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Record: 1
Authors: Abramson, Neil R.1
Lane, Henry W.2
Nagai, Hirohisa3
Takagi, Haruo4
Source: Journal of International Business Studies; 1993, Vol. 24 Issue 3, p575-587, 13p, 2 charts, 1 diagram, 1 graph
Document Type: Article
Subject Terms: *INDUSTRIAL management
*JOINT ventures
MYERS-Briggs Type Indicator
PERSONALITY & cognition
NAICS/Industry Codes55 Management of Companies and Enterprises
Abstract: Many American and Canadian companies seeking to form joint ventures and alliances with Japanese companies, or to negotiate contracts with them, have discovered that the interaction can be difficult and frustrating. Value differences and preferences for different management practices have been identified that contribute to these interaction problems. However, little research has investigated potential differences in cognitive style that might also contribute to intercultural conflict. This study compares samples of Canadian and Japanese MBA students using the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) and links the findings to interaction difficulties reported in the literature. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
Author Affiliations: 1Assistant Professor of International Business, Faculty of Business Administration, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia
2Donald F. Hunter Professor of International Business, Western Business School, London, Ontario
3Keio University, Yokohama, Japan
4Associate Professor, Graduate School of Business Administration, Keio University
Full Text Word Count: 5305
ISSN: 0047-2506
Accession Number: 9401281524
Database: Business Source Complete


Abstract. Many American and Canadian companies seeking to form joint ventures and alliances with Japanese companies, or to negotiate contracts with them, have discovered that the interaction can be difficult and frustrating. Value differences and preferences for different management practices have been identified that contribute to these interaction problems. However, little research has investigated potential differences in cognitive style that might also contribute to intercultural conflict. This study compares samples of Canadian and Japanese MBA students using the Myers-Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) and links the findings to interaction difficulties reported in the literature.

Many North American companies have sought agreements with Japanese companies for strategic alliances, joint ventures and licenses [Tung 1984]. The process of negotiating these agreements often has been frustrating for both sides [Miller 1991; Moran 1987; Tung 1984] and, in many cases, failure has resulted from interaction problems, even when an agreement would seem to benefit both parties [Tung 1984]. Other studies have documented conflicts between Americans and Japanese who work together in the same companies [Omens, Jenner and Beatty 1987; Peterson and Schwind 1977]. The preponderance of cross-cultural research has identified differences in values and attitudes, and organizational arrangements as contributing factors to these conflicts.

There is, however, evidence to suggest that interaction problems and conflict may be related to the problem-solving approaches used by American and Japanese managers [Hall and Hall 1987; Moran 1987; Omens, Jenner and Beatty 1987] or that American and Japanese managers may define situations differently [Maruyama 1984] or require different kinds of information to solve problems [Peterson and Schwind 1977]. Adler, Doktor and Redding [1986] have identified the need for comparative management to investigate the cognitive maps and cognitive differences between East and West. They state that problems of understanding and predicting behavior "may arise from the lack of appreciation of the thought processes manifested by foreigners in our managerial environment." North American and Japanese managers may come into conflict because they have different cognitive styles. We need to understand the cultural influences on the process of information acquisition, information manipulation and communication, as well as the values and attitudes of the people attempting to communicate. This note proposes that North American and Japanese managers may have different dominant cognitive style preferences that affect their approach to problem solving, in addition to having value and attitude differences, and differing preferences for certain actions or solutions to management problems. It also presents empirical evidence to support this proposition.


The research framework is based on the concept of the human being as a self-regulating, information-processing system, or cybernetic system, and is complementary to the information-processing theory of multinationals [Egelhoff 1991]. Cybernetics is a science of effective communication and control [Wiener 1948] originally developed as a model of control in closed mechanical or organic systems [Von Bertalanffy 1973] that has been applied to the analysis of the human brain [Ashby 1952], as well as to the analysis of organizational structure [Clemson 1984] and complex, open systems containing psychological and sociocultural components [Geyer and Vander Zouwen 1986; Howard and Teramoto 1981].

