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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Effects of cultural values and attribution of outcome feedback on reasoning in Canadian and Chinese college students Yao, Min


The primary purpose of the present study was to investigate the joint effects of culture and attribution of outcome feedback on reasoning performance. This study attempted to address four major research questions: (a) Do Canadian and Chinese students have different cultural values and causal attribution patterns? (b) Do pre-experimental individual differences in causal attribution patterns lead to differences in Canadian and Chinese students' inductive reasoning performance? (c) Does attribution of outcome feedback affect Canadian and Chinese students' inductive reasoning performance? (d) Do Canadian and Chinese students conduct deductive reasoning differently as a function of outcome feedback and reasoning task contents? A total of 120 college students (60 Canadian and 60 Chinese) performed three phases of computerized experimental tasks. The research design involved 2 types of culture groups (Canadian and Chinese) under 3 conditions of outcome feedback (success, failure, and control) as two independent variables. The dependent variables observed were the number of instances used or correct responses made and response time, when possible. In terms of culture differences, Canadian students appear to be distinct and articulate about the matters of socio-cultural values, while Chinese students are relatively less distinct and articulate. When making attribution for other people's success, both Canadian and Chinese students held internal factors (i. e., good effort and high ability) as responsible. When accounting for other people's failure, Canadian students picked controllable factors (i.e., lack of effort), while Chinese students picked both controllable and uncontrollable factors (i.e., largely lack of effort and occasionally difficult task) as the reasons. However, following the success outcome feedback about their own reasoning performance, Canadian students emphasized mostly high ability and, occasionally, effort as the reasons, while Chinese students picked mostly good luck and, occasionally, high ability. Given the failure outcome feedback about their own task performance, Canadian students attributed to lack of effort and bad luck as causes, while Chinese students exclusively picked lack of effort as the explanation. Chinese subjects' inductive and deductive reasoning performances remained relatively unswayed by success or failure outcome feedback, whereas Canadian subjects' reasoning performance remained good only when success feedback was received. When failure feedback was provided, Canadian subjects' reasoning performances deteriorated and remained poor throughout the experiment. While Chinese students' reasoning performance is not predictable from their low-ability attribution of other people's failure outcome, Canadian students' reasoning performance is highly predictable; that is, the more they attributed others' failure to low ability, the faster they completed the culture-fair inductive reasoning task. On the other hand, when making attribution based on their own experience, given success feedback, Canadian students attributed their performance to their high ability. Given failure feedback, Canadian students attributed their performance to their lack of effort, with improved performance commensurable to their verbal causal attribution. The present findings indicate that Canadian and Chinese college students showed differences in causal attribution patterns, depending on when they explain others' success/failure experiences or their own, and further that upon receipt of failure outcome feedback, Canadian students' reasoning performance deteriorated, while Chinese students' performance remained insensitive to success or failure outcome feedback. Further fine-grained analyses of such causal attribution patterns interacting with outcome feedbacks and cognitive performance needs some more careful studies.

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