Consumer sentiment shaped by differing cultural attitudes toward power

Oct 19, 2010
Consumer sentiment shaped by differing cultural attitudes toward power
Cultures nurture different views of what is desirable and meaningful to do with power, according to new research by University of Illinois marketing expert Sharon Shavitt. Credit: Jason Lindsey

In the battle of egos, Donald Trump vs. Hugo Chavez might be a draw. But as symbols of power, each resonates differently with different cultures, as cultures nurture different views of what is desirable and meaningful to do with power, according to new research by a University of Illinois marketing expert.

Sharon Shavitt says the relation between culture and one's concepts of power emerge from one's cultural orientation, and how that culture shapes one's beliefs, attitudes and goals.

"People's views of powerful people and what powerful people are supposed to do, as well as what legitimizes power, differs by society and by cultural values," said Shavitt, a professor of .

The study, co-written by Carlos J. Torelli, of the University of Minnesota, examined the role of culture in the meaning and purpose of power by examining the way people perceived, evaluated and responded to power-related .

The researchers categorized the reactions according to a four-category typology: horizontal versus vertical, and collective versus individual. Their findings highlight the value of advancing existing models of power relations by identifying a key role for cultural variables.

According to the research, the two most contrasting power relations were vertical individualism and horizontal collectivism.

A vertical-individualistic cultural orientation was linked to conceptualizing power as something to be used for advancing one's personal agenda, thereby maintaining and promoting one's powerful status, Shavitt says. By contrast, a horizontal-collectivistic cultural orientation was linked to conceptualizing power as something to be used for benefiting others.

"Cultures predicts distinct power concepts, and those were the two groups that most strikingly contrasted with each other, the self-interested use of power versus benevolence," Shavitt said.

In American culture, for example, it's legitimate for someone who has power to use it for personal, status-oriented gains. Donald Trump, for example, could be seen as a symbol of such culturally nurtured power, because he's "out for himself, and makes no bones about it," Shavitt said.

But in other regions in the U.S., that attitude may not be looked upon quite so charitably. Trump may be popular in Manhattan, but he wouldn't be nearly as popular in, say, North Dakota, Shavitt said.

"We've found that there are distinctions and gradations," she said. "People of different ethnic backgrounds and different cultural orientations – that is, those who espouse different values – respond differently to these ideas of power."

Nor would the Donald be quite so popular in other countries, where the native culture may promote the use of power for the benefit of others – for example, having higher taxes to subsidize health care and higher education – rather than for achieving status and prestige.

"In Latin America, for example, the power paradigm swings away from self-interested zeal for status in favor of more benevolent and less brazenly self-interested ways of conceptualizing power," Shavitt said. "Powerful political leaders such as Hugo Chavez drape themselves in collectivism and are frequently idealized as benefactors whose primary goal is to protect helpless individuals."

While other countries' notion of equality is an equality of outcomes, in the U.S., "our notion of equality is equal opportunity – each one of us each has an equal opportunity to have a good outcome or a bad outcome depending, supposedly, on how hard we work," Shavitt said.

Businesses can use this knowledge of cultural attitudes toward power to their advantage.

"A vertical-individualist orientation predicted liking for brands that symbolize personalized power values of status and prestige, whereas a horizontal-collectivist orientation predicted liking for brands that embody concerns for the welfare of others," she said.

The study included groups commonly used in cross-cultural research (European Americans and East Asians, for example) as well as under-researched groups (Hispanic immigrants, students in Brazil and Norway), thereby increasing the potential coverage of vertical and horizontal cultures and allowing for findings across a broader range of cultures.

Out of the groups surveyed, Brazilians exhibited the highest horizontal-collectivist scores, liking brands that symbolized pro-social values better, while Norwegians scored among the lowest in vertical-individualism orientation, liking brands that symbolized personalized power values less than all the other groups.

Shavitt noted that Scandinavian cultures are much more horizontal and focus more on personal modesty as well as obligations to others.

"If you look at their social policies, they show a strong emphasis on equality of outcomes and provision of help to the least fortunate," she said. "But they're not collectivistic; they're still very individualistic."

In the U.S., with the demographic trend lines pointing to a more multi-cultural society, businesses can adjust their marketing and advertising accordingly by identifying a key role for cultural variables.

"What we're doing is adding another element to the way that marketers can segment their markets – by emphasizing how ethnicity, geography and come into play in consumers' power motivations," Shavitt said.

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Shootist
1 / 5 (3) Oct 19, 2010
By contrast, a horizontal-collectivistic cultural orientation was linked to conceptualizing power as something to be used for benefiting others.


