Culture Blind Leadership Research: How Semantically Determined Survey Data May Fail to Detect Cultural Differences

Arnulf, J. K. and K. R. Larsen (2020). "Culture blind leadership research: How semantically determined survey data may fail to detect cultural differences." Frontiers in Psychology 11(176).

18 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2020

See all articles by Jan Ketil Arnulf

Jan Ketil Arnulf

BI Norwegian Business School

Kai R. Larsen

Leeds School of Business; Information Systems Group; Gallup

Date Written: October 20, 2020

Abstract

Likert scale surveys are frequently used in cross-cultural studies on leadership. Recent publications using digital text algorithms raise doubt about the source of variation in statistics from such studies to the extent that they are semantically driven. The Semantic Theory of Survey Response (STSR) predicts that in the case of semantically determined answers, the response patterns may also be predictable across languages. The Multi-factor Leadership Questionnaire (MLQ) was applied to 11 different ethnic samples in English, Norwegian, German, Urdu and Chinese. Semantic algorithms predicted responses significantly across all conditions, although to varying degree. Comparisons of Norwegian, German, Urdu and Chinese samples in native versus English language versions suggest that observed differences are not culturally dependent but caused by different translations and understanding. The maximum variance attributable to culture was a 5% unique overlap of variation in the two Chinese samples. These findings question the capability of traditional surveys to detect cultural differences. It also indicates that cross-cultural leadership research may risk lack of practical relevance.

Keywords: Leadership; Cross-Cultural Leadership; Latent Semantic Analysis; Semantic Theory of Survey Response

Suggested Citation

Arnulf, Jan Ketil and Larsen, Kai R., Culture Blind Leadership Research: How Semantically Determined Survey Data May Fail to Detect Cultural Differences (October 20, 2020). Arnulf, J. K. and K. R. Larsen (2020). "Culture blind leadership research: How semantically determined survey data may fail to detect cultural differences." Frontiers in Psychology 11(176). , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3715845

Jan Ketil Arnulf (Contact Author)

BI Norwegian Business School ( email )

Nydalsveien 37
Oslo, 0442
Norway

Kai R. Larsen

Leeds School of Business; Information Systems Group ( email )

995 Regent Dr.
Boulder, CO 80309-0419
United States

Gallup ( email )

901 F St NW
Washington, DC 20004
United States

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