To use such a model for socio-cognitive systems, it is necessary to describe how humans select and organize information about themselves and their environment (sensor); how they develop or acquire the standards that influence goals and evaluate information (regulator); and how they select and initiate responses (effector). These components (information, evaluation and action) comprise a general model of self-regulation [Vickers 1968]. The sensor is the cognitive style that influences what is recognized as data and how it is processed and evaluated. Cognitive styles are defined as consistent modes of thought that introduce systematic preferences for particular kinds of information that are used in the problem-solving process [McKenny and Keen 1974]. The regulator, containing the system standards, is comparable to the values and attitudes that influence perception and that evaluate the data and guide the choice of response. Values function as preferences or standards against which to judge acts and goals [Horstede 1980; Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck 1961]. The effector is the set of managerial practices, sanctioned by training and experience, that is used to take action in the business environment. The framework is summarized in Figure 1.

The majority of the comparative literature concerning American and Japanese management has focused on the regulator (values and attitudes) and on the effector (managerial practices). For example, it has been shown that American and Japanese managers have very different values and attitudes [Kelley, Whatley and Worthley 1987; Omens, Jenner and Beatty 1987; Sullivan, Teruhiko and Kondo 1987; Hofstede 1984, 1980; England 1983, 1975]. There appears to be a reasonable consensus in the literature concerning some key differences such as the American inclination for individualistic, impersonal, rational decisionmaking and a Japanese partiality for positive interpersonal feelings, relationships and a group orientation. Research also has focused on differences in attitudes across national cultures [Norburn 1987; Omens, Jenner and Beatty 1987; Sullivan, Teruhiko and Kondo 1987; England and Misumi 1986; Kanungo and Wright 1983; Sullivan and Peterson 1982; Stephens 1981; Feldman, Iulai, Sam, McDonald and Bechtel 1980]. An attitude is the expression of a particular value, or set of values, applied to specific situations. Some of the attitudes found to differ, for example, include attitudes toward work, pay, recognition, and sharing of information.

Regarding managerial practices, it has been shown that American and Japanese managers behave differently in negotiations. Americans negotiate by exchanging information [Moran 1987] with the goal of encouraging the other side to also exchange information expeditiously [Graham, Kim, Lin and Robinson 1988; Adler and Graham 1987]. They prefer time efficiency and attempt to clarify issues quickly to obtain closure [Moran 1987]. Americans focus on points of disagreement in an attempt to resolve them [Moran 1987]. They do not value the development of strong interpersonal relationships and rely on legal contracts to define future relationships [Tung 1984].

The Japanese negotiate by attempting to develop a smooth, harmonious relationship that will eventually facilitate consensual decisionmaking [Cattell, Eber and Tatsuoka 1988; Tung 1987; Moran 1987]. Attraction and deference are more important in the initial stages of negotiation than information exchange [Graham, Kim, Lin and Robinson 1988]. Taking time to create a relationship is seen as a sign of wisdom and sincerity [Moran 1987]. Legal contracts are not acceptable substitutes for interpersonal trust [Hall and Hall 1987; Tung 1984].

The observed differences in behavior may be related to systematic differences in cognitives styles between Americans and Japanese. However, almost no cross-cultural research has directly and empirically compared the cognitive style preferences of managers to determine whether different cultures systematically select and use different information, or process it differently to evaluate business situations. Some studies [Macdaid, McCaulley and Kainz 1986] have looked at the cognitive style preferences of independent samples of American, Canadian or Japanese managers, but none of these studies used balanced or matched samples. It is difficult to make direct comparisons and draw conclusions from these studies.

The purpose of this project was to compare empirically the cognitive style preferences of balanced samples of North Americans and Japanese to determine whether systematic preferences for certain kinds of problem solving could be identified that might be attributed to cultural differences.


