Intercultural Relationship, Prejudice and Ethnocentrism in a Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC): A Time-Series Experiment

Article excerpt


This paper investigated the effects of relationship types (intracultural versus intercultural conditions) on relational development in computer-mediated communications (CMC) and face-to-face settings by controlling for the effect of prejudice and ethnocentrism. A total of 140 participants were involved in the experiment, and they were randomly assigned to the face-to-face, synchronous and asynchronous computer-mediated channels. Within each group, they were assigned to intracultural versus intercultural conditions and were required to interact in pairs with their zero-history partners. All participants underwent four experimental sessions.. The results exhibited a significant main effect of relationship types on relational progression in face-to-face and asynchronous CMC groups. No significant main effect of relationship types was observed in the synchronous CMC group. The results showed no significant effects of prejudice and ethnocentrism on relational development in all groups. The findings of the study provide partial support for the "equalization" view of CMC.

Keywords: Intercultural relationship, Equalization, Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC), Prejudice, Ethnocentrism

1. Introduction

The proliferation of the Internet has tremendously changed the communication landscape by allowing individuals from different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities in various parts of the world to communicate with each other quickly and directly. For intercultural communication scholars, online communication technology has brought a new dimension to the study of intercultural communication. It provides a new testing ground for intercultural communication theories, which previously were limited to face-to-face interactions. For new media researchers, online technology offers an exciting research platform to test new CMC theories on existing issues, such as intercultural relations. The best way to begin is to compare the existing literature on intercultural communication in face-to-face communication and CMC, described in the following sections.

2. Literature Review

2.1 Intercultural Relationships in Face-to-Face Setting

Past research has concluded that intercultural communication is different from intracultural communication (Stanback & Pearce,1981; Simard, 1981; Turner & Giles; 1981). According to Gudykunst (1986), previous analyses suggested there are significant differences between intracultural communication (communication with people of the same culture) and intercultural communication (communication with people of a different culture). In one study of 326 students (163 whites and 163 African-Americans), Gudykunst (1986) reported that there are significant differences in intracultural and intercultural self-disclosure, perceived similarity and attributional confidence. Most students in the study associated their intracultural relationship with greater self-disclosure, perceived similarity and attributional confidence.

Theoretical frameworks were developed from these empirical findings. According to Neuliep (2003), whenever we communicate with someone from a different culture, we experience much uncertainty. We may not know anything about a person's culture, values, habits, behavior, dress or other factors. Berger (1988) further theorizes that when we interact with a stranger (especially a person from a different culture), our primary concern is to reduce uncertainty. In this high uncertainty situation, our primary goal is to reduce uncertainty and increase the predictability about the other. This can be accomplished through specific verbal and nonverbal communication strategies, such as question asking and appropriate nonverbal expressiveness.

Gudykunst and Kim (1997) argue that whenever we interact with people from different cultures, we tend to view them as strangers. Interactions with people from different cultures tend to involve the highest degree of strangeness and the lowest degree of familiarity. …