Context and comprehension: a cross cultural comparison of Germans and Americans reading authentic texts
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This dissertation investigated possible influences of cultural background (defined here as the participants’ country of origin), on the reading recall and inferencing of two groups sharing similar educational training and professional goals, but born and raised in two different countries. Participants were German students enrolled at the European School of Business (ESB) Reutlingen, in Germany, (N = 42), and American students at the McCombs School of Business at UT-Austin in Austin, Texas (N = 44). Each participant read two authentic texts in his/her native language, one published in Germany and one in America. Participants wrote a recall protocol for each of the two texts and completed a demographic and attitude questionnaire Variables in participants' educational background and professional goals were considered, and follow-up questions about their reactions to the texts asked. Written recalls were scored and quantity of recall and distortions of textual facts were compared across groups. Results from statistical analyses revealed significant differences in quantity and style of recall between Germans and Americans. Across all texts, German participants recalled significantly more than Americans. Country of origin and age demonstrated main effects upon recall, and women slightly outperformed men overall. Selective qualitative analysis revealed that German participants showed more consistency in narrative style and rhetorical approach to writing recalls than did the American group. The findings of this study seem to confirm that cultural background – specifically country of origin – has pervasive influence on reading recall, as previous studies have shown with subjects from other cultures. Furthermore, for this group of subjects and texts, country of text publication was not a significant factor in recall scores, but did seem to influence subjects' personal preferences for texts. A key factor in recall differences may well be attributed to differences in education and professional expectations in the two countries, specifically, how Germans and Americans are trained to summarize and analyze texts throughout their education (Bildung) as well as differences in focus and implementation of advanced business degree work in Germany and the United States.