This study used MBA students as a proxy for actual managers. Locke [1986] suggests that it is an error to assume that students are significantly different from real employees. Students often have relevant work experience and will become employees upon graduation. This argument is enhanced when MBA students are used who often have work experience, have worked as managers, and are recruited into management ranks, or into a management promotion stream almost immediately upon graduation. This argument suggests that when significant differences are found they have greater statistical conclusion validity because the use of comparative groups of students leads to better balanced samples. This approach is favored by a number of research design experts [Locke 1986; Calder, Phillips and Tybout 1981]. When the goal of research is theory application, the strongest test of the theory involves the use of homogeneous samples to increase the rigor of the theory test [Calder, Phillips and Tybout 1981]. Use of matched samples also is a technique to ensure rigor in cross-cultural research [Sekaran 1983].

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) was chosen to measure cognitive styles because, in addition to strong reliability and validity, it appears to measure cognitive patterns that remain constant between North American and Asian cultures [Myers and McCaulley 1986; Ohsawa 1981, 1975; Myers 1980]. The Japanese version of the MBTI, called the TI, was developed by Ohsawa [1981,1975]. The TI is used in Japan as a fully validated version of the MBTI by the Human Resource Research Institute of Tokyo, which provided the questionnaires for this research. It is accepted by North American psychological researchers as equivalent in meaning with the English version [Modaid, McCaulley and Kainz 1986; Myers 1980]. Ohsawa [1975] tested the reliability of the TI using split-half (coefficients ranged between .747 and .919) and test-retest methods (coefficients ranged between .597 and .801 for males and .442 and .796 for females). Individual items were also factor analyzed to ensure that they loaded on the appropriate scales.

The MBTI has been recommended as an instrument for measuring cognitive style differences by the Mental Measurements Handbook if the data produced by the instrument is converted into continuous psychological scales that result in interval level data [Devito 1985]. The type theory on which the instrument is based holds that each scale produces nominal level data intended to sort people into cognitive style groups, rather than to measure people on continuous scales [Devito 1985]. The relative strength on the score is not seen as relevant. This interpretation makes some researchers uncomfortable and they have recommended converting MBTI data to interval data to satisfy the concern that the relative strength of scores is ignored by the use of the nominal level classifications [Devito 1985]. This study converted the data into four continuous scales: extrovert-introvert; sensing-intuiting; thinking-feeling; and judging-perceiving. A brief description [Myers and McCaulley 1986] of these scales follows.

  • An extrovert would rely on the environment for stimulation and guidance, be action-oriented, sociable, and communicate with ease and frankness. An introvert would show a greater concern with concepts and ideas than with external events, relative detachment, and enjoyment of solitude and privacy over companionship.
  • A sensing person would focus attention on immediate experience becoming more realistic and practical, and developing skills such as acute powers of observation and memory for details. By contrast, an intuitive person would value possibility and meaning more than immediate experience. He/she would develop "perception beyond what is available to the senses" [Myers and McCaulley 1986] and become more imaginative, theoretical, abstract and future oriented.
  • A person high in thinking would be concerned with logical and impersonal decisionmaking, and principles of justice and fairness. He/she would focus on cause and effect relationships and develop strengths in analytical ability, objectivity, and criticality. By contrast, a person who scored high in feeling would make decisions by weighing relative values and merits of issues. He/she would be attuned to personal and group values and be more concerned with human, rather than technical, aspects of a problem. He/she would have needs for affiliation, warmth and harmony.
  • A person scoring high in judging would prefer to make relatively quick decisions and be well planned and organized. He/she would have a tendency to seek closure as soon as he/she had enough information to make a decision. By contrast, a person who scored high in perceiving would be open to new information whenever it arrived and would not move for closure to make early decisions. He/she would appear curious, adaptable and open to new events or change.

