Cross-national Distance: Concepts, Measures and Relationships

Karen Newman


Cross-national distances between national cultures and national institutions have been studied extensively in the last two decades, particularly with respect to their effects on the conduct of international business. Yet varying levels of analysis, inconsistent definitions, and different operationalizations of cross-national distances inhibit theoretical and empirical advances. Three approaches to non-geographic cross-national distance permeate the literature: psychic distance, national cultural distance, and institutional distance. The meaning of psychic distance has become muddied by evolving operationalizations, from objective indicators to individual perceptions. National cultural distance has been confused with both psychic distance and institutional distance. Various and inconsistent institutional arrangements and business practices are used as measures of institutional distance. This article reviews overlaps, inconsistencies, and ambiguities in the definitions and measurements of psychic, national cultural and institutional distance; suggests a way to rationalize the three constructs; and offers two competing models to explain the role of all three distances in international business decisions.


Round Building