Researchers investigating cultural groups and differences between these groups have adopted various approaches.

These include in-depth studies of single cultures, cross-cultural studies of more than one cultural group, or studies of bicultural groups (e.g. Chinese Canadians).

This study by Sanchez-Burks and Nisbet (2000) investigating Anglo-Americans and Mexican Americans is an example of a cross-cultural study. Their area of particular interest was intergroup dynamics in work settings. They theorised that Mexican and Mexican-American (“Latin”) participants’ strong interpersonal orientation would influence their preference for work groups.

Type of study: An independent measures experiment.

Hypothesis: Latin participants would evaluate task and interpersonal work groups more favourably than Anglo-Americans, and Anglo-Americans would evaluate task work groups more favourably than Latins. Recommendations by Mexicans for improvements to the performance of work groups would favour socioemotional aspects.

Participants: Two groups were recruited by volunteer sampling. 110 Mexican university students (52 men; 58 women) and 108 American students (57 men; 51 women) who identified themselves as either “white” or “Anglo-American”.

Procedures: Participants viewed one of two 4-minute video tapes of language tutoring sessions that were either task orientated or a mix of task orientation and socioemotional components (the latter included such interactions as a handshake, small talk, and discussion about a movie). One video depicted Mexicans and the other depicted Anglo-Americans. Participants then filled out a questionnaire that measured their evaluation of the tutoring session’s effectiveness and made suggestions for improvement.

Results: Both groups rated the task orientated session more favourably, but the Mexican participants rated the task work group less favourably than did the Anglo-Americans. The ratings of both groups were not affected by the ethnicity of the people depicted in the video. When asked to analyse what might improve the tutoring, the Mexicans emphasised socioemotional considerations more than the Anglo-Americans. Both Mexicans and Anglo-Americans made the same recommendations whether they believed the groups were composed of Anglo-Americans or of Mexicans.

Conclusions: For Anglo-Americans, task success seems dependent on minimising socioemotional concerns, whereas for Latins socioemotional aspects underpin efficiency and success.

The study’s report can be accessed here.