Purpose – The existence of variable response styles represents a major threat to the correct interpretation of market research findings. In international marketing, this threat is further increased due to samples of respondents from different cultural backgrounds. The purpose of this paper is to extend the investigation of differences in cross-cultural response styles by studying full response patterns instead of extreme values, quantify the extent of the potential mistake of not accounting for cross-cultural differences in response behaviour and present a simple way of testing whether or not data sets from various cultural backgrounds can be used without correcting for cross-cultural response styles.
Design/methodology/approach – Two independent data sets are used. Extreme response style (ERS) scores are compared by testing for equality of proportions. Respondents’ answer patterns are partitioned using the k-means algorithm, the resulting differences between cultures tested using a Fisher’s exact test for count data. The extent of inter-cultural difference in responses is assessed using ANOVA.
Findings – Asian and Australian respondents differ significantly in ERS and full response patterns. Differences in cross-cultural response patterns account for up to 6 per cent of the variance in the data, thus representing a significant potential source for misinterpretation in cross-cultural studies.
Practical implications – International market researchers using samples including respondents from more than one cultural background have to be aware of the potential source of misinterpretation caused by cross-cultural differences in response patterns. A simple ANOVA-based procedure allows researchers to determine whether data can be used in its uncorrected form.
Originality/value – The paper investigates cross-cultural response styles for new groups of respondents (Australian vs Asian), extends the study from the investigation of extreme values to full response patterns and gives market researchers in the international marketing context an indication of how high the level of potential misinterpretation can be and presents a simple means of checking how necessary it is to account for cross-cultural differences in response behaviour.