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Title: Cultural differences in responses to hierarchical pressures
Author: Moon, Chanki
ISNI:       0000 0004 6349 0078
Awarding Body: University of Kent
Current Institution: University of Kent
Date of Award: 2016
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Social hierarchy is one of the most fundamental features of human social interaction and has important psychological consequences. How hierarchies function and impact psychological processes, however, varies across cultures. Social interactions in Korea are more hierarchical and collectivistic compared to those in the UK, which are less hierarchical and individualistic. This is reflected in the Power Distance cultural dimension (Hofstede, 1980, 2001), according to which the UK is lower on this dimension than Korea. Social norms enforce hierarchies such as deference, respect, honour and politeness which operate as an invaluable virtue in Korean society. The current research examines consequences of social hierarchy in the UK and Korea and asks the following questions: a) are there any differences between Korea and the UK in terms of how individuals' interactions are governed by the status of the interaction partner; b) how does the impact of rude behaviours exhibited by people occupying different ranks differ in Korea and the UK, focusing on the level of distress caused and individuals' evaluations of the perpetrator; and c) are there any differences between Korea and the UK in terms of how hierarchical relations are embedded in objective organisational prescriptions? Findings from Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that Korean participants' communication was affected to a greater extent by hierarchical relations showing that Korean participants wrote longer emails to decline a request by a senior colleague compared to a junior colleague; in contrast, the length of the emails written by British participants were not affected by the status of the recipient. Furthermore, across three studies (1-3), findings indicated that Koreans (compared with British) found it less stressful and more acceptable to be exposed to uncivil behaviours (rude and discourteous actions) of a senior colleague compared to a junior colleague. Study 4 confirmed that a similar pattern of hierarchical differentiation can be observed in organisations structured vertically (mirroring Korean culture), but not in organisations structured horizontally (mirroring British culture). Furthermore, in Studies 2, 3 and 4, mediational analyses showed that the observed cultural differences in reported levels of hierarchical relational stress (discomfort) can be explained by group differences in prescriptive norms (acceptability), but not by differences in descriptive norms (likelihood of occurrence). Finally, Study 5 examined how hierarchies are manifested in objective institutional regulations in the form of Code of Ethics adopted by Korean and British organisations. Findings revealed that relative to British organisations, Korean organisations endorsed Code of Ethics that places greater emphasis on hierarchical relations, consistent with prevalent cultural values and beliefs. Together, Studies 2 and 3 have highlighted cross-cultural variations in individuals' subjective mental representations of norms related to the behaviours of high and low ranking individuals and Study 5 demonstrated cross-cultural variations in how hierarchies are embedded in objective organisational prescriptions in Korea and the UK. I discuss the implications of these findings for literatures on social hierarchies/status, social norms, organisational behaviour and culture.
Supervisor: Uskul, Ayse ; Weick, Mario Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral