although the use of students has been criticized in the past there are several reasons why they are appropriate for this study. First, a primary objective of this study is to understand how individuals identify everyday cultural values and the results do not need to be grounded in high level managerial impressions. Second, recent research has revealed that the use of a student sample may in fact be representative of an organizational population (Wyld et al., 1993) and is appropriate for the investigation of cultural construct development at the individual level (Triandis et al., 1985, 1988).


A survey was utilized to collect cultural data from the respondents (see Appendix). The scale employed is designed to measure an individual's beliefs along each of Hofstede's four initial dimensions as well as Confucian Dynamism. The first 22 items on this scale were developed by Dorfman and Howell (1988) and the reliabilities (Cronbach's alpha) have been satisfactory and consistent in studies performed with both Mexican and Chinese managers. The reliabilities for the current study were as follows: Individualism/collectivism .72, masculinity .87, power distance .85, and uncertainty avoidance .86. The final eight items on the scale were developed for the present study to measure Confucian Dynamism (Hofstede and Bond, 1988). The first four items relate to Hofstede and Bond's future Confucianism while the remaining four items are the basis for past/present scores. These items were based on the time values associated with Confucian Dynamism provided by Hofstede and Bond (1988) and were pretested to clarify any i nconsistencies in meaning (Alreck and Settle, 1995).

Analytical Procedures

Ordinary least-squares regression was used to analyze the data and to test the hypotheses. This method of data analysis is appropriate for the present study based on the hypotheses that have been posed and the relationships among the variables (Lewis-Beck, 1980). The cultural dimension variables have been measured on quasi-interval (Likert) scales. The overall objective of the regression procedures was to test the relationship between the independent variables (four initial cultural dimensions) and the dependent variables (Confucian Dynamism items). The regression analyses consist of three independent models, one for each hypothesis. In the first model the subjects' responses to Confucian Dynamism (Confuc) are regressed on individualism/collectivism (Indiv), masculinity (Mascul), power distance (Power), and uncertainty avoidance (Uncert). In the second model the respondents' Confucian Dynamism perceptions of the past (Past) are regressed on Indiv, Mascul, Power, and Uncert. Finally, in the third model perceptions of the future (Future) are regressed on the scores from the initial fo ur dimensions.


Table 1 contains the descriptive statistics and correlation coefficients for the subjects in this study. Significant correlations were found between Confucian Dynamism and the variables power (p[less than].05), future (p[less than].001), and past (p[less than].00l). Future was also significantly correlated to indiv (p[less than].0l) and uncert. Additionally, past was related to uncert (p[less than].05) and future (p[less than].05). Two significant correlations were found among Hofstede's initial dimensions: between indiv and uncert (p[less than].01) and between mascul and power (p[less than].01).

Hypothesis 1 claimed that individual scores on Confucian Dynamism will be positively related to power distance, negatively related to individualism, and unrelated to masculinity. Table 2 shows the results from the multiple regression analysis performed to test Hypothesis 1. The omnibus F-test, which is used to determine if the overall model is significant, was statistically significant (F=1.697; p[less than].10). As hypothesized the relationship between power distance and Confucian Dynamism was positive and significant (standardized =.124; p[less than].05). Further, no significant relationship was evident between masculinity and Confucian Dynamism. While there was a negative relationship for individualism, as hypothesized, it was not significant. Thus, Hypothesis 1 is partially supported with power distance as the only hypothesized variable that was significant.

Table 3 contains the regression results that pertain to the testing of Hypothesis 2a which stated that individual scores on the present and past values of Confucian Dynamism will be negatively related to uncertainty avoidance. Although the omnibus F-test was not significant the relationship between uncertainty avoidance and past perceptions of Confucianism was negative as hypothesized and significant ([beta]=-.105; p[less than].10). Therefore, Hypothesis 2a received marginal support.

Hypothesis 2b, which stated that individual scores on the future values of Confucian Dynamism will be positively related to uncertainty avoidance, received the strongest support. Table 4 contains the results for the testing of Hypothesis 3. The F-test was significant (F = 4.765; p[less than].001) as was the hypothesized relationship between uncertainty avoidance and future perceptions of Confucianism (=.257; p[less than].001). Therefore, it appears that individuals who score high along uncertainty avoidance are also more concerned about the future and tend to be future orientated.

It should be noted that the three regression models were run with all four of the cultural dimension variables. This was done to establish control over the effects of the other independent variables (Lewis-Beck, 1980) while minimizing the error variance due to correlations among the variables. Other control variables, such as age and gender, were also included in order to minimize the effects of outside influences on error variance.


