"All international business activity involves communication" (Martin and Chaney, 1992, p. 268). Thus cross cultural business communication has become increasingly important over the past decade and a half. A major factor is the growth of international trade. The combined value of import and export trade for the U.S. grew to over $1,500 billion in 1997, an increase from $857 billion in 1990 (International Financial Statistics, 1998, p.895). One of every six manufacturing jobs is related to exports (Martin and Chaney, 1992, p. 267). Another contributing factor to the increase is international trade agreements like NAFTA and GATT. As Ferraro (1997) reminds us "...a fundamental precondition to any successful international business enterprise is effective communication" (p. 42).
Communication across cultures is difficult because it includes more than language. U. S. firms have had between 45-85 percent of their expatriate U. S. citizens return early from foreign assignments because of their inability to adopt to a new culture (Martin & Chaney, 1992). Competing successfully in the global marketplace requires study and understanding of the communication systems of other countries. Barriers to intercultural communication include verbal and non-verbal messages, ethnocentricism, lack of empathy and differences in perception. Perceptions and how they are formed are critical in the understanding of the communication process. To begin to understand how people of different cultures perceive U.S. business professionals, it might be helpful to learn about other people's opinion of U.S. social reality and explore possible influences on perceptions.
The technology that allows the importation and distribution of television signals from around the world, combined with the exportation of U.S. television programming, presents U.S. cultural stereotypes and thus affects communication between cultures. With the increase in business activity between the U.S. and South America, understanding this factor in business communication is important; knowledge about another culture will help to decide on appropriate communication. Argentina can serve as one example. The International Monetary Fund reports the U. S. imports from Argentina for the third quarter of 1998 were 564 billion dollars and exports to Argentina were 1,510 billion dollars (Direction of Trade Statistics, 1999, p. 564). Like many South American countries, Argentina has low wages, raw materials, large energy reserves, and geographic advantages. Unlike Mexico and Brazil, Argentina has had less direct contact with American business people. However, Argentine television and media has been heavily influenced by U.S. programming from the 1950s. As U.S. markets continue to expand into South America, Argentina provides an illustration of a people whose business communication may be more influenced by exposure to U.S. media than by direct personal contact.
This paper is a report of a study conducted in Buenos Aires, Argentina in the summer and fall of 1997. The purpose was to discover if there is evidence of influence by U.S. media on the perceptions Argentine businessmen and women have of U.S. social reality. This is important for two reasons: first, little research of this type has been done with an adult sample; and second, there appears to be an increase in business contacts between U.S. businesses and Argentina. If a better understanding of conditions were known, suggestions to improve communication between U.S. business people and their Latin American counterparts could be made. Further, the United States is a major exporter of television and entertainment programs around the world. More research has been called for about the impact of U. S. television and influences such as personal contact and demographic factors on audiences in other countries to further the understanding of relationships between television consumption, use of media and viewer's perceptions of U.S. social reality.
Perceptions of North Americans and Others
Research in intercultural communication has studied differences in international business communication (Ruch and Crawford, 1991; Friday, 1997; Ferraro, 1994; Stefani, Samovar & Hellwig, 1997). These studies indicate differences in perception as to how U.S. citizens and foreigners see U.S. communication behavior. In general, people from the United States see themselves as warm, friendly, open and informal. A U.S. manager values promptness, efficiency and accepts impersonal relationships in business dealings. North Americans are known to be individualistic, assertive, and informal in dress, gestures and discussion.
Ruch and Crawford (1991) report that foreigners see U.S. citizens as overly personal and familiar before a proper personal relationship has developed, driven, getting right to the point, slaves to the clock, materialistic and valuing self over others. In general, they report that Latin American business cultures prefer face to face communication, are conservative and formal, direct and to the point in discussions, but require a sizing up period. Generally, confrontations are avoided and family matters would be placed above business matters. Communication difficulties between these two cultures may include perceptions that U.S. businessmen and women would be "pushy" or aggressive, not interested in family, and more interested in pursuing self interests.
Stefani, Samovar and Hellwig (1997) report that Latin American negotiators are expressive and spontaneous, share ideas and interrupt as often as North Americans. Latin American cultures first establish a friendships with those they do business. This means that often a direct "no" is avoided because of the risk of breaking a friendship. Although work on intercultural communication has been the topic of scholarly work for the last three decades (most notably Hall), international business communication is a "nascent field" (Limaye and Victor, 1991, p. 281). A difficulty in the field according to them is lack of empirical research specifically on business communication alone.
