Culture, Conditions and Paradoxical Frames

Joshua Keller, Jeffrey Loewenstein, Jin Yan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Organizational contexts establish conditions that seem paradoxical, but it is unclear when and why individuals notice and respond to paradoxes. This paper examines how culture and conditions interact to shape whether individuals adopt paradoxical frames. We used cooperation and competition among American and Chinese people as an empirical setting. Using lay categories as a theoretical framework, we predicted that specific types of conditions, colleagues’ outperforming and out-helping each other, can be interpreted as instances of both cooperation and competition. Study 1 found that Chinese people were more likely than Americans to adopt paradoxical frames in just these types of conditions and that the cross-cultural difference was attributed to differences in paradox mindset. Study 2 found that in just these types of conditions, Chinese people were more likely to engage in simultaneously cooperative and competitive behavior and this was attributed to differences in the use of paradoxical frames. Thus, culture and conditions interact to influence when people invoke and apply paradoxical frames.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539-560
Number of pages22
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • competition
  • condition
  • cooperation
  • culture
  • lay categories
  • paradox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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