Cross Cultural Sample Definition Essay

Cross-cultural research most commonly involves comparison of some cultural trait (or relationships between traits) across a sample of societies. What is most important to keep in mind is that cultures change over time, so most cross-cultural comparisons need to focus on particular time frames (and sometimes particular place foci) for each culture. The choice of focus often depends upon the research question. For example, if you want to know about traits that were present prior to colonialization, you might choose the earliest time frames. If you want to know about responses to the introduction of money, later time frames might be more appropriate.

Introducing Cross-Cultural Research, a visual online course, overviews the logic of cross-cultural research, framing a research question, deriving hypotheses from theory, design of measures, coding procedures, sampling, reliability, and the use of statistics to analyze results. HRAFs more text-based Basic Guide to Cross-Cultural Research remains on our home page. It also provides an overview of cross-cultural methods, but it is geared explicitly toward working with the HRAF Collection of Ethnography in paper, fiche, and online (eHRAF World Cultures).

The research design should depend upon the research question.


    • If you want to estimate the frequency of a particular trait, a representative sample is essential
    • If your research question is about a relatively rare trait, you should over-sample societies with that trait
    • Ask yourself whether any of the variables that are important have been coded by other researchers? Are these codes that you want?

Decide on a sample that fits your design.

What kind of sample is eHRAF World Cultures as a whole?
Because the HRAF Collections contain some special programs, such as immigrant and other subcultures in North America, the whole collection should not be considered a good sampling frame for scientific research. See the bullet below on representative samples within eHRAF

Do you want to match eHRAF World Cultures to other cross-cultural samples?
If you want to choose the overlap between eHRAF and some other cross-cultural sample, such as the Ethnographic Atlas (EA) or the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample (SCCS) you might find it helpful to look at matches between HRAF and these other samples.  An updated list for the SCCS sample cases now included in eHRAF is now on our homepage as is the list of Ethnographic Atlas cases now in eHRAF. After performing a search in eHRAF World Cultures you can now choose to narrow to the SCCS sample or the EA sample and find the matching documents.  To find out how to do this, click here for the SCCS. The procedure for the EA is similar. We plan to add additional SCCS cases every year until we have the entire sample included in eHRAF World Cultures. This should be accomplished by 2020. We currently do not plan to have all the EA cases in eHRAF.

Representative samples within eHRAF: the PSF and SRS
Follow this link to the relevant section in the Basic Guide to Cross-Cultural Research

Samples in eHRAF Archaeology
eHRAF Archaeology contains a representative sample of the world’s prehistoric traditions. It is randomly sampled from the Outline of Archaeological Traditions compiled by Peter Peregrine. In eHRAF Archaeology it is labelled SRS (Simple Random Sample). It can be used to test hypotheses. We also include tradition sequences leading to civilizations. While these may be compared, eHRAF Archaeology does not yet contain all known sequences nor were the choices random. We based processing of sequences based on member interest.[/expand]

Coding data in eHRAF and pre-coded data.  

If using coded data from another sample pick the same foci in eHRAF
Unlike most cross-cultural samples, the HRAF Collection of Ethnography as a whole (including eHRAF) purposely tries to include ethnographic information for more than one time and more than one place. This allows you to study changes over time and regional variation. Almost all coded data has a time and a place focus giving an “ethnographic snapshot” of social and cultural life at a particular time and place. If you use some data from other researchers and code some yourself you will introduce measurement error unless you pick the same focus.

Where can I find precoded data?
Most cross-cultural researchers make their codes available to scholars either in print or upon request. Many have put their codes into the electronic journal World Cultures. World Cultures mostly includes codes from the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample, but it also includes codes from the Ethnographic Atlas as well as other data sources. Click here for information on how to find precoded data for the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample and the Ethnographic Atlas from that electronic journal. Codes for the Ethnographic Atlas and the Standard Cross-Cultural Sample can now also be found online in D-PLACE ( In addition to coded cultural variables, D-PLACE has linguistic and environmental data as well. HRAF has a limited set of coded data for the Probability Sample Files (contact us at:

Recommendations if you are using precoded data
It is extremely important to read the original article or book from which codes come. That is where the author explains the purpose of the code, the coding instructions, and the coding scale. If a code seems like it is something you want to use, it is also important to try to code at least a portion of the societies yourself. If you can follow the instructions and come up with the same decisions, it should give you more confidence. However, it may also suggest that it isn’t really close enough to what you really want to measure. If so, you may want to design your own code.

Designing measures to code yourself
See the relevant section in Basic Guide on Measures.


Ember, C. R. (2007). Using the HRAF collection of ethnography in conjunction with the standard cross-cultural sample and the ethnographic atlas. Cross-Cultural Research41(4), 396-427.

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2 Foundations
2.1 Culture
2.2 Communication
2.3 Cross Cultural Communication

3 Dimensions of Communication
3.1 Verbal Communication
3.2 Nonverbal Communication
3.3 Paraverbal Communication

4 Barriers to Cross Cultural Communication
4.1 Language differences
4.2 Nonverbal communication
4.3 Paraverbal Communication
4.4 Stereotypes
4.5 Making a Judgement
4.6 High Level of Stress

5 Conclusion


1 Introduction

Nowadays we talk and hear about the big topics like “Globalisation”, “Internationalisation of markets” and “New Technologies for Communication”. In our today’s world boundaries between states as well as big distances between particular states do not play a big role anymore. Nearly everyone is able to get in connection with everyone he likes to; not matter what country he lives in, what time it is or with whom he likes to talk.