The goals of this study were to (1) test the cultural dimension Confucian Dynamism at the individual level of analysis and (2) analyze the relationship between Confucian Dynamism and Hofstede's (1980) initial four dimensions. According to Triandis (1972) the importance of cross-cultural research lies in defining relationships between variables that are sensitive to cultural influences. The results of this study have revealed some interesting patterns that may exist in individuals' perceptions of time and their relationship to other cultural phenomena such as power, uncertainty, individuality, and gender roles. Moreover, the results have indicated a number of potential areas for future researchers such as the relationship between Confucian Dynamism and other cultural traits (e.g., Trompenaars, 1994).

Specifically, the support of power distance within Hypothesis 1 indicates that Confucian Dynamism is consistent at the individual level of analysis with Hofstede and Bond's (1988) societal level results. This adds to the prior evidence of Triandis et at. (1988) and Dorfman and Howell (1988) that supports the identification of Hofstede's other dimensions at the individual level. In other words, Confucian traits may exist anywhere in the world, not just in Asia. The results of Hypothesis 2b are perhaps the most interesting in this study. The strong significant support of a relationship between uncertainty avoidance and the future values of Confucian Dynamism unveils a relationship at the individual level of analysis that Hofstede and Bond (1988) did not find at the cultural level. Indeed, it makes intuitive sense that individuals that fear uncertainty also are quite concerned about the future. Conversely, low uncertainty avoidance people would tend to be less fearful about events that will occur in the future. At the societal level of analysis there are clearly many interactions among the other elements, such as economic conditions and form of government, that wash out the connection between uncertainty avoidance and futuristic Confucianism.


There are a number of inherent limitations involved with a study of this nature. First, in organizational studies, the use of self-reported data is often confounded with a number of biases, such as social-desirability bias (Alreck and Settle, 1995). Second, the use of a purely U.S. sample has a number of ramifications for the generalizability of results. Clearly the laws and social norms of the United States help shape each member of this nation's personal values and culture. Specifically, the construct of Confucian Dynamism is grounded in Asian values which may cloud the present results. Nonetheless, learning about this construct and its underlying values adds to our understanding of the cultural interface between U.S. and Asian managers.

A third limitation is that the claim by Hofstede and Bond (1988) that Confucian Dynamism measures time orientation may not be completely valid. While the values of persistence, respect for status, thrift and shame are claimed to be future-based values they could perhaps be better classified as work orientated Confucian values. The values of stability, saving face, respect for tradition, and reciprocation of greetings, favors and gifts (purportedly present and past values) may also be in need of a better term. Perhaps the term "socially orientated" Confucian values is a stronger fit with these measures. Finally, additional cultural factors regarding the sample, such as race, religion, economic status, and nationality, may have played a role in each individual's response.

Managerial Implications

The results of this study have some interesting managerial implications as well. As the United States becomes more heterogeneous, with an increasing Asian population, managers will need to develop a better understanding of the many diverse values in the work place. Specifically, the results presented in this article suggest that there are certain values that are commonplace in U.S. managers (i.e., uncertainty avoidance) that are related to the Asian notion of Confucianism. Thus, generalizations about diverse societies and how they view relationships to others and the environment may not be completely appropriate in the future. Managers should focus on the value set of each individual when developing policies and determining who should deal with certain foreign trade partners. Further, U.S. expatriates that are on foreign assignment in Asia may also benefit from additional knowledge about the similarities and differences between their own value set and those of their Asian counterparts.

Human resource managers may be interested in the cultural makeup of employees to facilitate better job synergy. For example, a person who is high in Confucian Dynamism may be interested in a position that deals with the future, such as planning or budgeting. Individuals that possess strong uncertainty traits may not be best suited for positions that deal with many ambiguities, such as developing new sales territories overseas. Managers in multinational firms may also be interested in using a similar scale when developing cultural training programs for expatriates. There is little doubt that if managers can develop a stronger comprehension of the variety of values that exists within their own firms they will be in a stronger position when engaging in trade with firms from culturally diverse nations.

Future Prospects

At some point, researchers should investigate how Confucian Dynamism holds up at the individual level in Asian nations. This is the logical extension of the present research project. Other future studies should endeavor to analyze differences in age, gender, education, and religion and how they relate to the constructs employed in this study. Overall, it is hoped that this research endeavor has advanced the development of an understanding of cultural values at the individual level of analysis. In the future, researchers may choose to replicate this study in a different cultural environment or to perform a similar study in order to explore the relationship between Confucian Dynamism and other organizational constructs.


