By Susan Stewart,2014-07-04 08:13
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Dimensions of Cultural Awareness Model

    I will use Milton Bennett’s model of intercultural sensitivity as a basis for the different answers on the Turkey Cultural Situation Exercise that I am developing.

    To summarize Milton Bennett's stages of intercultural sensitivity: Stages of Intercultural Sensitivity

    1. Denial: Does not recognize cultural differences

    2. Defense: Recognizes some differences, but sees them as negative

    3. Minimization: Unaware of projection of own cultural values; sees own values as


    4. Acceptance: Shifts perspectives to understand that the same "ordinary" behavior can

    have different meanings in different cultures

    5. Adaptation: Can evaluate other’s behavior from their frame of reference and can

    adapt behavior to fit the norms of a different culture

    6. Integration: Can shift frame of reference and also deal with resulting identity issues

DIMENSION ONE: Unaware of Cultural Differences


    Learners in this dimension may be genuinely unaware of cultural differences due to the cultural homogeneity of their environment (either from accidental isolation or deliberate separation). They have the inability to construe cultural difference, unaware that cultural difference exists, do not notice much cultural difference around them. Bennett calls this dimension denial, which means being comfortable with the familiar. Learners are not anxious to complicate their life with cultural differences. They maintain a separation from others who are different.

DIMENSION TWO: Belittles Cultural Differences


    Learners recognize some cultural differences and typically view such differences negatively. Instead of striving to understand or interpret the patterns of conduct or communication that differ from their own culture, in defense they are likely to mislabel such conduct as “wrong” “unintelligent, or “dishonest.” In

    this dimension, the greater the difference, the more negatively it is perceived. Bennett calls this the defense stage.

     Learners display a strong commitment to their own thoughts and feelings about culture and cultural difference. They have some distrust of cultural behavior or ideas that differ from their own. Although they may be aware of other cultures around them, they have a relatively incomplete understanding of them and probably have fairly strong negative feelings or stereotypes about some of them. In the first dimension learners do not perceive cultural differences, while in the second dimension cultural differences are perceived but are labeled very negatively. Cultural differences are experienced as a threat to the centrality and "rightness" of their own value system.

     In this dimension “reversal” of belittling may occur. A person feels that some other culture is better and

    tends to exhibit distrust of his/her own culture. This is an occasional but not inevitable oppositional strategy.

DIMENSION THREE: Minimizes Cultural Difference


    The minimizing cultural differences dimension usually develops when learners become comfortable in recognizing differences across and within cultures but they do not yet appreciate the significance of those differences or they are not yet comfortable in dealing with such differences. In this dimension the focus is on minimizing difference and in so doing they misread relevant behavioral and communication cues that are based on culture.

     This dimension is particularly difficult to pass through when one cultural group has vast and unrecognized privileges when compared to other groups. M. Bennett believes Stages A & B must be passed before a strong emphasis on cultural difference can be effective; otherwise the intent of such an emphasis can backfire.

DIMENSION FOUR: Accepting Difference


    Learners in the accepting of differences dimension recognize and respect behavioral and value differences. In this dimension most of the learners’ knowledge is academic, and they need interaction with people different from themselves to develop intercultural skills in applying what they have learned to real-life situations.

DIMENSION FIVE: Adapting to Difference


    The adapting to differences competence usually develops in a two-part sequence. It requires that the learner know enough about his/her own culture and a second culture to allow a mental shift into the value scheme of the other culture, and an evaluation of behavior based on its norms, not the norms of the first individual’s culture of origin. This is referred to as "cognitive adaptation." The more advanced form of

    adaptation is "behavioral adaptation," in which the person can produce behaviors appropriate to the norms of the second culture. The second element in this dimension is an understanding that people need to be within a culture in order to understand its cultural frames of reference. The cultural pluralism that comes from developing multiple cultural frames of reference has two effects: people internalize two or more different cultural worldviews and they are able to switch back and forth as the situation requires.

In this dimension the learner’s affective skills—such as empathy or an understanding of pluralism through

    multiple cultural frames of reference--are enhanced and expanded in frequent cross-cultural interaction. Empathy is the ability to leave one’s own cultural baggage behind and mentally walk a few steps in another person’s shoes. Empathizing involves knowing enough about another person’s values and thought patterns to be able to imagine what that person is thinking or feeling as she or he experiences an event, makes a decision or considers an issue.

    Empathy is a high level intercultural skill because what it requires goes beyond perspective taking. Perspective consciousness is the ability to recognize that each of us has a culturally-based view of the world that is not universally shared. To feel empathy learners must learn about other peoples’ situations,

    their beliefs and values, and their norms of behavior, and then try to think about what the other person

    would feel in a particular situation. They key attribute of empathy with someone of another culture is the ability to put one’s own cultural lenses aside and for a few minutes to try to see the world through the other person’s cultural lenses.

DIMENSION SIX: Integrating Difference


    Dimension six requires the ability to evaluate cultural contexts and is a critical skill for people growing up in a multicultural society as it teaches them to stop and consider the cultural context of situations before proceeding to act from their own cultural norms or make assumptions about other people’s motives. In-

    depth knowledge of at least two cultures (one's own and another) and the ability to shift easily into the other cultural perspective are required,. Learners in the integration dimension are able to evaluate new cultural contexts, learn how to interact within them, and deal with constructive marginality, a state in which a person is “always in the process of becoming a part of and apart from a given cultural context.”

    The learner can shift perspectives and frames of reference from one culture to another in a natural way. They become adept at evaluating any situation from multiple frames of reference. Some representatives in cross-cultural collaboration may reach this level, but most probably will not. This dimension builds upon previous dimensions and it takes practice. The task at this level of development is to handle the identity issues that emerge from this cultural flexibility. Such persons may not be trusted by the ethnic community that they "represent." In addition, if the representatives are assimilated rather than bicultural, they may also want to "correct" some of the key values or usual behaviors of the ethnic minority culture.

    Biculturality is the ability of people in a minority culture to understand and work within the dominant culture in order to improve their economic and/or physical well-being when they interact with that culture. At the same time, these people are able to retain the knowledge and behaviors of their own indigenous culture, thereby ensuring inclusion and physical, emotional, and spiritual survival within that culture.

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