PREJUDICE AND EPISTEMOLOGY
Bretherton, D., University of Melbourne and Price, S.L., International Centre for Conflict Resolution, Australia
Many major cross-cultural theories refer to the ability to accommodate new, challenging information as crucial to the development of intercultural sensitivity and tolerance. This ability is characteristic of individuals with an advanced level of epistemological development. Given that educational researchers have established techniques for promoting and measuring epistemological development, the possibility that these techniques could be used to reduce prejudice and foster intercultural sensitivity is worth exploring. The proposed paper will summarise the findings of a recent doctoral thesis, which examined the relationship between level of contact with unfamiliar cultures, ethnocentrism and epistemological development. This research project involved examining the effect of participating in a long-term international exchange program on Australian secondary school students. Although level of intercultural contact was found to be directly related to students' level of knowledge about other cultures, it was not directly related to their level of ethnocentrism. Instead, it was found that these two variables were mediated by level of epistemological development. Tliar cultures, ethnocentrism and epistemological development. This research project involved examining the effect of participating in a long-term international exchange program on Australian secondary school students. Although level of intercultural contact was found to be directly related to students' level of knowledge about other has addressed the nature and causes of organisational intercultural conflict. This is particularly important for organisations in East Asia involving Western expatriates from individualist cultures and host-nationals from collectivist cultures. It has been shown that, traditionally, individualists tend to be more confrontational or direct when dealing with conflict than collectivists, who value harmony and face preservation and, therefore, tend to avoid conflict. This paper investigated whether such traditional dichotomous differences in conflict approaches were reflected in contemporary causes of workplace conflict by examining the descriptions of the latent and manifest phases of a number of intercultural conflict incidents reported in a multinational organisation with subsidiaries in Singapore, Bangkok and Jakarta. Using critical incident methodology, 35 respondents (17 expatriates, 18 host-nationals) were asked to recount a recent incident of intercultural conflict in which they were involved. Reasons given for the manifest causes of each conflict and causal explanations for the a priori latent features were analysed using grounded theory coding and a multidimensional scaling technique. It was shown that reasons for manifest causes varied across a number of categories, 75% of which are likely to be found in any workplace. However, causal explanations of the latent aspects were found to involve two broad communication themes related to cultural variability, indirect versus direct communication styles and perceived lack of communication competence. The results were discussed in relation to increasing employees' awareness of communication differences as a major factor in the causal history of intercultural conflict.