Journal of Intercultural Communication, Issue 23, June, 2010

Mahin Tavakoli, Javad Hatami and Warren Thorngate

Changing Stereotypes in Iran and Canada Using Computer Mediated Communication

Abstract

As part of a university course activity, one group of Canadian and one group of Iranian students were randomly partnered to exchange e-mail messages via the Internet for seven weeks. Before beginning their correspondence, all students completed a questionnaire measuring their stereotypes, attitudes, and knowledge about the people and culture of their prospective e-pals. Students from both countries then exchanged messages and photos. In addition, students within each country met with one another to discuss their e-pal exchanges each week. At the end of seven weeks of e-mail exchange, all students again completed the original questionnaire. Pre-posttest changes in attitude, stereotypes, and knowledge about the culture of e-pals show that attitudes of participants towards people from the other country became more favourable, even though their judgments of the similarities between two cultures remained unchanged. Negative stereotypes changed towards more realistic ones. Attitude change was affected by the quality, topic, and frequency of e-mail exchange. Knowledge of participants about different aspects of the other culture became more complex and realistic over time. However, for many aspects of each culture, there was no consistent relationship between raising the level of knowledge and a change in attitude.

Key words: Intercultural communication, computer mediated communication (CMC), Iran and Canada, attitude change, stereotype change, intercultural understanding, e-pals, pen-pals


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