Chinese Intercultural Sensitizer

Published 2011. Contact: Taciano Milfont


This study aimed to develop material for an Intercultural Sensitizer - a type of intercultural training tool that helps individuals from one cultural group (the “learner” culture) to learn to make explanations for people’s behaviours that are similar to the explanations made by individuals from another cultural group (the “target” culture).

Intercultural Sensitizers are similar to a multi-choice test with instant feedback. They are made up of a series of critical incidents in which a potential misunderstanding between cultures occurs, or in which an individual acts in a way that seems a little unusual for the learner culture.


Creating an Intercultural Sensitizer is a resource-intensive process, and involves a number of steps. The Centre for Applied Cross-cultural Research worked on this study for a number of years, conducting background research on cultural differences (from literature reviews, analyses of ethnographic studies, focus groups, and interviews), writing incidents, validating the incidents by conducting surveys with New Zealanders and Chinese, and analysing their responses, and refining the incidents in light of the results.


We found that New Zealand and Chinese participants actually selected more or less the same answers for the majority of the incidents. Only 15 incidents showed statistically significant differences in response patterns, which were largely but not fully attributable to the country of birth. These differences were very interesting to find, and fit with theories of cultural differences between Chinese and New Zealanders.

Future plans include using these incidents in an Intercultural Sensitizer that could be used for intercultural training for New Zealand students and university teaching staff, to help them to better understand the different perspectives and behaviours of the Chinese international students who share their classrooms. Ultimately, better understanding could help to improve classroom harmony and enhance the university learning experience for all students.

View the presentation "Development and testing of critical incidents for a Chinese Intercultural Sensitizer" here.