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Simulation helps participants understand cultural differences

March 05, 2012 12:00AM

A group of Pittsburg State University students, faculty and staff will get some hands-on training this week that organizers hope will help them function better in other cultures.

More than 40 have signed up to participate in BaFa’ BaFa’ at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, March 7, in the Governors Room of the Overman Student Center. The event is sponsored by PSU’s Tilford Group.

“BaFa’ BaFa’ is a learning simulation,” according to Harriet Bachner, assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and Counseling. “It enables participants to experience some of the challenges people have when navigating in a different culture.”

Originally developed to help the U.S. Navy prepare sailors visiting ports around the world, BaFa’ BaFa’ is now used in variety of educational and business settings.

“Each participant is assigned to one of two cultures,” Bachner explained.

Typically, one of the cultures is a relationship oriented, strong in-group culture while the other is a highly competitive trading culture. Participants experience “culture shock” by traveling to and trying to interact with a culture in which the people have different values, different ways of behaving and different ways of solving problems.

As the groups interact, the participants are expected to learn how cultural differences affect how people behave, how barriers are erected and how stereotypes are developed.

This type of cross-cultural understanding is important not just for persons traveling abroad, but also for all Americans in what is becoming an increasingly culturally diverse nation, Bachner said.

©2012 Pittsburg State University