The sample consisted of Canadian and Japanese MBA students. The Canadian students were from the School of Business Administration at the University of Western Ontario. The Japanese students were from the Graduate School of Business Administration at Keio University. Both samples were stratified random samples and therefore representative of the populations of MBA students in each university in 1988. The average age of the Canadian sample was twenty-seven. Approximately 22% were female. The average age of the Japanese sample was thirty. Approximately 11% were female. Of the Canadian students, 94% had one or more years of work experience and 6% were recent college graduates. Of the Japanese students, 90% had one or more years of work experience and 10% were recent college graduates. All students were tested at the end of their first year of a two-year MBA program. Students from both countries received the questionnaires in class and were given an explanation as to how to complete them. The Japanese returned their questionnaires individually after completing them while the Canadians returned them at the next class. The Japanese response rate was 100% (N=64). The Canadian response rate was 72.3% (N=81).


The data was analyzed using multiple analysis of variance (MANOVA). The categorical independent variable was named "national culture" using the test results of eighty-one Canadian and sixty-four Japanese respondents. The interval level dependent variables were the four MBTI cognitive-style scales. High confidence could be placed in the results of the MANOVA test because only one minor violation of a MANOVA assumption was detected [Bray and Maxwell 1990]. The data was representative of the populations of interest. The data represented independent observations. The dependent variables were normally distributed which is the usual test for multivariate normal distribution of the dependent variables. There was homogeneity of variance for three of the four dependent variables. The one violation of a MANOVA assumption was that the "thinking-feeling" dependent variable did not have homogeneity of variance although there was no correlation of means and variance. Since there were unequal numbers in the two conditions of the independent variable, the relationship between national culture and "thinking-feeling" was confirmed as significant (p=.0001) using the Mann Whitney U-test.

The omnibus MANOVA test indicated that there were significant cognitive style differences between the Canadian and Japanese MBA students (p=.0000). The Wilks' lambda was .793 and the Rao's R was 9.15. The univariate F-tests for each dependent variable indicated that there were significant differences between the Canadian and Japanese MBAs on the "sensing-intuiting," "thinking-feeling," and "judging-perceiving" scales (Table 1).

The direction of the relationships between national culture and cognitive style preference was determined by a comparison of the means of the national culture variables on the three significant dependent variables (Figure 2).

The Canadian MBA students preferred intuiting, judging and thinking styles. The Japanese MBA students preferred sensing, perceiving and thinking styles, but were significantly more feeling oriented than the Canadian students. Table 2 summarizes the significant cognitive style differences between the Canadian and Japanese MBA students.

The Canadians displayed a preference for a thinking-based cognitive style that tends to be logical, impersonal and objective. This style prefers to make quick, impersonal, analytically based decisions and impose closure on fact finding as soon as there is enough objective information for a decision. There is a tendency to subordinate the human element by discounting certain kinds of information in favor of theoretical variables.

The Japanese displayed a preference for a more feeling-based cognitive style that emphasized the human element in problem solving.[1] This style has a concern for group harmony and a tendency to be sympathetic and friendly in human relations. They focus on the facts and seek to remain open to as much data as is available with no need to find closure to make a quick decision. Slow decisionmaking is preferred. With their openness for new information, the Japanese would seem to be particularly adaptable to new situations.

The findings of this study provided support for the proposition that Japanese and Canadians may have different dominant cognitive style preferences. The findings were consistent with the cross-cultural literature that has investigated interaction problems between Japanese and Americans. Canadians were found to have a tendency to seek fast decisions and to rush to closure on data collection. The Japanese were found to resist fast decisionmaking because of a preference to obtain large amounts of information. The findings were also consistent with the psychological type literature that suggests that people with different cognitive styles, such as those exhibited by our sample, will experience communication difficulties [Nutt 1986] and may experience interaction problems that could be disastrous [Myers 1980].


