Chinese Intercultural Sensitzer

Published 2010. Contact: Seini O'Connor


Intercultural Sensitizers (ICS) are a form of intercultural training tool. They aim to help individuals from one cultural group (the 'learner' audience) to make attributions that are congruent with attributions made by individuals from another cultural group (the 'target' culture).

An ICS comprises a series of critical incidents (in which a potential misunderstanding between cultures occurs), each with a selection of possible explanations for what occurred. Learners attempt to identify the explanation or attribution most preferred by the target culture, and are given feedback on their choice.

Although ICSs have been shown to be effective intercultural training tools (e.g., Fowler & Blohm, 2004), to date few culture-specific ICS have been developed—largely because their development is resource-intensive. Furthermore, most existing ICSs have been designed for North Americans as learners.

The aim of this project was to develop a Chinese Intercultural Sensitizer, thereby extending the international suite of ICSs and producing a useful tool for intercultural training in a New Zealand context. The Chinese ICS focuses on improving New Zealanders’ (the learner audience) understanding of the behaviours, affect, and cognitions of Chinese international university students (the target culture).


Members of the CACR and cross-cultural psychology students at Victoria University of Wellington have been working on developing the Chinese ICS over the last 4 years.

Each critical incident was based on background research (literature reviews, analysis of ethnographic studies, focus groups, and interviews), and incidents were subsequently validated and refined.

We then completed a process of re-validation to produce a final set of critical incidents for use in future intercultural training.


Preliminary results of this project were presented in July at the XXth IACCP Congress 2010. A brief summary of the project findings is also now available.