Television and the Cultivation of Perceptions
Initially, for many citizens of South American nations, their impression of the United States may be from U.S. media, particularly television. How are business people portrayed on U.S. television shows? How do American television producers present social stereotypes? A recent study done for the Media Research Center examined 863 network sitcoms, dramas, and TV movies from 1995 to early 1997. Of the 514 criminal characters found during the study period, nearly 30% were business owners or corporate executives. In contrast, less than 10% were career criminals and less than 1% were lawyers (Elber, 1997, p. 1). This study parallels a report on prime-time television from 1955-1986 that reported businessmen committed 40% of the dramatized murders (Elber, 1997, p. 3). Certainly, additional factors such as interpersonal contacts with the U.S., exposure to other U.S. media, and the viewers perception of the degree of reality of television programs are other important considerations to explore the influence of media on perceptions of social reality. Cultivation theory provides a framework to analyze this phenomenon.
Cultivation research focuses on "television as a socializing agent, or a continuing stream of reality" (Rubin, Perse, & Taylor, 1988, p. 107). In this view, television influences the perception of images about the real world. The relationship between images in the media, the amount of television exposure, and the viewer's belief in the reliability and reality of that message is the primary focus of cultivation study (Gerbner, 1990). Although first applied to viewers in the U.S., the theory has been used to analyze the effects of television viewing in other cultures with mixed results.
Elasmar and Hunter (1993) used meta analysis on 27 communication studies to investigate the size of effects of foreign television on domestic audiences. They discovered that the effects found are "very weak and could be due to some other factors that may be influencing the audience to seek and view foreign television programs" (p. 47).
Zaharopoulos (1997) studied the relationship between television viewing of U.S. programs and the perception that Greek high school students have of U.S. cultural values. He found that those students who watch U.S. programs more frequently tend to have more positive perceptions of the character of U.S. citizens. Gender was an important variable with males using more negative value orientations to describe U.S. citizens than females.
Tan, Li and Simpson (1986) studied Taiwanese and Mexican students, Tan and Suarchavarat studied Thai students (1988). Results of these two studies indicated that American television is the major source of social stereotypes about Americans. The amount of television viewing was the most important predictor of American traits.
Weiman (1984) studied Israeli adolescents and undergraduates. His findings indicated both heavy and light viewers overestimated the rates of wealth and income in America. Heavy viewers overestimated to a greater degree than light viewers. Heavy viewers tend to paint a better picture of life in the U.S. in terms of wealth and standard of living. Also, Hawkins and Pingree (1980) reported Australian children who were heavy viewers held television-like beliefs about the world.
Kang and Morgan (1988) studied the relationship between U.S. programs and the attitudes of college students in Korea. Differences were found between males and females. Females who viewed U.S. television were associated with more liberal attitudes about gender roles and family values. Among males, greater exposure to U.S. television was associated with hostility towards the U.S. and protectiveness of Korean culture. Morgan and Shanahan (1992) compared the cultivation effects of television on adolescents in Argentina and Taiwan. Their study found that the U.S. cultivation hypotheses was more predictive of the correlates of television viewing among adolescents in Argentina than in Taiwan. They attribute this difference to more television viewing and more entertainment programming in Argentina than in Taiwan.
Morgan and Shanahan (1991) studied the relationship between television and the development of political attitudes in Argentine adolescents. They concluded that heavy television viewers were more likely "to agree that people should obey authority, to approve of limits on freedom of speech, and to think that it is someone's own fault if he or she is poor" (p. 88). A more significant conclusion by these authors may be that cultivation research need not be limited to the United States. Some research has suggested that cultivation is inappropriate outside the U.S. (Morgan and Shanahan, 1992, p. 176). Morgan and Shanahan suggest that Latin America, in general, and Argentina in particular, is an appropriate subject for the use of cultivation theory as a legitimate research framework since the structure and programming is based on the U.S. television model (p. 102).
