Metacognition of Problem-Solving Strategies

in Brazil, India, and the United States
C. Dominik Güss
Brian Wiley
Department of Psychology, University of North Florida
dguess@unf.edu
Abstract
Metacognition, the observation of one’s own thinking, is a key cognitive ability that allows humans
to infuence and restructure their own thought processes. Te infuence of culture on metacognitive
strategies is a relatively new topic. Using Antonietti’s, Ignazi’s and Perego’s questionnaire on
metacognitive knowledge about problem-solving strategies (2000), fve strategies in three life
domains were assessed among student samples in Brazil, India, and the United States (N=317),
regarding the frequency, facility, and efcacy of these strategies. To investigate cross-cultural
similarities and diferences in strategy use, nationality and uncertainty avoidance values were
independent variables. Uncertainty avoidance was expected to lead to high frequency of decision
strategies. However, results showed no efect of uncertainty avoidance on frequency, but an efect
on facility of metacognitive strategies. Comparing the three cultural samples, all rated analogy as
the most frequent strategy. Only in the U.S. sample, analogy was also rated as the most efective and
easy to apply strategy. Every cultural group showed a diferent preference regarding what
metacognitive strategy was most efective. Indian participants found the free production strategy to
be more efective, and Indian and Brazilian participants found the combination strategy to be more
efective compared to the U.S. participants. As key abilities for the fve strategies, Indians rated
speed, Brazilians rated synthesis, and U.S. participants rated critical thinking as more important
than the other participants. Tese results refect the embedded nature and functionality of problem-
solving strategies in specifc cultural environments. Te fndings will be discussed referring to an
eco-cultural framework.
Keywords
Metacognition, Problem Solving, Culture, Decision Making
Metacognition, thinking about one’s own thinking, is a key cognitive ability.
It allows humans to control and restructure their own thoughts and it plays
a crucial role in learning and problem solving (Akama & Yamauchi, 2004;
Dörner, Kreuzig, Reither, & Stäudel, 1983). Te efects of metacognition on
Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25 www.brill.nl/jocc
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2007 DOI: 10.1163/156853707X171793
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2 C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25
problem solving have been widely studied in the school context with children
(e.g. Flavell, 1976). Many training programs have been developed and evaluation
of these programs shows positive efects of metacognitive activities on learning
(e.g., Lin, 2001) regardless of interindividual diferences of participants (e.g.
regarding achievement see Mevarech & Kramarski, 2003) or certain disabilities
(e.g. regarding learning and attention disorders see Lauth, 1996).
Metacognition is especially important during the stages of problem solving:
realization that there is a problem, defnition of goals, mental representation of
the problem, decision on overall strategy, information collection, prediction of
further developments, planning and evaluation of possible solutions, decision
making, monitoring problem solving, action, and evaluation of outcome
(Dörner, 1996; Duncker, 1945; Sternberg, 2003, p. 361). Metacognition is a
part of these problem-solving stages, especially during monitoring and evalua-
tion of solutions and outcomes. Stage theories ofen suggest a linear process of
problem solving: we proceed through stages in a sequential order, one stage at a
time. However, in every problem situation all of these stages are not equally
important and these stages are not followed sequentially in every problem situa-
tion. Rather, they are interconnected, and ofentimes problem solving requires
returning to a previous stage and resuming the process from that point or going
through those stages in a non-sequential, recursive order.
As the following brief summary shows, most theories on problem solving
focus on the stage of planning and evaluation of possible solutions. We follow
here Antonietti’s, Ignazi’s, and Perego’s (2000) discussion of fve diferent prob-
lem-solving approaches. A frst approach argues that problem solving consists
mainly of generation of many ideas (e.g. Johnson-Laird, 1993). A second
approach assumes that problem solving consists mainly of new combinations
of existing knowledge (e.g. Simonton, 1984). A third approach highlights
the power of analogies in problem solving (e.g. Vosniadou & Ortony, 1989).
A fourth approach sees problem solving as transforming an initial undesired
state into a desired goal state through a series of operators as described, for exam-
ple, in the means-end analysis (Newell & Simon, 1972). Finally, problem solving
can be viewed primarily as restructuring the representation of the problem situ-
ation (Wertheimer, 1959). Te frst four approaches focus on how to arrive at a
possible and promising solution. Te last approach, the Gestalt approach, high-
lights the problem representation aspect in problem solving. In all of
these approaches, metacognition plays an important role: for generating new
ideas, producing new combinations of knowledge, thinking of analogies, coming
up with a specifc combination of operators, and restructuring the problem rep-
resentation. Antonietti et al. (2000) developed a questionnaire assessing meta-
cognition of these fve problem-solving strategies in three diferent problem
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C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25 3
situations: interpersonal, practical, and study problems. Te authors could
show that each strategy’s frequency, efcacy and facility of implementation are
highly related.
Metacognition can enhance problem-solving performance not only in well-defned
problems like the tower of Hanoi (e.g. Beradi-Coletta, Buyer, Dominowski, &
Rellinger, 1995) or puzzle problems (Akama & Yamauchi, 2004), but also in
complex and dynamic, ill-defned problems (e.g. Tisdale, 1998). Metacognition
becomes especially important in ill-defned problems as the problem solver can-
not rely as much on domain-specifc knowledge (Land, 2004). Tus, the focus
on the problem-solving process becomes more relevant. To refect on this pro-
cess leads to a deeper understanding of the problem and to a more fexible and
successful approach to solve the problem. For example, in the information col-
lection stage, Schmidt and Ford (2003) demonstrated that metacognitive activi-
ties go hand in hand with more successful acquisition of relevant knowledge.
Tey showed this using the real world problem of creating web pages. Chi, Bas-
sok, Lewis, Reimann & Glaser (1989) showed that successful problem solvers
more ofen refect on their own problem solving. Experts compared to novices,
for example, are more skilled in allocating their time during problem solving and
realizing when they make errors (Carlson, 1997; Glaser & Chi, 1988). Engaging
in metacognitive activities, problem solvers become aware of their strengths, but
also of their limitations (Bransford, Brown, & Cooking, 1999) and suppressing
metacognitive processes during problem solving can lead to a decrease in perfor-
mance (Bartl & Dörner, 1998).
