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Keeping Others in Mind: the Very Social Cognition of Asian Managers

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Submitted By stone0072005
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Keeping Others in Mind: The Very Social Cognition of Asian Managers

Zhixing Xiao* Steven K. Su**

1

Introduction

Do we need a separate model of psychology to describe how Asians process information in the managerial context? Do Asian and Western managers evaluating the same business decision take fundamentally different paths and reach different conclusions? One view might hold that just as the rules of mathematics are identical in the East and West, the rules of analysis in business will tend to be very similar, and hence no special differentiation is necessary for the Asian context. We suggest that while business organizations in each culture engage in similar behavior, there are nonetheless deep social differences that pervade how information is processed. We offer as an analogy the difference between dining in China and dining in the West. In both contexts, the major activity of the patrons is to receive a meal in exchange for payment. Aside from the fact that the food in these restaurants tastes different, many differences in venue reflect different social beliefs and assumptions. In the West, restaurants are usually equipped with rectangular tables, often suitable for two to four people, at which the diners randomly take seats. In China, it is more common to have large round tables that allow each individual to directly face a large number of compatriots. Seats around the table are not random, but instead have hierarchical status: those facing the door are usually taken by those more senior in status, just as seats on the left tend to be taken by the more senior. In the West, each person is presented a menu and from which personal selections are made. In China, only one menu is presented to the host, who orders a table full of dishes - to be shared by the whole group. During the dinner, a toast is ordinarily a brief ritual in the West. At Chinese...

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