Sunday, October 14, 2012
In a 1994 study of Egyptian university students, fear of public speaking ranked 63rd for men and 66th for women
Cross-cultural comparisons can be startling, because our smug assumption that the whole world acts the same as we do may be completely wrong.
In 1994 Ahmed M. Abdel-Khalek published an article in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry titled Normative Results on the Arabic Fear Survey Schedule III. You can read an abstract of it here on PubMed. Table 1 of that article presented his results for mean scores from 520 students (238 females and 282 males) at Alexandria University in Egypt.
Two bar charts shown above list the mean scores on the top 70 fears (out of 108) for females and males. (Click on them to see larger, clearer versions). Being seen unclothed was the top fear for females, while failure was the top fear for males. Speaking in public was 63rd for males and 66th for females.
For both sexes the top ten fears included eight shared ones - being seen unclothed, being punished by God, dirt, failure, hurting others’ feelings, looking foolish, one person bullying another, and parting from friends.
For both sexes the top 20 fears included 16 that were shared - being dressed unsuitably, being ignored, being punished by God, being seen unclothed, dirt, failure, feeling disapproved of, feeling rejected by others, hurting others’ feelings, ideas of possible homosexuality, looking foolish, making mistakes, one person bullying another, parting from friends, thoughts of being mentally ill, tough looking people.
For the U.S. students I discussed in my previous post, the top 20 fears for both sexes included 15 that were shared: being criticized, being dressed unsuitably, dead people, failure, falling, feeling disapproved of, feeling rejected, hurting others’ feelings, looking foolish, losing control, making mistakes, parting from friends, people who seem insane, speaking in public, and surgical operations.
Nine fears were common to both the Egyptian and U.S. students: being dressed unsuitably, dead people, failure, feeling disapproved of, feeling rejected, hurting others’ feelings, looking foolish, making mistakes, parting from friends. The others reflect large cultural differences. For example, Egyptian males and females ranked dirt 3rd, while U.S. females ranked it 103rd and U.S. males ranked it 107th.
The outline map of Egypt with a dot indicating Alexandria is from Wikimedia Commons.