Meta analysis of studies by Elasmar and Hunter (1993) indicates that the effect of foreign television on domestic viewers is quite weak. Despite the controversy surrounding the use of cultivation theory to study the influence of U.S. media on perceptions of foreign audiences, many studies have been conducted that explore this idea. Further, other findings seem to be consistent in reporting differences between men and women and heavy and light viewers. Heavy viewers tend to have more positive perceptions of U.S. wealth and living conditions. Males often have more negative perceptions than females. Since much of the research has focused on adolescent audiences, there was a need to explore the influence of U.S. media on perception of U.S. social reality on older audiences. Similarity of Argentina's media system to the U.S. media system and the amount of U.S. media found in Argentina over a long period of time provide an appropriate subject for this research.
Argentina and Media
Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world, slightly smaller than India. In South America, only Brazil is slightly larger. Nearly forty percent of the country's thirty-three million people live in greater Buenos Aires, and there is considerable political and economic power located in the city. The Argentine economy is returning to a somewhat stable situation after inflation exceeded fifty percent in the 1970s and early 1980s. Argentina is one of the most literate countries in South America and supports a wide variety of books, magazines and newspapers. The most important media development in the last few years is the end of the government monopoly on electronic media, which has resulted in more variety. As early as 1984, Schement and Rogers described television as the dominant medium. The three major U.S. television networks helped establish the early Argentine television system and supplied programming and financing (Straubhaar and King, 1987). Broadcasting in Argentina has had significant time devoted to imported programs (Antola and Rogers, 1984). Since 1992, the widely adapted use of fiber optic cable in greater Buenos Aires has reinforced the dominance of the television medium and the use of imported television.
Cable television is very prominent and has developed rapidly since the early 1990s. Argentina has the largest cable penetration in Latin America, 51% compared with an overall rate of 12% for the continent (Cabled Up, 1997, 30). More people have cable television than telephones (Rionda, 1997, p.1). Competing cable systems offer up to sixty-five channels. Most of the programming is imported from other Latin American countries and the U.S. Fiber optic cable in Buenos Aires and competition between two cable companies (Cablevision-TCI and Video Cable Communication-VCC) has provided the citizens in greater Buenos Aires access to many foreign television programs. Programming from the United States, broadcast almost exclusively in English, include: CNN, MTV, Discovery Channel, Cartoon Network, Worldnet, TNT, ESPN, USA and Fox. Other imported programs are from Brazil, Chile, Spain, Mexico, Italy, and Germany. For example, VCC provides forty-seven channels: ten are U.S., seven are other foreign services.
In greater Buenos Aires, many AM and FM stations are available. In the Provinces (the area outside greater Buenos Aires), access is somewhat limited for both cable and radio, but does include television programming from around the world. The University of Buenos Aires provides academic courses over a radio network.
In general the influence of U.S. music and a D.J. style of announcing has been an important force in radio formats. More recently, the addition of talk radio follows the U.S. pattern. One of the more recent adaption is an imitation of David Letterman, host of a late night television program. Letterman's format includes a live band, a background featuring a city skyline and a popular gimmick, the "Top 10 List." Roberto Pettinato hosts Duro de Acostar which features a talkative bandleader, a city backdrop, and a nightly Top 5 list. According to Ulanovsky the American influence in format development is so strong, that "all successful formulas have been adapted and copied from U.S. television (Ulanovsky, 1997, 102)." Some of the popular U.S. imports are movies, sitcoms, and drama (The Simpsons, ER and The Nanny). The cable channels also broadcast imported programs from around the world, including many news shows.
A review of the literature on intercultural communication, cultivation studies using foreign audiences and the history of U.S. media in Argentina indicates the following research questions:
1. Are there differences between males and females in Argentine business settings and their perceptions of U.S. social reality, perceived realism and media use?
2. Are there differences between heavy (more than four hours per day) and light (less than four hours per day) viewers of television who work in Argentine business and in their perceptions of U.S. social reality, perceived realism, and media use?
3. Is perceived realism of television correlated with perceptions of U.S. social reality?
4. Are there differences between those Argentine business people who use U.S. print media and those who do not in their perceptions of U.S. social reality and perceived realism?
5. Are there differences between those Argentine business people who have personal contact with U.S. citizens and those who do not in their perceptions of U.S. social reality and perceived realism?
