Perceptions of Intercultural Interaction and Communication Satisfaction: A Study on Initial Encounters

Article excerpt

This project explored perceptions of intercultural interactions. Data were collected from U.S. undergraduate students shortly after they had a face-to-face, one-on-one conversation with an international student. A 15-item instrument was used to measure perceptions of the intercultural interaction. Study 1 included a principal components factor analysis and isolated three factors of perceptions of intercultural interaction: synchrony, difficulty, and common ground. Further, these dimensions were used to predict communication satisfaction. In Study 2, the factor structure was replicated and overall perceptions of intercultural interaction were found to be positively correlated with communication satisfaction. When used as predictors of communication satisfaction, the three factors combined to account for 70% of variance.


* Intercultural communication competence has aroused great interest in scholars over the years (see Hannigan, 1990 for a review). However, there has been insufficient attention to empirical research (Dinges & Baldwin, 1996), especially with regard to effective intercultural communication. The present paper reports two studies and addresses an important aspect of the issue--the connection between perceptions of intercultural interaction and intercultural communication satisfaction. Communication satisfaction results from perceptions of intercultural interaction that are important to intercultural communication competence. Consequently, understanding the dimensions underlying perceptions of intercultural interaction is needed. Greater understanding of intercultural perception dimensions may inform the literature about key aspects of intercultural interaction relevant to intercultural competence.

Perceptions of Interaction

Intercultural communication literature has reported salient characteristics of face-to-face intercultural interactions. These characteristics have distinguished intercultural from intra-cultural interactions. It has been found, for example, that intercultural, in comparison to intra-cultural, interactions were perceived as giving rise to higher uncertainty (e.g., Gudykunst, 1983; Gudykunst, Chua, & Gray, 1987), higher anxiety (Stephan & Stephan, 1985) and lower quality of communication especially in initial encounters (Hubbert, Guerrero, & Gudykunst, 1999). These findings have uncovered aspects of communication that vary considerably from intracutural to intercultural settings and may represent areas in interaction adaptation for intercultural communication competence. It is therefore important to identify unique aspects of intercultural interaction that may help explain the variation in uncertainty, anxiety, and communication quality. Perceptions of communication capture the global impression participants have of their interaction and may include potentially unique factors that influence uncertainty, anxiety, communication quality, and, ultimately, communication competence in intercultural interactions.

Perceptions of communication have been commonly treated as an indication of the characteristics of communication in various relationships and are associated with variation in communication behaviors. Knapp, Ellis, and Williams (1980) generalize three dimensions of communication perceptions from reports of individuals about interactions in various (intracultural) interpersonal relationships. These communication perceptions include personalness, synchrony, and difficulty. Personalness is a function of relationship intimacy (or interpersonal distance) of the participants. Interaction participants in close personal relationships generally perceive a high degree of intimacy. Synchrony represents the smooth coordination of the interaction, which often is a function of mutual familiarity with each other's communicative pattern. Persons with a history of interaction with one another, or a similar sociocultural background, tend to perceive a higher degree of synchrony in their communication. …