Monday, February 7, 2011

Fears of superiors and public speaking in Hong Kong

In 2009 there was an interesting paper by S. Lee, K. L. Ng, P. S. Kwok, and A. Tsang titled “Prevalence and correlates of social fears in Hong Kong” published in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders (on pages 327 to 332). They did a phone survey in March 2003. People were asked whether they had experienced any of fourteen types of social fears in the past twelve months. There were 3006 respondents whose ages ranged from 15 to 45. Their results are shown in the top bar chart.(Click on the image to enlarge the chart).

The second bar chart shows the top five fears found by Ruscio et al. in the NCS-
R survey of United States residents (who were asked about lifetime fears). That US survey found public/speaking/performance to be the number one fear. Speaking up in a meeting or class was second, meeting new people was third, and talking to people in authority was fourth. An important exams/interview was fifth.

Lee et al. found that for Hong Kong talking to people in authority (talking to a super-ordinate or a person of higher status) was the number one fear. Public performance (which would include speaking) was second, and talking in a meeting or class was third.

For social fears there are some distinct cultural differences between the US and Hong Kong. Most people would say boss instead of super-ordinate to describe a superior or a person in authority. But superordinate is a logical term for the opposite of a subordinate, and it does appear in the Oxford English Dictionary (without the hyphen).

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