6. Is age, ability to understand English or education correlated with perceptions of U.S. social reality?
In the summer and fall of 1997, the researcher contacted numerous businesses in Buenos Aires to gain their co-operation to participate in this study. Permission was given from 12 companies. These were: Rockwell International, Otis Elevator, Jose Litwin and Associates, Lloyds Bank, Telefonica de Argentina, AT&T, American Express, TGS, Suchard-Kraft Foods, Delphi Corporation (Packard Electric), Buco, and Norte. Also, one federal government office participated, the ISEG (Institute for Government Economics) and students in a master's business program at the University of Buenos Aires (this is a program developed for those employed full time). A total of 316 surveys were collected. From June through October of 1997, surveys were distributed and collected by the researchers and her assistants.
An attempt was made to include both American-owned or -related and Argentine-owned businesses. However, gaining cooperation was difficult, despite personal contact with organizations by the researcher. Most of the companies participating in the survey were American-owned or -related. Also, managers were reluctant to have anyone other than management personnel complete the surveys. Secretaries and others who may have contact with U. S. personnel were a small segment of the respondents. Therefore, the results may be limited.
A questionnaire was developed by the researcher based on her previous studies in Argentina and Paraguay (Beadle 1997a;1997b) and on other cultivation studies. The major sections of the questionnaire were: demographic information, exposure and use of U.S. media (television, visual and print), personal contact with U. S. citizens (face to face, phone, trips to U.S., U.S. friends) belief in the accuracy of television reality, and eighteen statements about perceptions of U.S. social reality and qualities of U.S. persons. Eight of the social reality questions were based on a survey developed and used by El-Koussa and Elasmar (1995). These statements asked for estimates of the percentage of U.S. social reality (professions, living conditions, arrest for rapes, and blacks in jail). Answers on were a 5-point scale that ranged from less than 10 % (1) to more than 90 %(5). Accuracy was based on U.S. census data (Statistical Abstract of the U.S., 1995). The additional perceptual questions were developed by this researcher based on a pilot study in Paraguay competed in 1995, and a similar study with a sample of university students also completed in 1995. Ten statements including both positive and negative qualities about U.S. citizens were answered on a 5 point scale from strongly agree (1) to strongly disagree (5). Other statements were also included regarding the Argentine business personnel's perceptions of U.S. business personnel, based on a ranking of descriptive adjectives. These adjectives were developed based on the literature in international business communication and a pilot study conducted by the author in Paraguay in 1995. A list of 14 adjectives both positive and negative were the result. Respondents were asked to rank order four of the adjectives (1=most important to 4=less important). Three categories of responses were obtained: qualities observed in North American business people you have worked with, qualities of North Americans in general, and qualities wanted in a business colleague.
Two statements were used to test reliability of perceptions of media reality which resulted in a Perceived Realism Index (PRI). The two statements were: Television programs present things as they really are; Foreign television programs present an accurate picture of how people live in foreign countries. These statements were developed by El-Koussa and Elasmar (1995) and based on Rubin (1981). A five-point scale was used to determine respondents agreement or disagreement with the statement; 1 (strongly agree) to 5 strongly disagree. A test for reliability resulted in an alpha of .71.
A factor analysis with varimax rotations applied to the 18 perceptual statements revealed four underlying variables (Table 1). Factor 1 consisted of 3 statements concerning perceptions of the number of high ranking professions (doctors, lawyers, business owners) in the United States (alpha=.75). Factor 2 consisted of 4 statementsconcerning positive perceptions of U. S. citizens (alpha= .65). (Americans are generally polite, friendly, trustworthy, happy, lead a comfortable life). Factor 3 consisted of three statements concerning household conditions in the U.S. and included perceptions of the number of two-car families, the number of families earning over $75,000 and the number of houses with air conditioning (alpha=.65). Factor 4 consisted of three statements related to negative perceptions of U.S. lifestyle, particularly the perceptions that the U.S. is a violent society and most U.S. citizens own guns (alpha=.55). This factor was the only one that included the two sets of scales (percentages and agreement).
However, interpretation revealed that the factor did consist of negative perceptions of U.S. living conditions. The statements asked for respondents to indicate agreement or disagreement on this statement: Argentines are more concerned about their family than North Americans. The other two statements asked for perceptions on the number of families who own guns and the perception that the U.S. is a violent society.
