Beijing Dialogue: Cultural Difference and Customer Behavior

June 21, 2018

On June 21, Professor Thomas Talhelm, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science and William Ladany Faculty Scholar at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, delivered a public lecture at Columbia Global Centers | Beijing, sharing his studies on how culture affects the way customers behave.

Professor Talhelm is famous for his “Rice Theory”, which suggests that growing rice tends to foster cultures that are relatively more cooperative and interconnected. This theory derives from Professor Talhelm’s own observation on people’s behavior in different regions of China. After he had noticed such cultural difference between North China and South China, he consulted a wide range of historical literature and conducted a series of experiments to testify his presumption. He eventually proves that the cultural difference between the North and the South has a direct relationship with the corps that each part grows.

As Professor Talhelm concludes, the inspiration for innovation comes from daily life, which, if scientifically tested, may make our lives much better.

At the end of the dialogue, Professor Yuhuang Zheng, Columbia alumnus in marketing with a Ph.D. and Associate Professor of Marketing and Faculty Director of the Marketing Department Doctoral Program at the School of Economics and Management, concluded that people in South China give more emphasis on the extended family and the difference between the acquaintances and the strangers. Both of the professors agree that it would be very important to capture the cultural differences from daily life, which might be the key to interpret customer behavior.