Making Ourselves Understood: The Role of Previous Experience, Stereotypes, Communication Accommodation, and Anxiety in Americans' Perceptions of Communication with Chinese Students
Ruble, Racheal A.
University of Kansas
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This study examined American students' perceptions of communication with Chinese international students in two parts. First, studies were conducted to explore the stereotypes American students have about Chinese students. To begin, 100 American students from classes at a large midwestern university listed traits describing a typical Chinese student, generating a total of 31 unique descriptors. Next, 146 American participants from the same university reported the percentage of Chinese students they believed to possess each of the 31 traits and the favorability of those traits. Exploratory factor analysis revealed five primary stereotypes of Chinese students. Some reflect previous literature concerning stereotypes of Asians generally (e.g., smart/hardworking), whereas others are less common (e.g., nice/friendly). Secondly, and as primary focus of the project, 364 American students were presented, in an experimental design, with descriptions of a Chinese student who possessed traits consistent with one of the five stereotypes revealed in the first studies. Unexpectedly, there were relatively few differences in anxiety felt about and accommodations viewed as necessary when interacting with the described Chinese student. Similarly, participants reported comparable levels of willingness to interact with and social attractiveness of the Chinese student, regardless of how she was described in the experimental conditions. Intercultural sensitivity and quantity of contact with Chinese culture were found to be significant predictors of many of the outcome variables. Upon further analyses, it appears as though decreases in uncertainty, brought about by familiar stereotypes (e.g., a Chinese student incompetent in English and not assimilated), or increases in uncertainty, brought about by less familiar stereotypes (e.g., a Chinese student who is oblivious, annoying, and loud), interact with the amount of anxiety felt about interacting with a described Chinese student to determine willingness to interact with as well as the social attractiveness of the student. The significance of the findings and directions for future research are discussed in relation to prior literature on stereotyping, intercultural communication competence, intergroup contact, communication accommodation theory, anxiety/uncertainty management theory, and implicit personality theory.
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