Uncertainty-Accepting Cultures . People often focus on principles, rather than having rules for every circumstance, and accept that the outcome is not always known. Uncertainty-Rejecting Cultures . People often focus on rules for every circumstance and do not like ambiguity or not knowing what the outcome will be. When we consider whether a culture as a whole places more emphasis on the individual or the community, we must be careful to recognize that individual members of the culture may hold beliefs or customs that do not follow a cultural norm. Stereotypes , defined as generalizations about a group of people that oversimplify their culture (Rogers, E., and Steinfatt, T., 1999), can be one significant barrier to effective intercultural communication. Gordon Allport, a pioneer in the field of communication research, examined how and when we formulate or use stereotypes to characterize distinct groups or communities. He found that we tend to stereotype people and cultures with which we have little contact (Allport, G., 1958). In addition, your first-hand experience will provide you with an increased understanding of prejudice. Prejudice involves a negative preconceived judgment or opinion that guides conduct or social behavior. Within the United States, can you make a list of people or groups that may be treated with prejudice by the majority group? Your list may include specific ethnic, racial, or cultural groups that are stereotyped in the media, but it could also include socioeconomic groups or even different regions of the United States. For example, Native Americans were long treated with prejudice in early Western films. Can you imagine, in other countries they may also treat groups with prejudice? In many parts of South America, indigenous people are treated poorly and their rights as citizens are sometimes not respected. Has treatment of Native Americans changed in North America? It has also changed, and continues to change in North and South America. People who treat other with prejudice often make judgments about the group or communities. As Allport illustrated for us, we often assume characteristics about groups with which we have little contact. By extension, we can sometimes assume similarity that people are all basically similar, in effect denying cultural, racial, or ethnic differences. We sometimes describe the United States as a “melting pot,” where individual and cultural differences blend to become a homogeneous culture. This “melting pot” often denies cultural differences. The metaphor of a “salad bowl,” where communities and cultures retain their distinctive characteristics or “flavor,” serves as more equitable model. In this “salad bowl,” we value the differences and what they contribute to the whole.
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- Spring '17