Description of the Sample Males comprised 60.8% of the samples; females, 35.4% (3.8% no response). 22.8% were younger than 24; 39.9 % were between 25-35; 23.4% were 36-45; 9.8% were 46-55; and 3.5% were over 56 (0.6% no response). The educational level of the sample was fairly high with 13.3% high school; 34.2%, some university; 36.4% university; 13% post graduate (3% no response). 15.5 % report they do not speak English. However, 48.4% indicate they speak English well or very well. Others indicated they speak English in an average manner (35.8%). In other words some 85% of the sample indicated some understanding of English. 29.1% worked l5 years or less; 22.8% worked 5-10 years; 26.9% worked 11-20 years and 17.7 % worked more than 20 years (3.5% no response). 48.4% of the respondents indicated that they expect to work with U.S. businesses in the next 5 years. 32% were managers or middle managers; 38.3% were staff; 6% were technical; and 8.9% were clerical. Others included civil servants, a photographer and medical workers. 30.4% of the respondents were in the banking or financial field; 14.2 % were in manufacturing; 7.6% were in energy; 5.7% were in technology and 3.8% were in the computer field. The remaining were in diverse fields such as government, educations and medicine.
Personal contact included phone contact, actual face-to-face contact, friends in the U.S. and U.S. travel. 40.2 % indicate friends in the U.S.; 57.3 % indicated they do not have friends in the U.S. (2.5% no response). 38.9 % indicate personal contact with U.S. citizens; 49.1% indicate no personal contact (12% no response). 38% indicate phone contact with U.S. citizens; 48.4% indicate no phone contact (13.6% no response). 42.4% had traveled to the U.S.; 55.1% had not traveled to the U.S. (5.2% no response).
Media usage included overall use of television, U.S. television, U.S. films, U.S. print media and the Internet. 81% indicate they watch U.S.-made films. (16.5 % do not; 2.5% no response). 87.3% indicated weekly or less viewing of U.S. films. 39.4% indicate use of U.S. newspapers or magazines; 59.8% indicate no use (1% no response). Respondents were asked to indicate the amount of print media use on a scale of 1 (daily) to 4 (less than once per month). 40.1% indicate weekly or less reading of U. S. print media.
Overall this sample did not watch a considerable amount of television. 29.7% indicated they watched less than 1 hour per day, 64.2% indicated they watched 1 to 3 hours per day. 6% indicated they watched 4 or more hours per day. Of those who watch TV, 82% indicated they watch U.S. television. However, of those who indicated they watch U.S. television, 48.3% watch weekly; 22.8% watch daily; 3.5% watch monthly; 18.4 % watch less than monthly (9.8%,no response). One purpose of the study was to determine if differences existed between light and heavy television viewers. Unfortunately, only 19 out of the 316 respondents were heavy users. 25% use the Internet; 70.6 % do not (4.4% no response). Overall the group uses a variety of U.S. media, but few in the sample could be considered heavy users of one media. They also indicated preferences for the country of origin of foreign television shows. Programming from the U.S. was listed as most preferred (Table 2). Argentina was written in by respondents, even though this is obviously not a source of foreign programming.
Are there differences between males and females in Argentine business and their perceptions of U.S. social reality, perceived realism and media use?
Differences between males and females were minimal. Using t-tests, significant differences (p<.05) were found between males and females in the Perceived Realism Index (PRI). Males perceived the media to be less realistic than females. However both perceived the media as somewhat unrealistic. Males watched more U.S. television than females (p<.05). No other significant difference were found, including with the four perceptual factors.
Are there differences between heavy (more than four hours per day) and light (less than four hours per day) viewers of television who work in Argentine business and in their perceptions of U.S. social reality, perceived realism, and media use?
This sample consisted of 19 heavy viewers out of 316 respondents. Due to the small number of heavy viewers, statistical analysis of differences between heavy and light viewers were not performed. Correlations were run between reported over all television viewing (light, medium, heavy), perceived realism and the four perceptual factors. Further, a series of t-test between those that chose to watch a particular medium or television program and those that did not were run to determine any differences in perceptions between users and non-users of a specific type of program or media source. Although the sample had a very small number of heavy televison users, the percentage of respondents who watch U.S. television was 259 or 82% of the sample. They also use other U.S. media, including print and U.S. sources on the Internet.
Further, the respondents were asked to give their perceptions on the impact of U.S. television in Argentina. The results indicate that as a group these respondents were not particularly concerned about the impact of U.S. media in Argentina (Table 4). media was not seen as threatening or overwhelming.
