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Examine Your LENS: A Tool for Interpreting Cultural Differences


Williams, T. R. (2013). Examine Your LENS: A Tool for Interpreting Cultural Differences. Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad, 22, 148–165.


One of the most commonly cited reasons students choose to study abroad is to experience a new culture. However, most students and, perhaps, most people do not fully recognize what culture is and the span of its influences. The pervasiveness and seeming incomprehensiveness of cultural differences often surprise and unsettle the traveler, and his or her ability to adapt to the new culture may be one of the biggest contributors to a positive or negative experience abroad. The technique, Examine your LENS, provides a new tool for individuals crossing cultures, by providing a mnemonic device, a specific set of steps and a mental image. Founded in experiential learning theory and utilizing the components of intercultural knowledge and competence, the steps remind individuals to look more objectively at situations, examine their own assumptions and expectations, note other possible values, habits, and expectations, and substantiate possible interpretations with locals. The imagery of recognizing that we all have a cultural lens, or bias, which shades our view of events, incidents, and people, is equally important.

Themes: Affective Behavior, Benchmarking, Cognitive Style, Cultural Awareness, Cultural Differences, Empathy, Expectation, Experiential Learning, Inferences, Intercultural Communication, Learning Theories, Metacognition, Mnemonics, Nonverbal Communication, Scoring rubrics, Student Characteristics, Study Abroad, Teaching methods, Verbal Communication