While there is continual growth in the number of studies examining attitudes towards specific language varieties (for reviews, see Bradac, 1990; Giles, Hewstone, Ryan and Johnson, 1987) - in the east as well as the west (e.g. Bond, 1985; Kalmar, Yong and Hong, 1987; Pierson, 1987) - there is very little empirical research on beliefs about the social act of talk itself. We shall introduce what we believe to be a very powerful concept for understanding sociolinguistic behaviour, namely, 'beliefs about talk', and outline a programme of research we are conducting which explores its constituents and the ways in which they may manifest themselves discursively. After laying out some background to western and eastern conceptions of talk, an instrument developed to measure beliefs about talk - 'the BaT' - will be outlined. Some cultural differences between Caucasian-Americans, Chinese-immigrant and foreign 'Chinese' students in the USA made apparent through the use of this instrument will be overviewed. In addition, we shall have recourse to data exploring potential differences in BaT between Hong Kong and Beijing students. Finally, a British study will be outlined which includes an examination of young and elderly beliefs about talk which also contrasts discourse-analytic data from subgroups of elderly informants, younger and older, on this same theme in group discussions. Our general aim is to introduce diverse possible methodological perspectives on BaT, and to demonstrate the general utility of BaT as an explanatory intercultural and intergroup construct.