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How Do I Choose Thee? Let me Count the Ways’: A Textual Analysis of Similarities and Differences in Modes of Decision-making in China and the United States



abstract  This paper investigates the effect of decision-makers’culture on their implicit choice of how to make decisions. In a content analysis of major decisions described in American and Chinese twentieth-century novels, we test a series of hypotheses based on prior theoretical and empirical investigations of cross-cultural variation in human motivation and decision processes. The data show a striking degree of cultural similarity in the relationships between decision content, situational characteristics and the decision mode(s) employed, but also support several hypotheses about cultural differences. As predicted, Chinese decision-makers more frequently used role-based logic (a form of recognition-based decision-making) to arrive at decisions, by virtue of their greater awareness of and need for relational obligations. The hypothesis (based on conjectures about Chinese thinking style and personality differences) that Chinese decision-makers would show more rule- and case-based decision-making (two other variants of recognition-based decision-making) than decision-makers in American novels was also supported. After controlling for other predictor variables, there also was support for the hypothesis (based on comparative analyses of Chinese and Western philosophy) that analytic modes which base decisions on the calculation of best consequences would be used less frequently by Chinese decision-makers. There was no evidence of greater prevention focus in Chinese decisions. These and other observed cultural similarities and differences in the dynamics of decision mode selection have implications for the study and practice of decision-making in managerial settings.