Cultural conditionality in decision making : a prospect of probabilistic thinking
This study examines the clashes and accords between Western and Chinese decision cultures and explores their serious implications for the introduction of Western decision approaches into a totally different culture, in particular, that of China. The experimental investigation was concentrated on the cultural difference in the way of dealing with uncertainty. It extended previous cross-cultural comparisons between Western and Chinese decision makers in probabilistic thinking. It is confirmed that British and Chinese college students think about uncertainty and make probability judgments differently in answering general-knowledge questionnaires. It is also found that Chinese economists disliked forecasting economic indices that demonstrate a wide probability distribution. However, Chinese amateur card players did make almost perfectly calibrated probability judgments. With these findings, it is warned that the applicability of Western decision techniques, such as decision analysis and decision support systems, certainly cannot be taken for granted in China. This study also proposes a cognitive model to describe how people make probability judgments in general, and especially emphasizes the building of problem structure and the discriminating of feeling of uncertainty. From this, future cross-cultural studies of probabilistic thinking are suggested, that will make further investigation into whether Western and Chinese decision makers create different structures for the same problem, thereby leading them to think and judge uncertainty differently. Finally, this study generalizes the discussion of the rationality behind Western decision methods and its conflicts with traditional Chinese decision culture. It is concluded that Western approaches to decision making should be introduced into China, but its assumptions and conditions must first be carefully investigated. It is predicted that more powerful decision aids will emerge from the synthesis of Western and Chinese decision cultures.