Edited by: Kayn K-L
- Hofstede, G. (2011). Dimensionalizing Cultures: The Hofstede Model in Context. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.9707/2307-0919.1014.
Hofstede’s index of individualism (2001)
People around the world have many different cultures, languages, ethnicities, and races. These factors all influence the way a person thinks, how they view the world, and how they make decisions. There have been many studies on the factors that influence culture and attempts have been made to quantify them in order to compare different countries. Geert Hofstede was a Dutch social scientist who developed a method for studying these cultural factors, called Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory. This group several countries together based on shared cultural characteristics in a way that allows comparisons unrelated to physical or environmental influences to be made between two regions.
The ten largest cultural groupings in the world, given by David Livermore, are:
-Anglo: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, US;
-Arab: Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, UAE;
-Confucian Asia: China, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan;
-Eastern Europe: Albania, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Mongolia, Poland, Russia;
-Germanic: Austria, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands;
-Latin America: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Mexico;
-Latin Europe: France, French-speaking Canada, Italy, Portugal, Spain;
-Nordic Europe: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden;
-Sub-Saharan Africa: Ghana, Kenya, Namibia, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe;
-Southern Asia: India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand.
These broad groupings are based on several factors, like how cooperative people generally are, how they communicate, and what is valuable to them. One of the criteria is the level of individualism that is valued in a particular culture. This can tell us more about the cultural norms that influence peoples’ thinking and decision-making. A way to measure how much one cultural group values individualism is with the Hofstede cultural dimensions theory. Through Hofstede’s study, we have a scale that is implemented when comparing two countries.
Hofstede’s index (1980) uses a wide range of survey questions to establish cultural values. This survey was given to IBM employees in 30 countries. From the results, Hofstede created an index to measure the levels of individualism in a culture. In Hofstede’s analysis, the index of individualism is shown through questions about the value of personal time, freedom, interesting and fulfilling work, etc.
The Hofstede individualism score measures the extent to which it is generally believed that individuals are supposed to take care of themselves as opposed to being strongly integrated and loyal to a cohesive group. A high score means that culture highly values individual freedoms. A low score indicates that culture values collective action. The figure demonstrates which regions of the world are more individualistic and which are more community-oriented. Hofstede’s measure of individualism shows us how people’s thinking can vary because of cultural influences. The results of his study, which have also been validated in other studies, show large cultural groups that value the same goals. TOne example of the criteria used in Hofstede’s analysis is the level of the individualism that is valued in a particular culture.
Individualism values individual goals and rights more than personal relationships. It creates a demand for protection of property rights, for the rule of law, and for institutions that limit the powers of the executive. Individualism is associated with more openness towards immigration, higher geographical mobility, weaker family ties, and more market-based social relations. Values that are important to individualistic cultures are personal autonomy, privacy, self-realization, individual initiative, independence, individual decision making, and an understanding of personal identity as the sum of attributes of the individual. Anglo and Latin European countries place a high value on personal freedom and status, and they scored high on the Hofstede index for individualism.
Collectivism values personal relationships and benefiting group goals more than individual goals. Collectivism is associated with a higher ability for coordination and a higher ability to overcome collective action problems, possibly leading to better public good provision and higher efficiency of government organization. Collectivism is associated with higher demand for political and social stability and a lower taste for institutional experimentation. Group decisions are superior to individual decisions, interdependence is sought-after, and an understanding of personal identity as knowing one’s place within the group and concern about the needs and interests of others is paramount. Southern Asian and Latin American countries emphasize the benefits of harmony and conformity, and they scored lower on the Hofstede index than their Anglo and Latin European counterparts.
Hofstede’s index shows us how these broad cultural groupings have merit and can be useful when trying to look at the cultural aspects of 2 different countries. It is important to see the ways each culture is influenced by a certain degree of individualism. When we understand the factors that shape the way others think, we can understand them better. With an understanding of the index of individualism in a particular culture, it is easier to predict what decisions those people might make and it is easier to see the thought processes that brought them to their decision. Being aware of the things each culture values tells us a lot about the environment that influences their views, their values, their humor, their hopes, their loyalties, and their worries and fears. 7C Lingo’s CQ Training is designed to inform our clients about these cultural factors to better prepare them for business in a globalized world.
These groupings should only be used as a guideline for better understanding. While we shouldn’t make sweeping generalizations based on a few traits that are common in one culture, we can take these factors into account at face value when meeting someone new. 7C Lingo can provide you with the resources to address differences and embrace similarities. While these can be a hindrance to those who are unaware of them, being aware of cultural differences can be helpful in many situations. Preparing our clients to handle cultural differences is one way we can help them reach success.