Culture, Problem Solving, and Metacognition
Although metacognition has been studied widely in western cultures, it has
not yet been thoroughly studied cross-culturally (see Davidson, 1994). Several
cross-cultural studies on problem solving, coping with conficts, planning, and
decision-making in diferent cultures (Mann, Radford, Burnett, Ford, Bond,
Leung, Nakamura, Vaughan, & Yang, 1998; see Weber, & Hsee, 2000 for
an overview on decision making and culture) highlight diferent strategic
approaches and thus would indicate diferences in metacognitive problem-
solving strategies as well. For example, planning behavior in Brazil, India,
and the U.S. was compared in several studies using problem scenarios with
open-ended questions (Güss, 2000; Strohschneider & Güss, 1998). Brazilian
participants accepted the problem situations as they were. Tey developed short
plans following only one direction. Most of their outcome expectations were
hopeful, a result that goes hand in hand with the description of Brazilian opti-
mism in other studies (Stubbe, 1987; Scheper-Hughes, 1990). Brazilian planning
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4 C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25
and problem solving have also been described as creative (Fleith, 2002) ofen
using improvisation (see Brazilian term “jeito” in Stubbe, 1987).
Indian participants proved similar to the Brazilians in that they accepted the
problem situation and were optimistic with regards to the plans’ outcomes.
However, Indian plans were longer. Teir optimism and detailed plans were
quite contrary to the western stereotype that describes Indians as “fatalistic.” In
a study on Indian problem solving, Indian students showed a fexible approach,
adjusting to the changes in the situation (Güss, 2002). Tis result goes hand in
hand with the description of India as a high context culture (Hall, 1976): behav-
iors are highly selected according to the specifc context characteristics. Many
Western individualistic cultures are low context cultures, where behaviors are
less infuenced by the context.
American students developed short plans, but their plans consisted of diferent
alternatives and many questions (Glencross & Güss, 2004). Americans were
more skeptical about their future expectations. In other studies, Americans
showed a preference for assertive tactics in dealing with problems (Ohbuchi,
Fukushima, & Tedeschi, 1999). Te described cross-cultural diference in plan-
ning and problem solving suggest that Brazilians, Indians, and Americans also
use diferent metacognitive strategies during these processes.
It is about time we defned culture before further discussion on cross-cultural
research on planning and problem-solving. Culture is a term that is difcult to
grasp and has been defned in many diferent ways (see Kroeber & Kluckhohn,
1963). Under a relativistic perspective expressed by cultural psychologists, cul-
ture is ofen seen as a whole that cannot be divided into separate parts. Most
cross-cultural psychologists, on the other hand, see culture as a set of separate
variables (Berry, Poortinga, Segall, & Dasen, 2002). In order to understand cul-
tural diferences, such variables should then be studied in quasi-experimental
designs. Such studies would not only describe diferences between cultures, but
also answer the question why certain cultures difer. For our further discussion,
culture can be defned as implicit and explicit shared knowledge that is transmit-
ted from generation to generation (Smith & Bond, 1998).
Cultural diferences in problem solving might be due to diferences in this
implicit and explicit knowledge; specifcally in goals, means to achieve these
goals, and the transfer of goals and means to other situations (Saxe, 1994). Cul-
tural diferences in the stability and predictability of the environment, and in
basic values such as individualism and collectivism might infuence the selection
of goals and means, and the degree of metacognitive engagement (Strohsch-
neider & Güss, 1998). Whereas one cultural environment may allow for detailed
information collection and refection, another cultural environment may
demand quick action. Whereas one culture requires strategic planning for nego-
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C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25 5
tiation with in-group members before making decisions, another culture would
require individual decision making without much consideration of the opinion
of the in-group.
Te use of diferent metacognitive strategies in diferent cultures can be a
result of diferent socialization processes. School institutions, parents, teachers,
and peers may play diferent roles in this socialization process in diferent
cultures (Carr & Borkowski, 1989). Te authors also stress how diferent moti-
vational orientations in diferent cultures can infuence when and how someone
engages in metacognitive activities. Tree empirical studies highlight cross-
cultural diferences in metacognition in the educational context. A frst study
comparing German and American parents showed that Germans reported more
frequent instruction of metacognitive strategies at home, and German children
showed use of these strategies more than American children did (Carr, Kurtz,
Schneider, Turner, & Borkowski, 1989). Second, Davidson and Freebody (1988)
found diferences on metacognitive knowledge about school learning of Austra-
lian children from varied ethnicities. Participants’ metacognitive knowledge
increased with the occupational status of participants’ fathers. Tird, McCaferty
(1992) compared the metacognitive activity of students learning English as a
second language between two small samples of Hispanic and Oriental college
students. Hispanics showed more metacognition during communication in the
second language.
Although these three studies show cross-cultural diferences in metacogni-
tion, they are not related to problem-solving processes. Te current study then is
an attempt to investigate cross-cultural diferences in metacognition, specifcally
in metacognition of problem-solving strategies.
Situatedness or Generality of Metacognition
Te fact that research shows cross-cultural diferences in problem solving and
metacognition is important. Cross-cultural research previously described along
with other studies (e.g. Veenman, Wilhelm, & Beishuizen, 2004) suggest that
metacognitive processes are more general cognitive preferences. On the other
hand, one might argue that metacognitive strategies are infuenced by the specifc
demands of the situation (see “situatedness” described by Rohlfng, Rehm, &
Goecke, 2003). Whereas some people, for example, might engage in metacogni-
tion when confronted with a problem at work, they might not engage in meta-
cognition and problem solving when they are confronted with a private problem.
