A Stranger Among Strangers? Impression Formation in the Middle Eastern Classroom


A freshman at the beginning of a course is often a stranger among strangers. How can teammates for a group assignment be selected? The impression that peers have of each other relies on hearsay or scant information gathered from brief interactions. Evidence exists that descriptors do not equally impact impression formation. Instead, impression formation is shaped by key descriptors, such as “warm” or “cold” (Hampson, 2019). Yet, evidence comes from individualistic cultures. Our study asked whether impression formation is shaped by the cultural orientation of the evaluator. It relied on students of Middle Eastern descent who endorsed individualism and collectivism to varying degrees. First, they completed the cultural orientation scale of Triandis and Gelfand (1998). Then, they were presented with seven descriptors of a person. Six descriptors were given to all students: intelligent, skillful, industrious, determined, practical, and cautious. The middle descriptor changed: either “cold” (n = 118) or “warm” (n = 126). Students evaluated the person on 29 bipolar adjectives (generous vs. ungenerous). The person defined as “cold” was judged less favorably than the person judged as “warm”. Thus, as students' endorsement of collectivism over individualism increased, their evaluations of the “cold” person became more positive. No relationship was found between the evaluation of the “warm” person and cultural orientation. These findings indicate that the evaluator’s collectivistic disposition tempers the recognition of the socially undesirable trait of coldness. Implications and applications for instruction in the Middle East are discussed.

Author Information
Maura Pilotti, Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, Saudi Arabia
Lama Alqahtani, Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, Saudi Arabia
Khadija El Alaoui, Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, Saudi Arabia
Arifi Waked, Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, Saudi Arabia

Paper Information
Conference: IICE2024
Stream: Mind

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon