Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cultural Difference and Adaptation of Communication Styles in Computer-Mediated Group Brainstorming

In the article, “Cultural Difference and Adaptation of Communication Styles in Computer-Mediated Group Brainstorming” the authors examine how culture and medium shape the underlying brainstorming process in today’s society where technology makes it easy for international and intercultural group members to brainstorm together remotely. The authors state that as people’s behavior during group brainstorming is affected by peer evaluation and social conformity, culture and media may influence the extent of evaluation pressure people perceive and change the dynamics of group brainstorming.

The authors conducted a laboratory study in which three-person groups performed two brainstorming tasks, one using a text-only chatroom and one using a video-enabled chatroom that showed a view of other group members’ faces. Three person groups were asked to perform two structural similar brainstorming tasks, one via text chatroom and one via video chatroom. American and Chinese participants were assigned to one of four group compositions:
            -Three Americans
            -Three Chinese
            -Two Americans and one Chinese
            -One American and Two Chinese
23 participants were American born with English as their first language. The remaining participants were international students boring in China, Hong Kong or Taiwan whose first language was Chinese but were all fluent or nearly fluent in English. All participants were studying at a U.S. university.

Two brainstorming tasks of equivalent difficulty were created: the “extra thumb” question and the “extra eye” question. The participants were brought to the laboratory and instructed about the brainstorming topics and rules which included (1) the more the ideas the better; (2) the wilder the ideas the better; (3) combination and improvement of ideas are sought; and (4) avoid evaluating others’ ideas. Groups were given about 15 minutes for each brainstorming task. The authors analyzed participants on talkativeness, responsiveness, and individualism/collectivism scale.


The authors concluded that although Chinese were less talkative in general, the use text-only chatroom increased Chinese participants’ talkativeness. Interestingly, there was cultural adaptation such that Chinese participants became as responsive as Americans when working in mixed-culture groups. The findings demonstrate how cultural factors and medium jointly shape group brainstorming conversations.

Wang, H-C. , Fussell, S. R., & Setlock, L. D. (2009). Cultural difference and adaptation of communication styles in computer-mediated group brainstorming. Proceedings of CHI 2009. Retrieved from 


  1. This is very interesting and probably an overlooked aspect of brainstorming. Given certain cultural norms how effective can brainstorming be? In a culture, such as the Japanese, where elder members are held with a great deal of respect, would younger members of the group be willing to put forth ideas that would run counter to older members ideas?

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  3. This is very interesting and certainly what I expected. A big part of Chinese and Asian culture in general revolves around the concept of "saving face", which is essentially making sure you don't make anyone look bad. I think this certainly pertains to Dave's observation about older people holding more clout in society as younger people always make sure they don't cause an elder to lose face.

  4. I think this is a really interesting article, and as Karl mentioned, it is a very important part of society to "save face" therefore brainstorming does not work quite as effectively in those populations.