Dunlosky (1998) argued that further research should address this important
question of whether metacognitive processes are indeed diferent in diferent
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6 C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25
problem domains or more general cognitive styles as there is not yet enough
empirical evidence to support either side.
Uncertainty Avoidance and Problem-Solving Strategies
One cultural variable that might possibly explain diferences in metacognitive
problem solving strategies is values. Basic value dimensions are one of the most
widely studied aspects of diferent cultures (e.g. Rokeach, 1973; Schwartz, 1994;
Smith, Peterson, Schwartz, 2002). A value can be defned as “a conception,
explicit or implicit, distinctive of an individual or characteristic for a group, of
the desirable which infuences the selection from available modes, means and
ends of actions” (Kluckhohn & Murray, 1953, p. 59). Under a cognitive perspec-
tive, values can be seen as abstract goals acquired during the socialization and
enculturation processes. Tese goals are guiding principles for the selection of
subgoals and for the selection of means to achieving those subgoals (Rokeach,
1973). Terefore, values can guide the problem-solving process. One of the basic
value dimensions studied cross-culturally is uncertainty avoidance. Uncertainty
avoidance is “the extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by
uncertain or unknown situations” (Hofstede, 2001, p. 161). Hofstede (2001)
distinguishes three components of uncertainty avoidance: rule orientation,
employment stability, and stress. High uncertainty avoidance is expressed in
strong rule orientation (Rule orientation stands for agreement and acceptance of
existing norms and rules), preference for employment stability, and high scores
for stress. High uncertainty avoidance might go hand in hand with high engage-
ment in metacognitive and problem-solving activities. To cope with the threat
of uncertainty, people might vary in the degree they engage in metacognitive
activities.
Research Questions
Tis study investigates the following questions. Do people from diferent cultures
difer in their metacognitive problem solving strategies? More specifc questions
relate to our cultural samples: Do American participants show little variance
in metacognitive styles across situations, as the U.S. has ofen been characterized
as an individualistic (Hofstede, 2001), low-context culture (Hall, 1976)? Do
Indian participants show high variance in metacognitive problem solving
styles across situations, as India can be characterized as a high-context culture?
Do Brazilian participants show lower frequencies of metacognitive strategies
(Güss, 2000) as Brazilian thinking has been described as optimistic and more
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C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25 7
focused on the present (Güss, Glencross, Tuason, Summerlin, & Richard, 2004;
Strohschneider & Güss, 1998)? Do cultures understand metacognitive problem-
solving strategies in a similar way and are the required abilities for a strategy the
same across cultures? Do cultural values, specifcally uncertainty avoidance,
infuence selection of problem-solving strategies? Does high uncertainty avoid-
ance lead to more frequent use of problem-solving strategies? Are frequency,
efcacy, and facility of reported strategy use highly related as shown by Anto-
nietti et al. (2000)? Are reported problem solving-strategies situation-specifc or
similar across situations?
Method
Participants
Participants were sampled from three countries: the U.S.A., Brazil, and India. As
this study is a part of a larger project, the selection of these countries was
infuenced by diferences on the individualism-collectivism dimension. If we can
couch it in oversimplifed terms, it can be said that the U.S. represents an indi-
vidualistic society, Brazil represents a collective society (Hofstede, 2001), and
India represents the middle of the individualistic-collectivistic continuum (Sinha
& Tripathi, 1994). Hofstede’s (2001) data from the late 1960s and early 1970s
assessing uncertainty avoidance in 50 countries and three regions with three
questions show average uncertainty avoidance for Brazil (76), and low uncer-
tainty avoidance for the U.S. (46) and for India (40). In the rank order of uncer-
tainty avoidance among 53 countries, Brazil has rank 21/22, India rank 45, and
the U.S. rank 43.
We intended to gather comparable samples across cultures regarding age,
study subject, and gender. Participants were 133 U.S., 97 Brazilian, and 97 Indian
students. Te U.S. sample had a gender breakdown of 66% female and 34% male,
with an average age of 22.5. Te Brazilian sample had a gender breakdown of
72% female and 28% male with an average age of 23.8. Te Indian sample had a
gender breakdown of 52% female and 48% male with an average age of 22. Over
all three samples, 68% were studying psychology, 12% were studying business,
12% were studying social sciences, and 8% were studying natural sciences.
Measures
Uncertainty avoidance was measured with six items derived from Hofstede
(2001, p. 150). Tey were slightly modifed since participants in this study
were students and not managers. Te items referred either to the educational or
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8 C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25
the work environment (see Appendix A), e.g. “Company rules should not be
broken – even when the employee thinks it is in the company’s best interests” or
“How ofen do you feel nervous or tense at class?” Responses were scored on a
fve-point scale. Several alpha coefcients for this scale were calculated including
only two items, three, four or fve items for the overall sample and for the cul-
tural subsamples. Te alpha coefcients vary from .05 to .50. Combining the
items referring to anxiety, work preferences, and rule orientation leads to low
alpha coefcients. One reason for this fnding might be cross-cultural diferences
regarding work experience. In fact, 82% of the U.S. participants, 64% of the Bra-
zilian participants, and 22% of the Indian participants have work experience
longer than one year (summarizing answers that indicate one to two years work
experience and answers indicating more than two years work experience). Eigh-
teen percent of the U.S. participants, 36% of the Brazilian participants, and 78%
of the Indian participants have work experience of less than one year. Tese
diferences between the samples regarding work experience are statistically
signifcant, χ
2
(6, N = 313) = 78.34, p < .001.
Te highest alpha coefcient of .80 was found by calculating the reliability
of the frst two items only (see Appendix A: “Company rules should not be bro-
ken – even when the employee thinks it is in the company’s best interests.” “Uni-
versity rules should not be broken – even when the student thinks it is in the
university’s best interests.”). Tese two items refer to rule orientation in compa-
nies and universities. Rule orientation is only one of the three uncertainty avoid-
ance dimensions of Hofstede. Te other two dimensions were employment
stability and stress. For the two items assessing rule orientation, the alpha
coefcient was found to be .80 overall, .88 for the U.S. sample, .79 for the Brazil-
ian sample and .67 for the Indian sample. Te same alpha coefcients result
when using grand mean centered item scores. Tese alpha coefcients are satis-
factory and further data analysis refers to uncertainty avoidance as assessed by
these two items.
