For employees in Switzerland the understanding of foreign cultures is a decisive competence: Switzerland achieves about 50% of its GDP by exporting products and services to other countries. Over one fifth of the people living in Switzerland are foreigners. For companies the diversity of the work force is a major challenge. Research shows that cultural diversity often results in emotional conflicts due to the stereotyping of different cultures.
Intended result and target group:
In this research project, a computer game prototype will be developed to coach Swiss students and knowledge workers in culturally competent communication. The coaching shall be available not to a few managers but to the broad majority. To achieve this goal, a pilot solution will be developed that is extendible later.
In the game, the player will communicate with simulated persons and receive feedback. That is, the game will function as an automated personal coach: similarly to a flight simulator to train pilots, users can exercise critical situations of interaction with another culture without risks.
Learning goals and approaches:
- Learners will improve their abilities to deal with the substantial variety of cultures. This will be achieved by simulated persons in the game who will behave according to a certain combina-tion of “cultural dimensions” (certain general attributes of a culture as e.g. individualistic versus collective). Users of the game have to learn to recognize these cultural dimensions from subtle clues while communicating and adapt their behavior accordingly. This shall enable them to adapt suitable behavior in real world situations.
- Conscious awareness of stereotypes will be raised. This will be achieved by confronting learners with negative reactions to their behavior and make them understand that stereotypes are a natural human phenomenon that all we share. Research shows that awareness often results in changed behavior. To make this possible, the game observes the communications of the player and calculates stereotypes used by the player.
The success of the project will be measured by the assessment of lasting effects of improved behavior and changed attitudes.
What is special about the project?
The overall project goal is to develop a web based simulator for interacting with other cultures. The simulator enables users to exercise critical situations without the risk of ruining real (business) relationships. Within the area of culturally competent communication, the implemented examples will serve as a model for further content. Upon success of this research project, similar solutions can be developed for other communication competences as e.g. leadership, work in the court room or teaching.
The advantage of the game in comparison to training with real humans is that the latter will cause people to hide stereotypical behavior and do what appears to be socially desired. This limits learning success by making it difficult to identify actual existing stereotypes of the learner. Using a computer reduces the social desirability bias.
The game enables to learn cultural competences on the metalevel of cultural dimensions (a few dimensions applicable to all cultures) and thus is expected to be valuable for a lifetime of changing communication partners from unforeseeable cultures. Employees and students learn to deal with other cultures by recognizing cultural dimensions and by communicating free of disturbances from unconscious stereotypes.
The CultuMento game (a prototype of a computer tutor for intercultural skills) has been developed. Using this game, a study was performed in which the game provided personal coaching lessons in intercultural communication skills to 22 learners (workers and students). The main objectives of our study were to evaluate acceptance by the users, appreciation compared to established means of learning as well as transfer to the learner’s everyday life. Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected by means of questionnaires. The results show that CultuMento was well received by the users. Learners preferred the CultuMento game over a presentation by a professional person (academic lecture) and over role-play exercises with real people. An evaluation performed 2-7 days after the course indicated that already within this short time frame, 40% of the learners have encountered situations similar to the ones experienced in the game. That is, they were able to make connections between their real life and virtual situations. In addition, 4 users reported to have applied learning contents in real life, that is, reported behavioral change. Asked 3 months after playing the game, 50% of the learners reported application of what they have been coached in their real lives. n order to assess the effectiveness of the game, a controlled experimental study investigated learning gains of participants (N = 20) with no knowledge on action / state orientation, who played the game or read a paper version of the learning content. The findings showed that in one playing session, participants reached more than 60% of the learning content about action / state orientation concept, as much as participants reading a text explaining the content. Given the attraction of computer games for a large part of the population, these findings corroborates the idea that the Cultumento game is an interesting training alternative.
A meta-study was performed in order to infer if the personality attribute «action/state orientation» (Kuhl & Beckman, 1994) qualifies as a cultural dimension. For the considered eight countries, mean values of action/state orientation show significant differences. Other parameters of the subject groups were kept constant. Data from 150-660 subjects were used per country. The study justifies our usage of action/state orientation as one of the intercultural learning contents for the coaching by the CultuMento game.
Stoyan, R. (2012) Automatic Assessment of Social Skills. Dissertation thesis at the Institute for Informatics, Zurich University
Ilea, I. Stoyan, R., and Szilas, N. Apprentissage interculturel: Cultumento. in Choquet, C., Dessus, P., Lefevre, M., Broisin, J., Catteau, O., Vidal, P. (Eds): Environnnements Informatiques pour l'Apprentissage Humain (EIAH) - Postes et Demonstrations, p. 39. IRIT Press, 2013.
Persons involved in the project
Robert Stoyan, Projektleiter Robert.
Ioana Ilea Ioana.
Dr. Katja Rost katja.
, since December 2010 rost@iou. uzh. ch
Dr. Nicolas Szilas nicolas.
, since January 2011 szilas@unige. ch
Last update to this project presentation 21.12.2018