There was a significant correlation (p<.05) between Factor 2 and overall TV hours (low--less than one hour/day, medium--one to 3 hours/day, high--more than 4 hours per day). The more one watched televison, the less agreement there was with the positive qualities about U.S. citizens (Table 5). This finding tends to contradict some previously reported studies related to heavy television viewers that an increase in television viewing results in a more positive picture of the U.S. However, in this sample, few were heavy viewers. Also, this was an older and more educated group than those in some of the reported studies and half of whom had previous contact with U.S. citizens in a business setting. Perhaps these circumstances influence the perceptions in a different way than previously reported.
Despite a lack of heavy viewers and a perception that U.S. media has little importance, correlations between the four perceptual factors and the PRI resulted in significant differences (p< .05) with Factor 2 and Factor 3. Those who perceived television to be more realistic and accurate about foreign countries agreed more with the positive factors about the U.S. Those who perceived televison to be more realistic tended to give higher percentages of household conditions and thus were more accurate (Table 5).
There was a significant difference on Factor 4 between those who watched CNN (t-value=-1.43; p<.05) or read Newsweek magazine (t-value=-2.51; p<.05) than for those who did not. Those who watched CNN (N=176) or read Newsweek (N=41) agreed more with the negative statements about U.S. society. Further analysis indicated that the viewers of CNN and readers of Newsweek were essentially the same people; there were only five people who did not use both media. Newsweek readers also perceived television as less realistic than those who did not read Newsweek (Table 6).
Two other significant differences were found with program viewers and non-viewers. Those who watched ESPN (N=165; 52.5%) considered the media less realistic than those who did not watch ESPN (Table 6). One other program showed significant differences between viewers and non-viewers, Kung Fu (N=164;51.9%) . Those who watched it perceived the media as less realistic than those who did not watch it (Table 6). No significant differences were found between users and non-users of the Internet.
Are there differences between those Argentine business people who use U.S. print media and those who do not in their perceptions of U.S. social reality and perceived realism?
Overall time spent reading U.S. newspapers and magazine was negatively correlated with Factor 1 and Factor 2 (p < .01). Those who read more frequently had higher estimates of profession in the U. S. and were less accurate and they agreed less with the positive statements about Americans. (See above for discussion of Newsweek). No other significant differences were found.
Are there differences between those Argentine business people who have personal contact with U.S. citizens and those who do not in their perceptions of U.S. social reality and perceived realism?
To determine the relationship between personal contact and perceptual statements, correlations were run with the number of trips to the U.S. For items in which a yes/no responses was given, t-tests were run to determine if any differences existed between those who had some personal contact and those who do not(phone, face to face, friends in the U.S.).
The number of trips to the U.S. was negatively correlated with Factors 1, 3 and 4 (p< .05). The estimates of those who had traveled more to the U.S. were lower and more accurate in regard to the number of professionals in the U.S., were lower and more accurate in their estimates of household conditions, and tended to disagree with the statements that U.S. citizens live in a violent society (Table 8).
Personal contact indicated significant differences (p.<.01) with Factor 4 (Table 7). Those who had personal contact agreed less with the negative statements concerning violence and family life. Personal contact was also significant with Factor 1 (p<.01). Those who had personal contact were lower in estimates of the number of professionals and thus were more accurate. Those who had personal contact also perceived the media (PRI) as less real than those who had no personal contact (t-value=-.60; p<.05).
Phone contact indicated significant differences with two factors: Factor 1 (p.< .01) and Factor 4 (p.<.01). Those who had phone contact estimated a lower percentage of professionals, which was more accurate and agreed less with the negative statements about U.S. citizens. Those who had friends in the U.S. were significantly different (p<.01) on the perception of negatives qualities. Those who had friends in the U.S. perceived Americans less negatively than those who did not (Table 7).
Is age, ability to understand English or education correlated with perceptions of U.S. social reality?
Three demographic factors were correlated with the four perceptual factors: age, level of education and perceived ability to speak English (Table 8). Factor 1 was correlated with education, age and English (p< .01). Older people had lower estimates of U.S. professional and were more accurate; those who were more educated had lower estimates of U.S. professions and were more accurate; those who perceived themselves to speak better English were lower in estimates and more accurate. Factor 2 was negatively correlated with level of education (p<.05). Those who were more educated agreed more with the positive statements about Americans. Factor 3 also was negatively correlated with level of education (p<.05); the more education the lower their perceptions of household items such as air conditioning and more than two autos and were generally more accurate.
The purpose of this study was to explore whether U.S. television specifically and U.S. media generally influences the perception of U.S. social reality on Argentine business men and women. This is an important study since older audiences have not been the subject of research as frequently as university and high school students. Also, if U.S. media is influencing perceptions and thus communications between the U.S. and Argentina, U.S. businesses could provide improved training and better methods for intercultural business communication based on this knowledge. Better performance may result. Research reports from cultivation studies and intercultural business communication were reviewed and resulted in the development of this survey used for this study.
Based on the findings of the survey, this study showed that male viewers were significantly different than females viewers in only two areas. However this differences did not result in any significant differences in the perceptions of U.S. social reality. This may be due to a number of other factors: age, educations, experience, lack of television, or personal contact. Differences that were found, indicate that all these factors influence perception in some way and further research is necessary.
Personal contact seems to be an important influence on perceptions of Argentines. This lends support to the idea than Latin Americans prefer face to face contact. This is also supported by the generally positive perceptions those who had previous contact with U.S. business people had. Another indication of the importance of personal contact is the tendency to perceive the media as less realistic for those who had personal contact.
Some demographic characteristics were correlated with perceptions. This may indicate experience, education and sophistication also influence perceptions and is worth further exploration. Since older audiences may not be heavy users of television, this calls into question the use of cultivation as a theoretical framework for the study of media impact in foreign countries with older audiences.
Another important contribution to the development of perceptions is attitudes. A t-test indicated that those who chose a negative word to describe a U.S. business person they had worked with, also agreed more with the negative perceptions of Factor 4 (p<.01; t-value=2.04). Perhaps those who have negative attitudes toward the U.S. will focus on the qualities that support this belief. Unfortunately, this doesn't answer the questions of media influence on those attitudes, particularly in Argentina where the influence of U.S. media has been felt for a long time. Further studies are needed to explore this.
A question first posed by Schment and Rogers in 1984 concerned the effects of different types of programming such as entertainment or news. It is interesting to note that the television shows that did show some differences between viewers and non-viewers were in each of these categories. Viewers of CNN held more negative perceptions of U.S. social reality than those who did not. Those who watched some of the entertainment programming perceived the media to be less real than those who did not watch them. Perhaps this says more about the viewer and their predisposition to choose a U.S. television program for their own reasons rather than U.S. television influencing the viewer. One caution in reading too much into these differences is the lack of heavy television viewers in the sample. However, despite this problem, differences still resulted.
Two major results of cultivation research are differences in perceptions about social reality between heavy and light users of television and male and female viewers. This study offers little support for these two aspects of cultivation theory in international settings. It does seem to support the idea that the influence of foreign media on domestic audiences is quite weak (Elasmer and Hunter, 1993). However, results also indicate some effect on perceptions resulting from a variety of media exposure, personal contact and demographic factors. Generally, exposure to U.S. media results in development of a more accurate picture of U.S. living conditions but seems also to result in a less positive perception of a U.S. citizen's personal qualities. The influence of CNN on the development of more negative perceptions about U.S. citizens is interesting. Argentines have a more accurate picture of living conditions, but seem to develop some less positive perceptions about American citizens. Also, it appears that those who watch ESPN and Kung Fu that they are quite aware of the fantasy world of television entertainment.
The results of this study indicate that personal contact is important in dispelling inaccurate perceptions about personal qualities of foreigners and may be more influential for adults than exposure to U.S. media. Further research that includes the cumulative effect of using a variety of U.S. media over time combined with other factors such as education, family, income, religion, other interpersonal contacts is needed. The challenge for this research agenda is to develop a framework that includes all of these variables. One idea that may be helpful is cultural capital. Media choices are influenced by various factors such as education, family, travel, religion and membership in associations. However, media, such as television, is also an aspect of cultural capital. As Straubhaar (1999) reminds us, the relationship of media to individual perceptions is not a simple one of effects. Media are sources of ideas about society, but so are other sources, such as travel. It is a complex interaction and one the warrants additional study.