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In Poland, a ritual exists by which a znajomy becomes a kolega: When the two parties-- regardless of gender -- give mutual permission to allow each other to drop the "Mr." And "Miss" and call each other by their first names. A celebration involving drinking frequently follows, frequently with the two drinking shots of alcohol with arms linked. The English terms closest to kolega are "buddy," "pal," and "companion."
The authors (McAndrew & Rybak, 2006) hypothocized that since the Poles had more formalized and precise friendship words, they would differentiate more readily and consistently between different types of friends than Americans. They also looked at sex differences in judgments made about friendship, expecting that women in both America and Poland would probably make more discriminating judgments about relationships than would men.
Participants were either college students from the U.S. Or Poland. There were 56 Polish and 57 American participants. All participants filled out two questionnaires. The first questionnaire consisted of nine hypothetical situations, and each of the present experiment's participants rated the level of intimacy between the two people in each situation. There were four versions of the questionnaire: one for U.S. men in which the main character was John, one for U.S. women in which the main character was Jane, one for Polish men in which the main character was Marcin, and one for Polish women in which the main character was Agata. The second questionnaire was a modified version of Arunkumar and Dharmangadan's (2001) Friendship Intensity Measurement Scale (FIMS), a 40-item scale that assesses four different dimensions of friendship: viability, support, intimacy, and harmony. A higher score on the FIMS indicates greater perceived intensity or intimacy in a relationship.
The authors (McAndrew & Rybak, 2006) found that researchers should be careful in drawing conclusions about a whole population from relatively small samples of participants responding to hypothetical situations, such as those in this U.S./Polish study. Contrary to some predictions of prior researchers, Poles were not found to be more discerning about the intensity of different relationships than Americans, and women were not more discerning than men. All participants, regardless of sex and nationality, made clear distinctions between best friends, friends, and acquaintances, and the degree of the differences between these categories as indicated by the FIMS were about the same for each group. The strongest finding of this study was the consistent tendency of Americans to rate each kind of relationship-best friends, friends, and acquaintances-as more intense and intimate than did Poles. These findings were inconsistent with some earlier studies in Eastern Europe, but they are in line with those of studies in a variety of cultural settings in which friendships were more intense or intimate and more important to North American individuals than most other relationships, including relationships with relatives.
In the study (McAndrew & Rybak, 2006), there were also several interesting cross-cultural differences regarding the nine situations that participants rated for intimacy. However, at first the pattern of these differences was not readily understandable. Many of the situations presented to the participants differed in the relative frequency of occurrence in the two countries, causing individuals to evaluate the less commonplace occurrences as more intense since they were more unique. In this situation, researchers may speculate that Poles are less likely than Americans to transfer casual relationships, such as that of being in class with someone, into other contexts.
Further, it may be true that Poles are less likely than Americans to have relationships in which they feel free to confide selected bits of intimate information while withholding other personal information. On the other side of the coin, if this hypothesis were accurate, it would imply that Americans would be less apt than their Polish counterparts to spend time with acquaintances in a light-hearted and enjoyment manner, to have one-time intense and intimate conversations with others, and to have relationships that involve infrequent yet regular conversations with someone else over time. The data from this study (McAndrew & Rybak, 2006) did not allow anything greater than speculation on the authors' hypothesis, but they indicate a direction for future researchers. It also did not offer much to resolve the inconsistencies of previous studies gender differences in friendships. The study found a total lack of gender differences in either country. This was surprising, especially due to the lengthy history of male-female differences in perceptions of relationships in prior research. Researchers may find this anomaly particularly unusual in Poland, where the society appears to have retained more traditional gender roles than those of the United States. The authors did not have an explanation for this anomaly. Perhaps, they suggested, men and women do in fact tend to have similar types of feelings about friends and acquaintances, and earlier researchers may have introduced other variables that had different effects on men and women. Consequently, the present study takes its place among the relatively few that failed to indicate sex differences in feelings of closeness to friends.
This second study, which had such inconclusive results, indicated how researchers can sometimes believe that greater differences exist in Erickson's eight steps than do. In cultures that are closer together such as United States and Eastern Europ vs. those that are further apart as in the United States and Asia, it is more possible to find differences in how children are raised to follow these eight steps of development.
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