Response Style Differences in Cross-National Research
International Management researchers often rely on surveys to collect their data. However, responses to survey questions can be biased by response styles, a respondent’s tendency to provide a systematic response to questions regardless of their content. Response styles vary across countries and individuals, but there is limited systematic research that investigateswhy they vary.
Our study investigates middle (MRS) versus extreme response styles (ERS), the tendency to use the middle or extreme categories on rating scales. We examine the impact of culture, different types of scale anchors and the level of knowledge of the topic in question on MRS and ERS.
We asked five groups of respondents (Chinese in China, Chinese in Australia, Anglo-Australians in Australia, and two groups of German students in Germany) to indicate on a 10-point scale whether certain employee attitudes or behaviour were more typically Australian (left-hand of the scale) or Chinese (right-hand of the scale). We then asked them how they would rate the performance (low to high on a 10-point scale) of an employee who displayed this attitude or behaviour.
Asian respondents showed higher MRS than Western respondents. When scale anchors referred to naturally opposing and mutually exclusive constructs (Australian versus Chinese) respondents showed more ERS than when they referred to level or degree of a construct (low-high performance). Knowledge of cross national differences resulted in higher ERS on behavioural questions but not on performance questions.
KeywordsResponse styles Survey research Culture China Australia Germany
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