Title

Culture shock, why people experience problems in cultural adjustment : can the theory of cognitive dissonance be used as an explanation?

Publication Date

1-1-2000

Degree Name

MA in International and Intercultural Management

First Advisor

Barbara Huff

Abstract

This paper will examine the area of cultural adjustment that is referred to as culture shock, using the psychological phenomenon known as cognitive dissonance to serve as a n explanation of the duress sojourners feels in their attempts to adjust to a new culture. Using theories of psychology and social learning, I will incorporate the current research on cultural adjustment to devise for today's sojourner a more current applicable model, the metamorphosis model of cultural adjustment. The current literature on this subject, while serving as an explanation of various states one goes through after engaging in a cross-cultural experience, offers little in the way of understanding for deviations from the models, or for persons who may skip specific stages in entire. As the world turns towards globalization, and cultural differences are not merely international, but something individuals can experience in their own host culture, the need for more current, critical analysis of these models needs to be reexamined. This paper will show that it is in fact beneficial for individuals to undergo culture shock in order to gain greater understanding of the culture they are in, as well as to further defining one's own self-concept. The paper will deal with issues of identity and self-concept as well as attitudes and behavior as a basis for how an individual can adjust. Research and experience is a compilation of observations made as Coordinator of a Language School in South America and my own personal experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer and traveler. The methodology includes informal interviews with foreign students, personal experience contrasted and combined with previous studies of culture shock, cultural adjustment, and psychology with an emphasis on the theory of cognitive dissonance. A new model of culture shock, entitled the metamorphosis theory, is presented which accounts for a broader range of cultural experiences and is applicable to a variety of personal adjustments both international and within one's own culture.

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