Cultural Differences in Indecisiveness
Ng, Andy Ho Man
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East Asians endorse naïve dialecticism, a lay belief system that tolerates contradictory information (Peng & Nisbett, 1999). Accordingly, individuals of East Asian (vs. European) cultural backgrounds are more likely to hold and less likely to change ambivalent attitudes (Ng et al., 2012). If East Asians have a heightened tendency to see both positive and negative aspects of an object or issue, but less inclination to resolve these inconsistencies, they may experience more difficulty in committing to an action, and thus be more indecisive than other cultural groups. This, in turn, may have a negative impact on life satisfaction. These propositions were tested in four studies. In Study 1 (N = 59) I examined how indecisive tendency differed between East Asian Canadian and European Canadian participants using a real educational decision. Results indicated that East Asian Canadian participants exhibited different manifestations of indecisiveness (i.e., decision difficulty, post-decision regret, decision latency) to a higher degree than did European Canadian participants. In Study 2 (N = 511) I investigated cultural differences in chronic indecisiveness and how naïve dialecticism and need for cognition might contribute to these differences by comparing East Asian Canadians, South Asian Canadians, and European Canadians. It was found that East Asian (vs. European and South Asian) Canadian participants exhibited more chronic indecisiveness, and naïve dialecticism and need for cognition mediated the relationship between culture and indecisiveness in opposite directions. In Study 3 (N = 104) I tested again the mediating role that naïve dialecticism plays in explaining cultural differences in chronic indecisiveness and examined how these differences might have negative downstream consequences for life satisfaction. Results indicated that East Asian (vs. European) Canadian participants had lower life satisfaction, which was mediated serially by naïve dialecticism through chronic indecisiveness. In Study 4 (N = 109) I established the causal effect of naïve dialecticism on indecision using a priming method and tested whether evaluative ambivalence would explain this effect in a consumer choice task. It was found that European Canadian participants who were primed with a dialectical mindset were more indecisive when choosing a computer, relative to those not primed, and this effect was mediated by evaluative ambivalence toward the chosen alternative. Findings of this dissertation contribute to the indecisiveness literature by showing individual and cultural variations in indecisiveness as well as their antecedents, mechanisms, and consequences.