This study used a Canadian sample while most of the literature cited used samples of Americans. A question could be raised about whether samples of Canadians and Americans are interchangeable. Canadian and American managers are more likely to be similar to each other than either is to Japanese managers. Studies such as cultural clustering of management values and attitudes [Hofstede 1980; Ronen and Kraut 1977] show that Canadians and Americans are somewhat different, but within a cluster of similar cultures, while the Japanese are extremely different from both.

There is a gender imbalance in the samples. The Canadian sample is 22% female while the Japanese sample is 11% female. The MBTI scores males and females differently on the thinking and feeling scales because research has found that males tend to be more thinking oriented and females more feeling oriented. This would suggest a bias in the Canadian data towards preference for a feeling-based cognitive style. Yet, the Canadian sample was significantly more thinking oriented (p=.000). This suggests that if the samples were balanced by gender the differences observed would be even more extreme in the direction of the findings reported. It could also be argued that females should have been removed from the sample comparisons because Japanese female managers are extremely uncommon for cultural reasons. However, recent studies suggest that Japanese females become managers in smaller Japanese companies where they might be encountered during a negotiation process [Adler 1991] and that North American companies now send females as expatriate managers to represent their companies in Pacific Rim countries [Adler 1991]. Therefore, the females in the two samples were included in the analysis.

The samples were not quite balanced by age. The average age of the Japanese was three years more than that of the Canadians. Documents provided by the Human Research Institute of Tokyo showed that Japanese people tend to become more thinking oriented with age. This suggests that if the samples were balanced by age, the "thinking-feeling" difference between the Canadians and Japanese might be slightly more extreme than was found in this study.

There also is evidence that Japanese business students selected for overseas assignment may develop values and cognitive preferences somewhat different from those of the general population of Japanese MBA students [Schwind and Peterson 1985]. However, with the trend toward globalization, American and Canadian managers may be more likely to travel to Japan and negotiate with managers more representative of the general population of Japanese managers. It also could be argued that Canadian managers may often have an MBA degree while Japanese managers are more likely to have undergraduate business training. However, in an exploratory study such as this the more homogeneous samples increased statistical conclusion reliability which was deemed important [Cook and Campbell 1979].


This study has proposed a more complete model of cognitive functioning as a basis for investigating cross-cultural interaction. It also has provided empirical support for one component that has not received much attention to date in cross-cultural research--cognitive style or one's preference for acquiring and evaluating data. To better understand and reduce intercultural conflict, we need more research in this area.

The results support and explain practical advice that has appeared in the literature. However, it might not be possible to put such advice into practice if managers do not recognize that their cognitive styles are potentially part of the problem. The findings point to the need for increased understanding of cognitive differences. For example, on the judging-perceiving dimension, Canadians' tendency to seek fast decisions and to rush to closure on data collection might tend to frustrate Japanese who were found to resist fast decisionmaking because of a preference for obtaining larger amounts of information. If North Americans need information exchange as a precondition for cooperative negotiations [Graham, Kim, Lin and Robinson 1988], and are frustrated by an inability to obtain exact information from the Japanese [Peterson and Schwind 1977], it suggests that the Japanese might obtain the relationships they seek by an earlier sharing of the information needed by North Americans.

The thinking-feeling dimension difference showing a Japanese preference for personal relationships is consistent with the findings of Graham, Kim, Lin and Robinson [1988] and Sullivan and Peterson [1982] that the Japanese would prefer to develop trust, or interpersonal attraction, before business is transacted. The North American tendency to overlook relationship building is reflected in the finding that the Canadians displayed a cognitive style that reduced the importance of the human element in favor of analytical, impersonal, rational factors. Tung [1984] suggests that North American managers need to learn to maintain dialogue through a greater emphasis on human relations. The data suggest Canadians might maintain the dialogue if it was instrumental and served some purpose.

