The process of cross-cultural adaptation is complex: first, because of its internal and external dynamics and, second, because of the number of relevant variables. Studies have associated scores of independent variables with adaptation outcomes. Yet this has had little effect on the overall understanding of the adaptation process. Adaptation theory has made little progress over the last decade. Most models are one-directional and without consideration of feedback loops. Various fields such as organization and leadership studies, economics and political science have applied ideas from chaos and complexity theory to gain additional insights. This article reviews concepts such as irreversibility, sensitivity to initial conditions and order through fluctuations and assesses their potential to help us better understand the dynamics of expatriate adaptation. It suggests that the field would benefit from a combination of action research, simulations, better quantitative measurement of adaptation outcomes and continued qualitative studies. © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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