Geert Hofstede’s dimensions provide a starting point for a general study of culture. Using his website, a mediator could compare the general cultural characteristics of two cultures along five dimensions (see www.geert-hofstede.com): power distance, individu alistic culture/collectivist culture, masculinity/femininity, long- vs. short-term orientation, and uncertainty avoidance. Power distance indicates a group’s comfort with social strati fication and authority. Disputants from high power-distance cultures may have distinct expectations that lower status individuals should defer to those in higher status, creating an inequitable condition in a mediation session. Likewise, high power-distance individu als will expect more direction from a high-status mediator. The individualism/collectivism dimension describes a cultural group’s preference for a group identity or individual iden tity. Highly collective cultures may accept settlements that seem not in their personal best interest if issues are framed in terms of a larger social good. The masculinity(femininity dimension indicates a group’s preference for competition for material rewards or social cooperation. Uncertainty avoidance identifies cultures that tolerate ambiguity and those who are uncomfortable with change or uncertain social situations. Individuals who are uncertainty averse would require very specific terms in any agreement, with contingency clauses to cover options that might arise. Short- vs. long-term thinking divides cultures by a value for resolving immediate issues and those who consider the immediate issue to be just one part of social relationships that extend back in time and into the future. Fatahillah Abdul Syuker and Dale Margaret Bagshaw argued that the use of a Western model of court-annexed mediation with a focus on short-term outcomes led to its lack of success in Indonesia where long-term group harmony is a cultural value. Navajo nation members who are accustomed to a well-known spiritual or community member acting as a mediator who restores peace might feel uncomfortable with the European American mediation model using a neutral and impartial third party.
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Study of Culture