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How do people in groups respond to authority decisions across cultural contexts? This is the question that led Karolina Urbanska, final year PhD student, to collaborate with Dr Miriam Park (Monash University Malaysia).

Karolina received financial funding from the School to visit Monash University in September 2016.  During this time, Karolina collected data from 160 Malaysian students, which will provide insights into cultural values that determine group members’ responses to authority decisions. She also gave a guest lecture to fourth year psychology students in the ‘Psychology in Society’ module.

Karolina chose Malaysia for a very specific reason:

“Malaysia, typically theorized as vertical collectivist country, makes an interesting case for investigating this question. On one hand, collectivist cultures emphasise interdependence with others, making groups and their fate an important concern. On the other hand, countries described as vertical tend to be accepting of group-based inequalities with authorities possessing a lot of power. Therefore, in the case whereby authority makes a fair decision, but one that disfavours one’s own group (i.e. where vertical and collectivist values are in direct competition), how would people react?”

“Cross-cultural psychology research often relies on collaborations with other researchers in psychology departments around the world. Going to Malaysia and experiencing the cultural setting has been invaluable in helping me to understand what guides people’s behaviour in this context, as opposed to relying on what I have read in a journal article”.