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 High and Low Context

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Posts : 18
Join date : 2009-06-30
Age : 31

PostSubject: High and Low Context   17th July 2009, 01:01

The general terms "high context" and "low context" (popularized by
Edward Hall) are used to describe broad-brush cultural differences
between societies.
High context refers to societies or groups where people have close
connections over a long period of time. Many aspects of cultural
behavior are not made explicit because most members know what to do and
what to think from years of interaction with each other. Your family is
probably an example of a high context environment.

Low context refers to societies where people tend to have many
connections but of shorter duration or for some specific reason. In
these societies, cultural behavior and beliefs may need to be spelled
out explicitly so that those coming into the cultural environment know
how to behave.

High Context

  • Less verbally explicit communication, less written/formal information
  • More internalized understandings of what is communicated
  • Multiple cross-cutting ties and intersections with others
  • Long term relationships
  • Strong boundaries- who is accepted as belonging vs who is considered an "outsider"
  • Knowledge is situational, relational.
  • Decisions and activities focus around personal face-to-face relationships, often around a central person who has authority.


Small religious
congregations, a party with friends, family gatherings, expensive
gourmet restaurants and neighborhood restaurants with a regular
clientele, undergraduate on-campus friendships, regular pick-up games,
hosting a friend in your home overnight.

Low Context

  • Rule oriented, people play by external rules
  • More knowledge is codified, public, external, and accessible.
  • Sequencing, separation--of time, of space, of activities, of relationships
  • More interpersonal connections of shorter duration
  • Knowledge is more often transferable
  • Task-centered. Decisions and activities focus around what needs to be done, division of responsibilities.


large US airports, a chain supermarket, a cafeteria, a convenience store, sports where rules are clearly laid out, a motel.
While these terms are sometimes useful in describing some
aspects of a culture, one can never say a culture is "high" or "low"
because societies all contain both modes. "High" and "low" are
therefore less relevant as a description of a whole people, and more
useful to describe and understand particular situations and
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