The findings suggest that North American managers who plan to work with, or negotiate agreements with, the Japanese may benefit from special training beyond the content of traditional forms of business education, particularly in developing intercultural interaction skills. Perhaps a need exists for training that helps managers to identify and modify their cognitive style and problem-solving orientation to facilitate interaction with their Japanese counterparts. The key differences between cognitive style preferences, validated through further research, can form the basis for programs to train managers to modify their preferred style in order to become more effective in dealing with the Japanese. Alternatively, sales, negotiating or joint venture management teams could be selected to include individuals who more closely reflect the Japanese cognitive preferences to improve the fit of their information-processing capabilities [Egelhoff 1991] vis a vis their cultural environment to increase the effectiveness of their communication [Kale and Barnes 1992], or to moderately improve adaptation and attractiveness [Francis 1991].

It has been suggested that the more different the culture into which people are venturing, the more specific and rigorous the training needs to be; and greater is the need to provide experiential training such as simulations and role plays aimed at specific differences [Black and Mendenhall 1991]. This study has identified a characteristic of the Japanese that is more novel than previously recognized. Simulated negotiation or joint venture exercises in which participants are placed into teams based on their cognitive styles could be beneficial.

The authors would like to express their appreciation to Professor John Kennedy of the Western Business School and Mr. Takeshi Ohsawa of the Human Resource Institute of Tokyo for their assistance in making this study possible.

Received: July 1991; Revised: March & September 1992; Accepted: November 1992.


1. When the data was dichotomized as recommended by type psychologists and analyzed using nominal level variables the Canadians displayed a "thinking" style and the Japanese a "feeling" style. Interval level data showed that both displayed "thinking" styles but that the Canadians were very strongly "thinking" while the Japanese were significantly weaker on this scale (univariate F, p=.000).


Univariate F-Tests

Legend for Chart:

A - Dependent Variable
B - Mean Square Effect
C - Mean Square Error
D - F(DF1,2) 1,143
E - Probability Level

    A                        B          C           D         E

Extrovert-introvert        41.289     204.499      0.202    .654

Sensing-intuiting         867.167     147.204      5.891    .016

Thinking-feeling         2521.299     131.333     19.198    .000

Judging-perceiving       1362.708     225.451      6.044    .015


Cognitive Comparisons

The following chart reads as follows:

Row 1: Canadian Preference

Row 2: Canadian MBAs

Row 3: Japanese MBAs

Row 4: Japanese Preference


  Theoretical, abstract, imaginative
    Realistic, practical, detail oriented
  Focused on possibilities
    Focused on immediate experience


  Seeks closure
    Open to new information
  Quicker decisions
    Slower decisions


  Prefers impersonal, objective logic
    Prefers group values, affiliation, harmony and interpersonal
      More feeling, less thinking

Note: Descriptors are from Myers and McCaulley [1986].

DIAGRAM: FIGURE 1 Socio-Cultural Self-Regulating System

DIAGRAM: FIGURE 2 Means on the Significant Dependent Cognitive Style Variables for Canadian and Japanese MBA Students Rao's R (4,140) = 9.15; P < .0000


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By Neil R. Abramson, Simon Fraser University , Henry W. Lane, The University of Western Ontario and Hirohisa Nagai and Haruo Takagi, Keio University

Neil R. Abramson (B.A., M.A., M.B.A., Ph.D.) is an Assistant Professor of International Business in the Faculty of Business Administration, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia

Henry W. Lane (B.S., M.B.A., D.B.A.) is the Donald F. Hunter Professor of International Business at the Western Business School, London, Ontario

Hirohisa Nagai (B.S., M.B.A.) is a Ph.D. candidate at Keio University, Yokohama, Japan. He was a visiting scholar at the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations, University of Illinois 1991-1992

Haruo Takagi (B.S., M.S., D.B.A.) is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Business Administration, Keio University where he specializes in organizational behavior and management information systems.

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Source: Journal of International Business Studies, 1993, Vol. 24 Issue 3, p575, 13p
Item: 9401281524
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