This development leads to the arising importance of “Cross Cultural Communication”. Thinking about business for example most of all existing companies operate all around the world by now. If a salesman from England wants to make profit, he will have to offer his products not only in his home country; he also will have to offer them in Japan and Germany. So for doing his job he has to communicate across cultures. It is the same in many other branches, like politics or movie makers for instance.

It is an evident aspect that communicating across cultures is associated with problems and barriers to communication. The first big problem getting in mind is the language itself, because two communication partners must own one language which both of them are able to speak.

Aside from this, persons from different countries have also a different cultural background. So they have different values, beliefs and ideologies. Those differences can cause misunderstandings and lead to stereotypes. For communication partners these assumptions are a hard foundation for communication with high effects.

This thesis is based on literary research about the topic “Barriers to Cross Cultural Communication”. It adopts all barriers which seem to be very important and interesting for readers. Firstly it is spoken about the foundations concerning cross cultural communication, followed by the three dimensions of corporate culture. Afterwards this thesis goes more into detail, while regarding five barriers to cross cultural communication. The last point is built by a short conclusion.

2 Foundations

2.1 Culture

The term “culture” is of Latin derivation and refers to the tilling of the farming land. Contrary to that western languages commonly interpret culture as civilisation (Hofstede/Hofstede/Minkov, 2010).

In literature exist many varied ways, in which the word “culture” is defined. This thesis takes the following definition:

“Culture consists in patterned ways of thinking, feeling and reacting, acquired and transmitted mainly by symbols, constituting the distinctive achievements of human groups, including their embodiments in artifacts; the essential core of culture consists of traditional ideas and especially their attached values” (Kluckhohn, 1951:86).

Using this definition culture is not regarded in the sense of literature, music and art. It means to have a shared system of attitudes, values, beliefs and behaviour (Gibson, 2000).

Geert Hofstede, a social psychologist from the Netherlands, has called culture “collective mental programming” or in analogy of programming computers “the software of the mind”. A person’s mental program is based on its social environment of early childhood and continues at school, the workplace and living community. Therefore mental programs are as different as the social environments in which they were acquired. One important aspect is that culture is a collective phenomenon, because people living in the same social environment have the also the same culture. They partly share their culture (Hofstede/Hofstede/Minkov, 2010).

2.2 Communication

To understand the meaning of the word “communication” it has to be defined. One possible definition regards communication as “a two-way process of reaching mutual understanding in which participants not only exchange information but also create and share meaning” (, 2010).

The following model shows the process of communication.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Illustration 1: The Process of Communication

On one side there is the sender. His task is to send a message to the receiver who has to interpret it. Again the receiver gives a feedback to the sender. In turn the sender receives the feedback and interprets its meaning in his individual way. The message as well as the feedback can be transferred by verbal and non-verbal communication.

Problems in the process of communication can appear by interpreting the message and the feedback, because sender and receiver may have a different understanding of the same term. So in the process of communication every involved person has to make sure that the communication partner understands the intended meaning of the message.

2.3 Cross Cultural Communication

After the definitions of culture and communication have been mentioned, the question is what is characteristic about cross cultural communication.

Firstly it can be said that the term “cross-cultural” implies interaction with persons of different culture, ethnic, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, age and class background (, 2010). In addition cross cultural communication is a process of exchanging, negotiating, and mediating cultural differences through language, non-verbal gestures, and space relationships (ibid). It can also be regarded as the process by which people express their openness to an intercultural experience. This openness is one of the most important aspects of cross cultural communication.

Nowadays cross cultural communication becomes more and more necessary for a large number of people. Thinking about globalisation, the internationalisation of markets, the ongoing immigration processes and the growing tourism sector the reasons for this deployment seem to be clear.

3 Dimensions of Communication

For successful cross cultural communication it is fundamental to get to know about the different dimensions of communication, because one essential feature of cross cultural communication is that at least one communication partner uses a foreign language.

3.1 Verbal Communication

Verbal communication makes it possibly to communicate face-to-face. It is the basis of communication that allows interaction of people.

In the area of verbal communication cultural differences concerning the language are obvious, especially if words that describe issues are only existing in this culture. Nevertheless misinterpretations can appear. In many case it is not the right way to translate your own words into a foreign language, because it is possibly that words have different meanings in different settings. An example is the english word “friend”. When Americans talk about friends they mean people who they know casually. In contrast Germans call people they know very well and like very much friends (Bergemann/Sourisseaux, 2003).

3.2 Nonverbal Communication

Besides verbal communication the nonverbal one has a large percentage of our daily interpersonal and even cross cultural communication (, 2011). Verbal communication always goes along with nonverbal communication. Notably in a communication across cultures people rely on nonverbal communication.

Nonverbal Communication includes

- Body Language
- Eye Contact
- Touch
- Body Distance
- Turn Taking (Gibson, 2004).

Contrary to verbal communication our nonverbal communication is noticed unconsciously in most times. Regardless it is the dimension of communication that varies highly between different cultures (Bergemann/Sourisseaux, 2003).

3.3 Paraverbal Communication

Paraverbal communication means the tone of our voice or how fast we speak. A sentence can convey different meanings depending on the emphasis on words and the tone of voice. These characteristics differ between countries and states. So Indian question sentences have the same voice intonation than European declarative sentences.

In addition paraverbal communication contains the loudness of speaking. It seems to be clear that this is an aspect everybody has to keep in mind while visiting a foreign country and speaking to its inhabitants. The necessity of speaking loud or even quiet is something that is very different across cultures (Bergemann/Sourisseaux, 2003).



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