First Advisor

LaRay M. Barna

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Speech Communication


Speech Communication




Group decision making, Japanese national characteristics, American national characteristics



Physical Description

1 online resource (134 p.)


The purpose of this to (1) describe and analyze the different methods used by Japanese and by U.S. persons to reach agreement in small group deliberations, (2) discover the depth of commitment and personal involvement with these methods by tracing their historical beginnings and (3) draw implications from (1) and (2) as to probability of success of current problem solving deliberations involving members of both groups.

In the Yayoi period of Japanese history (250 B.C. - 300 A.D.), a special set of circumstances in both the ecological and cultural sphere encouraged the consensus type of decision-making and commensurate cultural norms to develop among the inhabitants of the Japanese archipelago.

Following the Yayoi by some 300 years was the Nara period of Prince Shotoku who attempted to reform and modernize Japan by bringing in many cultural attainments such as the Chinese writing system, some of the grammatical features of Korean Language, and religious philosophies of India.

Western influence after World War II did not greatly modify the deeply embedded patterns of thought, ethos, behavior, communication and decision-making basis.

Two selected elements of the Japanese culture are analyzed: (1) a system of hierarchy which encompasses the sense of discipline, benevolence, self-depreciation, nonverbal behavior (use of the bow) and verbal behavior and (2) need for harmony which includes vagueness of language, advatism or use of intuition (awareness of other's needs and feeling via nonverbal cues) and the humane sensibility.

These two elements still permeate today's' Japanese society and affect communication styles. There is a description of both the traditional consensus method of reaching agreement which emphasizes non-verbal aspects and the modern day method which encourages the verbal communication. In either case, the guiding spirit of decision-making is harmony and the goal is almost entirely directed toward cooperation. The cultural elements deeply entrenched in Japanese history provide this system of decision making.

The American dialectic method of reaching agreement, on the contrary, places a high value on personal contributions, convictions, arguments and achievements. Conflict is a direct result of the American method and is considered to be desirable as well as necessary in order to reach a good conclusion. By the same token, disagreement occurs more frequently. This means that in an intercultural setting a great deal of miscommunication may be occurring. Under what conditions will critical incidents be likely to occur when the two negotiating groups encounter is hypothesized. The American method is contrasted with Japanese method and it was found that they are strikingly different and achieve different specific goals.


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© Shoji Mitarai 1976

Persistent Identifier