Part 5: Autism and Geert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory - Uncertainty Avoidance Index

The Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) from Hofstede measures how a culture handles ambiguity, uncertainty and change. Those groups that measure high on the UAI tend to experience high anxiety regarding uncertainty and seek to limit or minimize the uncertainty in any given situation. Cultures that measure low on the index try to have as few rules as possible, are more pragmatic and are more tolerant of change. Examples of countries that are high on the UAI are Greece, Russia, Poland and Portugal (contrary to popular views of Germany is it much closer to the middle). Countries that score low on the scale are Sweden, China and the UK; while the US is low at a score of 46 it is not the lowest by far.

From a theoretical standpoint I think the Autsim subculture would score very high on this index. In fact I suspect most readers of that last statement said “well, duh”. Ritualistic behavior, precision and the need for sameness are hallmarks of of autistic behavior at all levels and sometimes, depending on the situation, this has been included as part of the Autistic Advantage (source).

For those of us in low scoring countries like the UK, Australia, Canada, China and the US (map) I cannot think of a stronger point of conflict between the subculture and culture as a whole. In those countries that are high on the Index many of these behaviors may be seen as well within cultural bounds offering a rare break for ASD folk in their attempts at integrating with society.

I would go into detail regarding Kwintessential’s tips for dealing with cultures that score lower than us on UAI but I imagine they are well known in practice, if not theory. All of us in low index countries have had to learn to deal with the changes common to the neurotypical society around us and being told to be more flexible. I would be interested to hear how someone from a high UAI country experiences this dimension.

As suggestions to those of us on the Spectrum I would say focus on the anxiety created by the changes with typical anxiety measures such as meditation, calming talk, a type of tea that works for you and possibly medication.  Xanax has been used for anxiety attacks but the potential for addiction and misuse make it impractical for any sustained usage. Some anti-depressants have been for effective for reducing anxiety in general and may be a good line of defense against total meltdowns.  Here are a couple of articles that offer anxiety remedies to try: 5 Quick Ways & 25 ways to relieve anxiety

Helpful resources:

World Map of Uncertainty Avoidance

Uncertainty Avoidance - Tips

5 Quick ways to overcoming anxiety

25 ways to relieve anxiety

Scott J. Shea is the proprietor of Job Sink, offering career advice and exploring employment issues and workplace difficulties faced by those on the autism spectrum.

Part 5: Autism and Geert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory - Uncertainty Avoidance Index, the fifth in a series of nine, appears here by permission.

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[image via Psychology Wiki]

on 08/9/11 in featured, Society | 1 Comment | Read More

Comments (1)


  1. Gwen McKay says:

    Perhaps another dimension would be useful here. While it’s fair to say that autistics have more difficulty than average in dealing with uncertainty and change on a personal level, it could also be said that autistics tend to be more tolerant of social change and more willing to accept lack of conformity to social rules in general.

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