The influence of culture on information overload

J.M. Ulijn, J.D.B. Strother

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic

3 Citations (Scopus)
475 Downloads (Pure)


Too often, all communication genres are analyzed without recognizing the unavoidable impact of a communicator’s cultural framework on producing, receiving, or attempting to comprehend the document. Differing cultural preferences, varying rhetorical styles and discourse patterns, in addition to linguistic elements, can easily cause information overload. This chapter analyzes the impact of culture on information overload, primarily using Hall’s high context versus low context model. We demonstrate that high and low context cultures correlate with typical discourse styles, using Kaplan’s model as an example. Hinds’ theory of Reader versus Writer Responsibility for comprehension provides further insights into possible causes of cross-cultural information overload. A shared professional and/or corporate culture may mitigate the cross-cultural issues in some cases, although it does not eliminate them. Cases from specific cultures—Latin American, Japanese, Chinese, and others—are used to demonstrate the issues discussed in this chapter. With so many textual elements acting as potential problems for international communicators, translating documents from one language to another is often not enough. Localization, or making a product linguistically and culturally appropriate for the target audience, makes an important contribution to reducing the cognitive load. The significant conclusion is that the major cause of information overload in cross-cultural situations is having to process information in different discourse patterns from different cultural frameworks. This area is in need of solid empirical research to determine the nature and extent of the load, which will inform practices to reduce it.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInformation overload : an international challenge for professional engineers and technical communicators
EditorsJ.D.B. Strother, J.M. Ulijn, Z. Fazal
Place of PublicationChichester
ISBN (Print)978-1-1182-3013-8
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


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