Worked real well in Stalin's Russia, Il Duce's Italy and Mao's China, didn't it?
Quantum_Conundrum
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 19, 2010
Worked real well in Stalin's Russia, Il Duce's Italy and Mao's China, didn't it?


In an atheistic society where morality is reduced to a meaningless construct, no form of government or economics would matter.

A socialistic society need not be atheistic.

Social justice has always been a basic belief of the Christian faith, as we can find both old and new testament passages which deal with the concepts of equality, welfare of the poor, and yes, even communism in the book of Acts, where the entire christian community sold their possessions and gave to those in need, and declared that they would have all things common.

the problem with the USSR and China is that because they were atheistic, they rejected morality itself, and consequently, they basicly enslaved or murdered the elderly, sick, or invalids, or political opponents en mass so that the ruling parties could maintain power.
TechnoCore
5 / 5 (2) Oct 20, 2010

In an atheistic society where morality is reduced to a meaningless construct, no form of government or economics would matter.


Since morality is a product of social interaction in groups, minimizing conflict and optimizing survival your entire post is an epic fail.
marjon
not rated yet Oct 20, 2010
Nothing was mentioned that Trump can't put a gun to people's heads and force them to buy his book or watch his TV show.
""If you look at their social policies, they show a strong emphasis on equality of outcomes and provision of help to the least fortunate," she said. "But they're not collectivistic; they're still very individualistic.""
It works for them because they are a homogenizes culture. It even works in the pockets of the USA where Scandinavians settled, like MN.
Trump would not be well respected in Minneapolis. Too gauche.
El_Nose
1 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2010
Bravo to Quantum -- nice arguement

but let us not forget, that while Stalin was brutal he also accomplished a great deal.

My arguement is that every major power, of the last 40 years was built on the backs of slavery and we are just now getting to the point where countries that did not use slavery to advance from the agricultural era to the industrial are catching up to compete with those that did.

USA, Britain, France, USSR, China - all used a form of slavery, while it was direct in the US, UK did it through economic slavery - East India Company and Imperialism, France used Imerialism as well... while USSR and China went socialist with forced labor. The point is it takes huge amounts of man power to build factories in argicultural societies.

But we are now seeing the world catch up & become competative. And while the Christian faith calls for morality it is upon the leaders of countries to act in moral ways. UK, USA, Germany, Italy, Rome have all fallen short of this goal.
marjon
not rated yet Oct 20, 2010
And while the Christian faith calls for morality it is upon the leaders of countries to act in moral ways. UK, USA, Germany, Italy, Rome have all fallen short of this goal.

ALL fall short of the goal. How do they compare to the R.O.W.?
Also, all these countries citizens have taken an active effort to reject traditional morality. Why would expect their leaders to be any different?
BJs in the Oval Office? What's the problem?
SincerelyTwo
5 / 5 (1) Oct 20, 2010
Quantum_Conundrum;

What? Do you think a person has to be religious to be moral? Religion is not the heart of morality, I consider myself to be athiest and I am both moral in life and ethical in business. I must be breaking the laws of physics in your mind, that or you're simply wrong (uhm, yea, you're out-right wrong).

What a ridiculous perspective.

Maybe you were referring to anarchy? I don't know, but you should re-consider what it is you think you know. There is no logical or reasonable foundation to the concept that morality by nature is limited to the scope of people who are also religious in some way. What the hell does believing in a deity have to do with empathy and emotional intelligence?

Naivety like that is just impossibly frustrating to me.
El_Nose
not rated yet Oct 21, 2010
I think that the Quantum was referring to the fact that organized religions have a rigorous set of defined laws that outline morality.

A question that is not trivial & often only encountered in philosophy classes or discussions is how do you judge morality outside of a religous framework.

If a man is a answerable only to himself for his moral code than it can be argued that man has no moral code. This comes from the assumption that most people do what is in their best interest.

However it has been observed that in religion dominated societies that many athiests that claim morality are in fact judging themselves with their understanding of the dominate religion & local laws as their unconsciencous yard stick.

Arguements against this concept other state that treating a fellow human as you wish to be treated was a concept pioneered by the Greeks and Babylonians long before it was written in Monotheistic tomes.

It is a valid question and arguement that is hard to define.
marjon
not rated yet Oct 21, 2010
I consider myself to be athiest and I am both moral in life and ethical in business.

Based upon what standards?
If athesits can agree that people of faith can be moral and if the religious standards of morality intersect with the atheist standards, why should atheists attack faith?
Those atheists that do attack faith have a different agenda I suspect.
knikiy
not rated yet Oct 25, 2010
Oh great spirit, deliver us from simplistic duality.