Five diferent metacognitive strategies: free production, analogy (for an in-
depth case study on analogy and scientifc discovery see Spranzi, 2004), step by
step, visualization, and combination were assessed with items that described
each strategy. Ten the participants were asked to rate the frequency, efcacy,
and facility of that strategy on a scale from one to fve across three situations:
interpersonal, study, and practical problems (Antonietti, Ignazi, & Perego, 2000).
Frequency refers to how ofen the strategy is used, efcacy refers to how efective
the strategy is, and facility refers to how easy it is to apply the strategy. Partici-
pants were also asked to indicate which of eight mental abilities were associated
with the metacognitive strategy. Tese mental abilities were creativity, speed,
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C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25 9
synthesis, critical thinking, accuracy, memory, analysis, logical reasoning (see
Appendix B for an example).
In order to make data from the U.S., the Brazilian, and the Indian sample
comparable, they were standardized using grand mean centering (Fischer, 2004).
Te overall mean score of all 45 responses of each cultural sample was calculated
and subtracted from every single individual item score. Te overall mean score of
all answers was 3.29 in the US sample, 3.35 in the Brazilian sample, and 3.38 in
the Indian sample. Although the three groups did not difer signifcantly, F(2,
324)=1.04, p = .36, we still thought that the following statistical comparisons
using grand mean centered scores would be more accurate.
Procedure
Participants were recruited from universities through announcements in classes
and posted fyers. Participants were scheduled to complete the questionnaires in
groups. An experimenter was available to answer any questions that the partici-
pants might have had about the research materials.
Results
Age, Gender, Metacognitive Strategies, and Uncertainty Avoidance.
An alpha level of .05 was used for all statistical tests. A signifcant diference in
the age of participants was found, F(2, 326) = 4.59, p = .01, with Brazilian stu-
dents (M=23.8) being older than Indian participants (M=22.0). Te U.S. sam-
ple had an average age of 22.5 years. Diferences in age and gender are related to
the make-up of student populations in the diferent countries. However, no cor-
relation between age and the 45 metacognitive strategy variables was statistically
signifcant. Age did also not correlate signifcantly with uncertainty avoidance.
Te gender distribution in India was signifcantly diferent from the distribu-
tions in the United States and Brazil, F(2, 326) = 7.51, p = .001. Comparing 204
female and 116 male participants, signifcant gender diferences were found in
fve out of 45 variables, namely free production-interpersonal-frequency,
t(318)=2.98, p = .003, M
m
=2.91, SD
m
=1.23 and M
f
=3.32, SD
f
= 1.19 before
grand mean centering; analogy-practical-easiness t(316)=2.67, p = .008;
M
m
=3.43, SD
m
=1.10 and M
f
=3.75, SD
f
= .98 before grand mean centering;
analogy-study-frequency, t(319)=2.30, p = .022, M
m
=3.56, SD
m
=1.11 and
M
f
=3.85, SD
f
= 1.10 before grand mean centering; analogy-study-usefulness,
t(319)=2.75, p = .006, M
m
=3.59, SD
m
=1.13 and M
f
=3.93, SD
f
= 1.06 before
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10 C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25
grand mean centering; and step-by-step-study-usefulness, t(317)=2.29, p = .02,
M
m
=3.68, SD
m
=1.02 and M
f
=3.95, SD
f
= 1.02 before grand mean centering; In
these fve variables, female participants always had higher scores than male par-
ticipants. We included gender as a covariate in further analyses of those fve vari-
ables where signifcant diferences were found. No signifcant gender diferences
were found in the cumulated scores across problem situations and across fre-
quency, efcacy, and facility. No signifcant gender diferences were found
regarding uncertainty avoidance.
Relation of Frequency, Efcacy, and Facility of Problem-Solving Strategy
To investigate if frequency, efcacy, and facility of problem-solving strategy are
related, Pearson correlations between these diferent scores in each strategy and
type of problem were calculated (see Table 1). All correlations were signifcant at
the 1% level and ranged between .32 and .72. Te average of the Frequency-
Efcacy correlations was .63, the average of the Frequency-Facility correlations
was .54, and the average of the Efcacy-Facility correlations was .48. Te results
show that the frequency of strategy use is related to its perceived efcacy and its
perceived facility of implementation.
Table 1
Correlations of Frequency, Efcacy, and Facility Scores
for Each Type of Problem and Each Strategy.
N=323 to 327 Frequency- Frequency- Efcacy-
Efcacy Facility Facility
Free production
Interpersonal problems .60*** .40*** .32***
Practical problems .69*** .46*** .43***
Study problems .62*** .46*** .47***
Analogy
Interpersonal problems .53*** .51*** .44***
Practical problems .62*** .47*** .48***
Study problems .67*** .58*** .57***
Step-by-Step
Interpersonal problems .68*** .71*** .57***
Practical problems .59*** .58*** .45***
Study problems .54*** .53*** .41***
Visualisation
Interpersonal problems .72*** .61*** .58***
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C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25 11
Table 1 (cont.)
N=323 to 327 Frequency- Frequency- Efcacy-
Efcacy Facility Facility
Practical problems .68*** .56*** .51***
Study problems .72*** .59*** .60***
Combination
Interpersonal problems .65*** .59*** .41***
Practical problems .60*** .48*** .43***
Study problems .61*** .54*** .50***
* p < .05 ** p < .01 *** p < .001

Cross-Cultural Use of Metacognition
Statistical analyses revealed diferences in the use of metacognitive strategies
across cultures. Over all fve strategies the diferences in mean frequency were
not signifcant, F(2, 308) = 2.65, p = .07, η
p
2
=.02). Te means were 3.52
(SD=.72; grand mean centered M=.14, SD=.71) in the Indian sample, 3.34
(SD=.52; grand mean centered M=−.01, SD=.52) in the Brazilian sample and
3.25 (SD=.55; grand mean centered M=−.04, SD=.55) in the U.S. sample.
An ANOVA with a Tukey post-hoc test to determine mean score diferences
was used to detect diferences in how frequently participants reported using
specifc strategies across cultures. Te independent variable was culture with
three levels: India, Brazil, and the United States. Te dependent variables were
free production, analogy, step by step, visualization, and combination summa-
rized across situations. Te free production method (F(2, 314) = 4.76, p = .01,
η
p
2
=.03) was used most frequently in India, followed by Brazil and the United
States. Indian participants had signifcant higher scores then Brazilian and U.S.
participants. Te combination method (F(2, 314) = 5.75, p = .004, η
p
2
=.02)
was used signifcantly more frequently in India and Brazil then in the United
States. Te analogy method (F(2, 314) = 3.04, p = .05, η
p
2
=.03) was used most
frequently in the United States, followed by Brazil and then India with signifcant
diferences between Unites States and India (see Figure 1). No signifcant
diferences regarding frequency were found in the step by step and visualization
strategy for all situations.
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12 C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25
Frequency of Strategy Use Across Cultures
0.00
0.50
1.00
1.50
2.00
2.50
3.00
3.50
4.00
Free
Production
Analogy Step-by-Step Visualization Combination
USA (n=133)
Brazil (n=97)
India (n=96)
Figure 1. Frequency of Strategy Use Across Cultures
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C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25 13
An ANOVA with a Tukey post-hoc test to determine mean score diferences
was also used to detect diferences in the efcacy (“usefulness”) of strategy
use across cultures. Te free production method (F(2, 311) = 4.33, p = .01,
η
p
2
=.03) was rated to be most useful in India, compared to Brazil and the United
States. Te analogy method (F(2, 311) = 13.53, p < .001, η
p
2
=.08) was regarded
as the most useful in the United States, followed by Brazil and India with
signifcant diferences between all three countries. Te step by step method (F(2,
311) = 3.46, p = .02, η
p
2
=.03) was viewed most useful in Brazil, followed by the
United States and India with signifcant diferences between Brazil and India.
Te combination method (F(2, 311) = 9.41, p < .001, η
p
2
=.06) was also viewed
most useful in Brazil, followed by India and the United States with signifcant
diferences between Brazil and the United States (see Figure 2). No diferences
were found in the visualization method.
Te only signifcant diference in the facility of strategy use (“easy to apply”)
across cultures was found in the analogy category. Similar to the efcacy cate-
gory, the analogy method was regarded as the easiest to apply in the United
States compared to Brazil and India, F(2, 320) = 10.33, p < .001, η
p
2
=.06.
Uncertainty Avoidance and Metacognitive Strategy Use
Te three cultures difered signifcantly in the uncertainty avoidance scores,
F(2, 321)=3.26, p = .04, η
p
2
=.02. As the scale we used consisted of two items
referring to rule orientation and did not assess the two other dimensions of
uncertainty avoidance, i.e. employment stability and stress, as described by
Hofstede (2001), we will from now on refer to rule orientation instead of uncer-
tainty avoidance. Te mean scores for the two rule orientation scores were
5.18 (SD=2.20) (grand mean centered −.35, SD=1.10) for the U.S. sample; 6.51
(SD=2.01) (grand mean centered −.03, SD=1.01) for the Brazilian sample; and
5.17 (SD=2.34) (grand mean centered −.39, SD=1.17) for the Indian sample.
High scores stand for low rule orientation. Although Brazilian participants
showed the lowest rule orientation, a Tukey post-hoc test comparing grand mean
centered scores shows only marginal signifcant diferences between Brazil and
India (p = .06) and between Brazil and the United States (p = .07) regarding
rule orientation.
Rule orientation correlated signifcantly with facility over all strategies r=.13,
p = .02; with step-by-step-efcacy over all situations r = .11, p = .04; with
analogy-practical-facility r = .15, p = .01, and with visualization-study-facility,
r = .11, p = .05. Low rule orientation goes hand in hand with high facility of
several strategies and high efcacy of the step by step strategy in all situations.
Te Pearson correlations of rule orientation and other metacognitive variables
varied between −.018 and .086.
JOCC 7,1-2_f2_1-25.indd 13 3/14/07 8:32:43 PM
14 C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25
Efficacy of Strategy Use Across Cultures
0.00
0.50
1.00
1.50
2.00
2.50
3.00
3.50
4.00
Free
Production
Analogy Step-by-Step Visualization Combination
USA (n=133)
Brazil (n=97)
India (n=96)
Figure 2. Efcacy of Strategy Use Across Cultures
JOCC 7,1-2_f2_1-25.indd 14 3/14/07 8:32:43 PM
C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25 15
Impact of Situation on Metacognitive Strategy
Analyses determined that strategy selection was infuenced more by culture than
by situation. Te questionnaire assessed metacognition in three diferent situa-
tions: interpersonal problems, practical problems, and study problems. An
ANOVA with situation as independent variable and a Tukey post-hoc test to
determine mean score diferences revealed that diferences in situation are only
signifcant in the step by step method, F(2, 955) = 27.73, p < .001, η
p
2
=.06.
Participants indicated that they use the step by step method more in study prob-
lems than in interpersonal and practical problems. Overall, only one signifcant
interaction efect between country and situation was found in the free produc-
tion method, F(4, 964) = 3.48, p = .01, η
p
2
=.01. Te interaction efect refers to
study problems. Compared to the other two situations, frequency in free pro-
duction in the United States was decreasing; while it was increasing in Brazil and
India (see Figure 3). Tese results regarding situation-specifcity of metacogni-
tive strategies speak more for a general metacognitive style than for domain
specifcity.
Strategy Use Across Situation and Culture
0.00
2.00
4.00
6.00
8.00
10.00
12.00
F
r
e
e
P
r
o
d
u
c
t
i
o
n
A
n
a
l
o
g
y
S
t
e
p
-
b
y
-
S
t
e
p
V
i
s
u
a
l
i
z
a
t
i
o
n
C
o
m
b
i
n
a
t
i
o
n
Interpersonal
F
r
e
e
P
r
o
d
u
c
t
i
o
n
A
n
a
l
o
g
y
S
t
e
p
-
b
y
-
S
t
e
p
V
i
s
u
a
l
i
z
a
t
i
o
n
C
o
m
b
i
n
a
t
i
o
n
Practical
F
r
e
e
P
r
o
d
u
c
t
i
o
n
A
n
a
l
o
g
y
S
t
e
p
-
b
y
-
S
t
e
p
V
i
s
u
a
l
i
z
a
t
i
o
n
C
o
m
b
i
n
a
t
i
o
n
Study
India
Brazil
USA
Figure 3. Strategy Use Across Situation and Cultures
Composition and Abilities of Metacognitive Problem-solving Strategies
Te understanding of metacognitive problem-solving strategies was studied
in the three diferent cultural samples. For every strategy, participants indi-
cated which of eight mental abilities was involved. Te average of eight possible
JOCC 7,1-2_f2_1-25.indd 15 3/14/07 8:32:43 PM
16 C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25
abilities in each of the fve strategies was 18.82 (SD=6.52) in the U.S. sample,
18.80 (SD=6.30) in the Brazilian sample, and 17.91 (SD=9.35) in the Indian
sample, indicating 3 to 4 abilities marked per strategy. Te main efect of culture
on the number of marked composition aspects was not signifcant, F(2, 322) = .50,
p = .60, η
p
2
=.003. Te following statistical analysis refers to the raw data. Tese
data were not grand mean centered. Regarding every strategy, diferences were
found in at least three of the eight abilities associated with each strategy across
cultures. With respect to the free production strategy, creativity was more
important in Brazil than in India, F(2, 324) = 5.01, p = .01, η
p
2
=.03. Speed was
more important in India than in the United States, F(2, 324) = 5.23,
p = .01, η
p
2
=.03. Synthesis was more important in Brazil than the United States,
F(2, 324) = 3.67, p = .03, η
p
2
=.02. Logical reasoning was more important in the
United States than in Brazil, F(2, 324) = 6.32, p = .002, η
p
2
=.04.
With respect to the analogy strategy, creativity was more important in India
than in Brazil and the United States, F(2, 324) = 9.37, p < .001, η
p
2
=.06. Speed
was more important in India than in Brazil and the United States,
F(2, 324) = 11.06, p < .001, η
p
2
=.06. Synthesis was more important in Brazil
than in India and the United States, F(2, 324) = 5.89, p = .003, η
p
2
=.04. Accu-
racy was more important in the United States than in Brazil and India,
F(2, 324) = 6.38, p = .002, η
p
2
=.04. Memory was more important in the United
States than in Brazil and India, F(2, 324) = 18.42, p < .001, η
p
2
=.10. Analysis
was more important in the United States than in India, F(2, 324) = 6.19,
p = .002, η
p
2
=.04.
With respect to the step by step strategy, creativity was more important in
India than in the United States, F(2, 324) = 3.32, p = .037, η
p
2
=.02. Speed was
more important in India than in Brazil and the United States, F(2, 324) = 7.55,
p = .001, η
p
2
=.05. Synthesis was more important in Brazil than in the United
States, F(2, 324) = 3.34, p = .04, η
p
2
=.02. Critical thinking was more important
in the United States than in India and Brazil, F(2, 324) = 14.614,
p < .001, η
p
2
=.08. Accuracy was more important in Brazil than in India,
F(2, 324) = 5.09, p = .01, η
p
2
=.03. Analysis was more important in Brazil than
in the United States and India, F(2, 324) = 8.98, p < .001, η
p
2
=.05. Logical rea-
soning was more important in Brazil than in India, F(2, 324) = 7.88,
p < .001, η
p
2
=.05.
With respect to the visualization strategy, creativity was more important in
the United States than in India, F(2, 324) = 6.90, p = .001, η
p
2
=.04. Speed was
more important in India than in Brazil and the United States, F(2, 324) = 11.25,
p < .001, η
p
2
=.07. Critical thinking was more important in the United States
than in India and Brazil, F(2, 324) = 5.23, p = .07, η
p
2
=.03.
With respect to the combination method, creativity was more important in
Brazil than in the United States and India, F(2, 324) = 4.49, p = .01, η
p
2
=.03.
JOCC 7,1-2_f2_1-25.indd 16 3/14/07 8:32:44 PM
C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25 17
Speed was more important in India than in Brazil and the United States,
F(2, 324) = 5.58, p = .004, η
p
2
=.03. Critical thinking was more important in the
United States than in Brazil, F(2, 324) = 3.10, p = .05, η
p
2
=.02. Accuracy was
more important in India than in the United States, F(2, 324) = 3.05, p = .05,
η
p
2
=.02.
In comparing the importance of specifc mental abilities in the fve diferent
strategies between the three diferent cultural groups, it is interesting to note
that Indian participants rated speed as more important than Brazilian and U.S.
participants in all fve strategies. Brazilians rated synthesis as more important
than Indian and U.S. participants in the three strategies where signifcant
diferences between cultural groups were found. U.S. participants rated critical
thinking as more important than did Indian and Brazilian participants in the
three strategies where signifcant diferences were found.
Discussion
Te main question investigated refers to cultural diferences in metacognitive
problem-solving strategies. As the results show, we indeed fnd cross-cultural
similarities and diferences in frequency, efcacy, and facility of metacognitive
strategies. In each of the fve strategies frequency, efcacy, and facility were
signifcantly correlated. Antonietti et al. (2000) found the same result. Over all
fve strategies, no cultural diferences regarding frequency of strategy were found.
It was expected that Brazilians would show lower frequencies. However, Brazil-
ian presence orientation (Strohschneider & Güss, 1998) and improvisation do
not necessarily go hand in hand with lower metacognitive activity. Te time
frame, but not the amount of metacognitive activity, might be diferent.
Analogy was the most frequently reported strategy in all three samples. Indian
participants reported more frequent use of the free production strategy, U.S. par-
ticipants more frequent use of the analogy method, and Brazilian and Indian
participants more frequent use of the combination method. Te more frequent
use of the free production method in the Indian sample might be associated with
a higher context-sensitivity (Hall, 1976). Te combination strategy might refect
the Brazilian “jeito” (Stubbe, 1987), that in a specifc problem situation, creative
and improvised solutions have to be found.
Every cultural group also had a diferent preference regarding the efcacy of
metacognitive strategy. Indian participants reported higher scores than the other
two cultural samples for the free production method, U.S. participants reported
higher scores for analogy, and Brazilian participants reported higher efcacy
scores for the step by step and combination strategy. Regarding the facility of
metacognitive strategies, all samples rated the analogy method as the most easy
JOCC 7,1-2_f2_1-25.indd 17 3/14/07 8:32:44 PM
18 C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25
to apply. However, U.S. participants found it easier to apply than Indian and
Brazilian participants. In the U.S. sample, the analogy strategy was found most
easy to apply, most useful, and most frequently used. Tis was not the case in the
Brazilian and Indian sample. Tis result could be related to the ofen-described
American pragmatism. In philosophy, American pragmatism is a popular school
(Gross, 2002; Perry, 2001) that goes back to Charles Sanders Peirce and John
Dewey, and was further developed by William James (Pajares, 2003). Tis tradi-
tion stresses the importance of the practical outcome of ideas in the practical
culture. In a popular sense “get things done” refects such a pragmatic attitude. A
pragmatic problem-solving approach would favor those strategies that have been
proven to work well and easy to apply.
To explain cultural diferences, uncertainty avoidance was assessed. Te two
questions used for further analysis only refer to rule orientation. Te scale could
and should be improved. Items have to be added and the validity has to be
assessed. Besides the methodological problems with the survey, there are also
theoretical problems related to the construct of uncertainty avoidance. India has
ofen been described as a society in which contradictions exist and are not per-
ceived as contradictions (e.g. Sinha and Tripathi, 1994). Terefore, what uncer-
tainty means to an Indian might be quite diferent from what uncertainty means
to an American or a Brazilian (see Nisbett, et al. 2003, for a description of
diferences in Western and Eastern thinking). An Indian worker, for example,
put a picture of Jesus next to her pictures of the Hindu Gods at her altar at home
(Güss, 2000). In many Western households, Christian and Hindu beliefs might
not ft together, and the person would choose either one of the two religious
worldviews.
Te second theoretical problem is related to the two-item scale in this study.
It only refers to rule orientation and does not include the other two dimensions
of Hofstede, namely employment stability and stress. In our samples, Brazil
showed slightly less rule orientation than India and the United States. In Hof-
stede’s study (2001), assessing uncertainty avoidance with three items, Brazil
showed more uncertainty avoidance than India and the United States. Possible
reasons for these contradicting results are diferent samples, diferent times of
data gathering, and diferent uncertainty questions. Hofstede’s data are based on
IBM managers in the late 1960s and early 1970s, whereas our samples consist of
students who participated in 2003 and 2004. Although our questions were
derived from Hofstede’s questions, they focused only on rule orientation. His
questions referred to rule orientation, employment stability, and stress. A fur-
ther problem regarding the uncertainty scale in this study was the focus of the
questions on work and study context. Te three samples difered signifcantly
regarding work experience and many students don’t have work experience, which
JOCC 7,1-2_f2_1-25.indd 18 3/14/07 8:32:44 PM
C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25 19
could explain the low overall alpha coefcients. Further studies on uncertainty
avoidance in Brazil using a multi-method approach with diferent samples from
diferent parts of the country and from diferent professional backgrounds
would shed further light on these contradicting results.
It was hypothesized that uncertainty avoidance might infuence frequency of
metacognitive strategies. Tis hypothesis was not confrmed due to the reasons
discussed above. Results show that low rule orientation correlated with facility
of several strategies and situations and with facility across all situations. Low rule
orientation also correlated signifcantly with step by step efcacy across all situa-
tions. Tus the less concerned participants were with certain rules, the easier to
implement certain strategies were perceived.
Another question investigated was whether or not metacognitive strategies
are situation-specifc or more general cognitive styles. Regarding the cultural
samples, we expected the United States as an individualistic low-context culture
to show little variance across situations and we expected situational variability in
the Indian and Brazilian samples. Te U.S. sample indeed showed no situational
diferences, but, contradicting our hypothesis, the Brazilian and Indian partici-
pants also did not describe situation specifc strategies. With the three diferent
problem domains – interpersonal, practical, and study – only one out of the fve
strategies, the step by step strategy, varied across situations. It was most frequently
applied in study problems and least in interpersonal problems. Tis result might
be due to our samples which consisted of college students. For this sample, study
problems might be especially important and require a step by step approach.
Another possible explanation for the variation across situations in the step by
step approach could be related to the problem type. Study problems can be
defned more clearly than interpersonal and practical problems. In well-defned
problems, a step by step approach works better than in ill-defned problems.
Interpersonal and practical problems might be more uncertain thus not allowing
for a step by step approach.
Results indicate a tendency for metacognitive strategic preferences to hold
across situations in all countries, indicating a general metacognitive style rather
than a situation specifc approach. However, the instrument did not give specifc
interpersonal, practical, and study problems, which can be regarded as a strength
or as a weakness – as a strength, because participants can imagine relevant prob-
lems; as a weakness, because responses can difer according to the problems
imagined. We don’t know what specifc problems participants imagined while
they were answering the questionnaire. It might be that the problem context
plays an important role for the selection of specifc problem-solving strategies.
