Cultural Frame Switching: Marketing Implications

Cultural Frame Switching: Marketing Implications

Jaime Noriega (University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8262-7.ch012


This chapter discusses a phenomenon referred to as cultural frame switching; a psychological process experienced by bicultural individuals whereby exposure to a culturally significant cue or stimulus causes the individual to instinctively process the information through one of two cultural mind frames – one more closely aligned to the individual's cultural identity as a member of the dominant culture, the other more closely aligned to the individual's identity as a member of an ethnic or immigrant and usually subordinate culture. As a result of this differential activation, the individual then processes the information and responds within the cultural mind frame activated by the cue. This chapter will look at: the antecedents of this phenomenon; the many cues which can activate either cultural identity; existing research on the subject matter; and the many ways corporate America and Madison Avenue may be overlooking this research thereby missing a valuable opportunity.
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What is Cultural Frame Switching?

Cultural frame switching can be described as a specific type of priming, which changes a person’s ability to identify, produce or classify an item as a result of a previous encounter with that, or a related item (Schacter, Dobbins, & Schnyer, 2004). By activating certain associations in memory, an individual is more likely to think about those associated concepts, ideas, or beliefs and/or to behave in a way that is consistent with those ideas and beliefs, when asked to process information.

In the case of a bicultural individual – an individual who has fully embraced two distinct cultures (usually the native/immigrant culture and the host country culture) – the associations which can be differentially activated correspond to each of the two cultures the individual embraces.

For example, an individual who was born and raised in a collectivist society and later emigrates to a country where individualism is more likely to be valued, may eventually develop two distinct cultural identities one which aligns itself with collectivist ideals and beliefs and the other which aligns itself with individualistic ideals and beliefs. Cultural frame switching is said to have occurred when this individual suddenly responds within a collectivist mindset when exposed to any cue the individual associates with collectivism, or within an individualist mindset when exposed to any cue the individual associates with ‘individualism.’

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