Quantitative approaches: an overview.
This chapter's objectives are as follows: to comment and reflect on the overall trend in quantitative intercultural communication research; to present summaries of specific examples of studies that seem to represent current tendencies; to report on the studies presented in order to empahsize their strengths and limitations; and to propose ideas for future research in intercultural communication. The chapter argues that the distinction between quantitiative and qualitative approaches to study intercultural communication processes is artificial and useless. Possibly the true difference between quantitative and qualitative traditions is more of a philosophical issue. The advocates of qualitative approaches may start with a premise of human freedom and lack of determinism, and quantitative researchers more apparently base their work on deterministic assumptions. Qualitative researchers seem to disdain measurement and statistical technique. In contrast quantitative researchers seem to embrace these techniques. It could be argued successfully that the direct observation of behavior is in many cases a more valid method of research than self reports, yet neither of these 2 methods is inherently quantitative nor qualitative. They are both geared to the production of statements about the magnitude of attributes or qualities. A further problem that requires clarification before looking at specific examples of quantitative studies is what is to be understood by intercultural communication research in this context. Any inquiry or investigation into the patterns of interaction and/or message diffusion that involves people with different cultural backgrounds is intercultural communication research. The trend in recent communication research has definitely been toward more and more precise quantification. Yet, quantification has not been the villain of quality. Review of study examples suggest the following: the studies reviewed are not without flaws; the studies presented are serious efforts attempting to unveil systematic communication phenomena interculturally, and they are all geared to the substantiation of qualitative differences; quality and quantity are examined jointly in these studies; and they all contribute, in piecemeal fashion, to an understanding of communication phenomena across cultural differences.