Research: Using RM Compare to understand cross-cultural differences in value perception

We are pleased to support researchers around the world completing important work. The piece of work referenced here provided some intriguing insights into how different cultures perceive value. The work helps us to understand the social influence of value construction, and the implications of this process on different groups and sub-groups.

But do we think its valuable?

In today's interconnected global society, the ability to understand and appreciate diverse cultural values is more crucial than ever, especially in fields that inherently involve creativity and innovation, such as design. A 2019 (Bartholomew et al) study used RM Compare to shed light on this by exploring how Adaptive Comparative Judgment (ACJ) can be used to assess design projects across different cultural contexts, revealing significant insights into the diverse values that guide design preferences and decisions in the UK, Sweden, and the USA.

Cultural Differences in Design Values

The study's findings underscore the importance of recognizing and respecting the unique values inherent to different cultures. By employing ACJ to evaluate student design projects, the research identified distinct preferences and values among judges from the UK, Sweden, and the USA, reflecting broader cultural paradigms that influence assessment in each country.

Main findings

UK Judges' Preferences UK judges placed a strong emphasis on the development and progress demonstrated within a portfolio, valuing a rich journey and evolution in the design process. When assessing prototypes, they looked for novelty and completeness, favoring unique ideas and well-developed concepts.
Swedish Judges' Preferences Swedish judges prioritized communication, focusing on how well a portfolio conveyed the design process, results, and conclusions. For prototypes, they valued size, usability, and design, often commenting on the practicality of a prototype fitting into a pocket or purse and its simplicity, functionality, and exciting design.
USA Judges' Preferences Judges from the USA, meanwhile, focused on "hoop jumping" – how well students identified and followed criteria and constraints, and the completeness of their portfolio. For prototypes, usability, ease of understanding and use, compact size, and whether the design met the specified criteria were emphasized.

Important questions

The results encouraged the researchers to raise some important questions.

  • Does “good design” exist?
  • If it does exist, what exactly does “good design look like?
  • Is “good design” always contextually and regionally-bounded?
  • Are there principles that transcend regional/cultural boundaries?
  • What can we learn from the similarities/differences in perceptions of stakeholders across countries?

In this case the focus was design, but it is not un-reasonable to extend the same questions across many parts of the curriculum.

Thinking about the implications of diverse values in a connected world.

The study's findings highlight the varied cultural and educational paradigms that shape assessment across different countries. Understanding these differences is not just an academic exercise; it has practical implications for preparing students for future employment and engagement in a globally-connected society.

By recognising and integrating diverse values into educational practices, we can better equip students to collaborate and innovate in a world that values cultural diversity. The differences in values and assessment preferences among the UK, Sweden, and the USA reflect the broader challenge of navigating a globally connected world.

As we move forward, the ability to understand and appreciate these differences will be key to fostering international collaboration and innovation.

The Bartholomew et al (2019) study offers valuable insights into how RM Compare can be a powerful tool in this endeavor, providing a reliable method for assessing artefacts while also uncovering the cultural dimensions of different curriculum areas.

What next?

We are working with a number of organisations who are using RM Compare at scale to consider cultural difference within and between countries.

Get in touch if you would like to know more or are interested in running your own research project.


Identifying design values across countries through adaptive comparative judgment

Scott Ronald Bartholomew, Emily Yoshikawa Ruesch, Eva Hartell, Greg J. Strimel (2019)