Beyond Culture Learning Theory: What Can Personality Tell Us About Cultural Competence?

Contact: Jessie Wilson, Colleen Ward & Ronald Fischer


This research combines the results of 66 independent studies to look at both the situational and personal factors associated with people’s ability to function in a new cultural context and interact with people from different cultural backgrounds. These skills measure people’s cultural competence and indicate how well they adapt in a new cultural environment. Research on cultural competence is important for migrants, international businesses, and anyone working with culturally diverse clients.


The results show that both personal and situational factors play important roles in adaptation.

Personal Factors:

  • People who have cross-cultural self-efficacy and cultural empathy adapt to a new culture more easily than those who don’t. The results show that these are the most important personal factors related to adaptation outcomes.
  • Personality factors, like agreeableness, extraversion, and conscientiousness also help to facilitate adaptation.
  • People who tend to be neurotic have more adaptation difficulties.

Situational Factors:

  • Of all the factors examined, perceived discrimination plays the largest role in a person’s ability to adapt. People who percieve more discrimination have more difficulties adapting.
  • Language proficiency plays an important role in adaptation. Both adaptation and language proficiency are improved when a person has a higher number of contacts with members of the host society.
  • When a person’s culture is not similar to the host culture, the person must learn more skills to function successfully.

The results show that the questions used to measure the concepts determine the strength of the relationships between concepts. So, some questionnaires appear to be better than others.

You can access the article, "Beyond Culture Learning Theory: What Can Personality Tell Us About Cultural Competence?" here.