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 Descriptive Statistics and Correlation Coefficients
Variable Mean s.d. 1 2 3 4 5
1 Confuc 3.17 .34 1.00
2 Indiv 2.83 .61 -.06 1.00
3 Mascul 2.29 1.01 .08 .01 1.00
4 Power 2.40 .59 .14 [*] .04 .26 [**] 1.00
5 Uncert 4.25 .65 .12 -.23 [**] -.09 .00 1.00
6 Future 3.90 .50 .64 [***] -.15 [**] .04 .09 .29 [***]
7 Past 2.46 .53 .69 [***] .06 .06 .09 -.11 [*]
8 Age 21.48 2.64 .05 .02 .00 .03 .07
9 Gender 1.47 .50 -.02 .00 -.56 [***] -.18 [**] .21 [**]
Variable 6 7 8 9
1 Confuc
2 Indiv
3 Mascul
4 Power
5 Uncert
6 Future 1.00
7 Past -.11 [*] 1.00
8 Age .04 .02 1.00
9 Gender .05 -.08 -.01 1.00
(***.)p[less than]0.001
(**.)p[less than]0.01;
(*.)p[less than]0.05
 Results of Multiple Regression Analysis
 Confucian Dynamism
 Independent Variables Dependent Variable: Confuc
 Std. Beta t
Indiv -.040 -.512
Mascul .075 .967
Power .124 1.912 [*]
Uncert .106 1.597 [+]
 Age .041 .656
 Gender .023 .297
 [R.sup.2] .040
Adjusted [R.sup.2] .016
F 1.697 [+]
(+.)p[less than].10
(*.)p[less than].05
 Results of Multiple Regression Analysis
 Past Perceptions
 Independent Variables Dependent Variable: Past
 Std. Beta t
Indiv .034 .529
Mascul .011 .144
Power .081 1.233
Uncert -.105 -1.571 [+]
 Age .030 .467
 Gender -.035 -.446
[R.sup.2] .026
Adjusted [R.sup.2] .002
F .5314
(+.)p[less than].10
 Results of Multiple Regression Analysis
 Future Perceptions
 Independent Variables Dependent Variable: Future
 Std. Beta t
Indiv -.092 -1.474 [+]
Mascul .091 1.217
Power .085 1.360
Uncert .257 4.005 [***]
 Age .025 .419
 Gender .069 .915
 [R.sup.2] .104
Adjusted [R.sup.2] .083
F 4.765 [***]
(***.)p[less than].001
(+.)p[less than].10


Survey Items

Individualism vs. Collectivism

* Group welfare is more important than individual rewards.

* Group success is more important than individual success.

* Being accepted by the members of your work group is very important. Employees should only pursue their goals after considering the welfare of the group.

* Managers should encourage group loyalty even if individual goals suffer.

* Individuals may be expected to give up their goals in order to benefit group success.

Uncertainty Avoidance

* It is important to have job requirements and instructions spelled out in detail so that employees always know what they are expected to do.

* Managers expect employees to closely follow instructions and procedures.

* Rules and regulations are important because they inform employees what the organization expects of them.

* Standard operating procedures are helpful to employees on the job.

* Instructions for operations are important for employees on the job.


* Meetings are usually run more effectively when they are chaired by a man.

* It is more important for men to have a professional career than it is for women to have a professional career.

* Men usually solve problems with logical analysis; women usually solve problems with intuition.

* Solving organizational problems usually requires an active forcible approach which is typical of men.

* It is preferable to have a man in a high level position rather than a woman.

Power Distance

* Managers should make most decisions without consulting subordinates.

* It is frequently necessary for a manager to use authority and power when dealing with subordinates.

* Managers should seldom ask for the opinions of employees.

* Managers should avoid off-the-job social contacts with employees.

* Employees should not disagree with management decisions.

* Managers should not delegate important tasks to employees.

Confucian Dynamism

* Managers must be persistent to accomplish objectives.

* There is a hierarchy to on-the-job relationships and it should be observed.

* A good manager knows how to economize.

* It is important to have a conscience in business.

* Personal stability is not critical to success in business.

* Respect for tradition hampers performance.

* The exchange of favors and gifts is not necessary to excel.

* Upholding one's personal image makes little difference in goal achievement.

Note: The individualism vs. collectivism, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity, and power distance scale items were developed by Dorfman and Howell (1988).
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Author:Robertson, Christopher J.; Hoffman, James J.
Publication:Journal of Managerial Issues
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2000
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