Further research investigating metacognitive strategies in more specifc, concrete
situations is necessary before drawing conclusions. In a similar way, criticism that
JOCC 7,1-2_f2_1-25.indd 19 3/14/07 8:32:44 PM
20 C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25
refers to survey data in general applies specifcally to this survey. Te chief con-
cern is whether or not ratings on such a questionnaire, where relatively abstract
strategies are imagined, refect real problem-solving behavior. It would be inter-
esting to compare results from this metacognitive questionnaire with, for exam-
ple, thinking aloud protocols (Ericsson & Simon, 1980, 1984/1993) of concrete
problem-solving behavior in diferent situations. Strategic and metacognitive
preferences in these situations could then be compared with those indicated in
the questionnaire.
Results that might explain cross-cultural diferences in metacognitive strate-
gies are the diferences in abilities associated with each strategy in each country.
Out of eight abilities assessed for each of the fve strategies, we fnd cross-cultural
diferences in at least three of the eight abilities associated with each strategy.
Overall, Indian participants rated speed as more important than Brazilian and
U.S. participants in all fve strategies. In the three strategies where signifcant
diferences between cultural groups were found, Brazilians rated synthesis as
more important than Indian and U.S. participants, and U.S. participants rated
critical thinking as more important than Indian and Brazilian participants.
Apparently the individual skills required for specifc metacognitive strategies
difer between cultures. Applying an eco-cultural framework (Berry, 2004),
skills are acquired in a specifc cultural context. Tose skills seem functional and
benefcial for success in a given environment. According to our respondents,
speed is a crucial factor in problem solving and decision making in India, synthe-
sis in Brazil, and critical thinking in the United States. It would be interesting to
investigate the diferences in the cultural environment in these countries in more
detail in order to better understand the required individual skills. Regarding
Brazil, for example, Dessen & Torres (2002) highlight the economic instability
and many dynamic changes in the environment of many Latin American coun-
tries. In what way are the dynamic changes unique in Brazil and in what way do
they difer from those in India? And how does speed in one and synthesis in the
other culture respond to these changes?
Research about cultural preferences in problem-solving strategies is not only
relevant for cultural, cross-cultural, and cognitive psychology, but it is also rele-
vant for practical reasons. For instance, work-teams consisting of members from
diferent cultures might encounter difculties in working together due to
diferent preferences in problem solving. Knowledge of these diferences in
problem-solving strategies could lead to better mutual understanding and to
smoother work-relations.
JOCC 7,1-2_f2_1-25.indd 20 3/14/07 8:32:45 PM
C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25 21
Acknowledgement
Tis study is part of a bigger project and based on work supported by the
National Science Foundation under Grant 0218203 to the frst author from
2002 to 2006 with the title “Cultural infuences on dynamic decision making.”
Tis research would not have been possible without the support of friends
and colleagues abroad. We would like to thank especially Prof. Cristina Ferreira,
Prof. Cilio Ziviani, Prof. Nadia, and Dr. Miguel Cal in Brazil; Prof. Krishna
Prasaad Sreedhar, Dr. S. Raju, Dr. Ajay Kesavan, and Mr. Ibrahim Syed in India,
and the many students who participated. We also would like to thank Paul Go
for his comments on an earlier version of this article.
Portions of the material were presented at the 25th Annual Convention of the
Society for Judgment and Decision Making in Minnesota, MN, November 2004.
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Appendix A
Uncertainty avoidance questions
1. Company rules should not be broken – even when the employee thinks it is in the company’s
best interests.
strongly agree 1 — 2 — 3 — 4 — 5 strongly disagree.
2. University rules should not be broken – even when the student thinks it is in the university’s
best interests.
strongly agree 1 — 2 — 3 — 4 — 5 strongly disagree.
3. How ofen do you feel nervous or tense in class?
I always feel this way. 1 — 2 — 3 — 4 — 5 I never feel this way.
If you work, answer questions 4 and 5a. If not, go to question 5b
4. How ofen do you feel nervous or tense at work?
I always feel this way. 1 — 2 — 3 — 4 — 5 I never feel this way.
5a. How long do you think you will continue working for this company?
a) one year at the most
b) from 1 to 2 years
c) from 3 to 5 years
d) more than fve years
e) until I retire
If you do not work
5b. How long would you like to work in a company?
a) one year at the most
b) from 1 to 2 years
c) from 3 to 5 years
d) more than fve years
e) until I retire
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C. D. Güss, B. Wiley / Journal of Cognition and Culture 7 (2007) 1-25 25
Appendix B*
I try to recall problems successfully solved in the past which are similar to the current problem. I
look for previous situations which share some aspects, elements or features with the current
problem so that I can transfer some ideas from the former ones to the latter one. 1 stands for very
little and 5 stands for very much.

Tink of the application of this strategy to interpersonal problems:
*how frequently I apply this strategy 1 2 3 4 5
*how useful I think this strategy is 1 2 3 4 5
*how easy I think this strategy is to apply 1 2 3 4 5
Tink of the application of this strategy to practical problems:
*how frequently I apply this strategy 1 2 3 4 5
*how useful I think this strategy is 1 2 3 4 5
*how easy I think this strategy is to apply 1 2 3 4 5
Tink of the application of this strategy to study problems:
*how frequently I apply this strategy 1 2 3 4 5
*how useful I think this strategy is 1 2 3 4 5
*how easy I think this strategy is to apply 1 2 3 4 5

Which of the following mental abilities do you think are involved when the strategy is applied?
[ ] creativity [ ] speed [ ] synthesis [ ] critical thinking
[ ] accuracy [ ] memory [ ] analysis [ ] logical reasoning
* Reproduced with permission from Te British Journal of Educational Psychology, (c) Te British Psycho-
logical Society
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