Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

New Study on Cultural Values | What Determines Success?

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Mon, Dec 12, 2011 @ 09:39 AM

cultural valuesIf you are living and working in the United States with American colleagues, you might want to learn more about your own cultural values and the cultural values that determine the way that your American colleagues communicate and view the world.  How would you answer this question:


"Success in life is determined by forces outside our control"


True or False?


The Pew Research Center recently released their latest study from the Global Attitudes Project. Take a look at the graph below. According to the study, only 36% of the people in the United States believe that success is determined by things we can't control. In contrast, the percentage that agree with that statement shoots up to 72% in Germany. It doesn't take a mathematician to see that there is a fundamental difference between Germany and the United States. What is going on here?



cultural values survey



Locus of Control and the Effect on Cross Cultural Interactions:


Locus of control is an important cultural dimension that can tell us a lot about the way that people view life, the way they communicate and what they consider important. In a culture where internal locus of control is a common value, like the US, many people believe that they are entirely in control of their own lives and their own success. External locus of control means that people believe that things outside of them control their lives such as a higher power, the environment or other people.



Internal Locus of Control and American Cultural Values:


As always, when we talk about culture, we have to be careful about stereotypes and generalizations. However, insight into this interesting cultural value can help international professionals learn how to communicate with Americans. Only 36% of Americans believe that success is determined by something outside of themselves. If you are from another country and you are working with American people, perhaps you have noticed these values in your American colleagues. American people are often:

  • goal oriented
  • self-reliant
  • individualistic


 Internal Locus of Control in American Proverbs:


  • "Where there's a will, there's a way"
  • "If you want something done right, do it yourself"
  • "Nothing ventured, nothing gained"

Read more about American culture and language



Practical Tips for your Life in the U.S.





Source: Pew Research Center, Global Attitudes Project, Nov 17, 2011.
Moran and Moran (2007) Managing Cultural Differences, 7th ed.

Topics: United States Culture, Cultural Competence, Cross Cultural Coaching

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