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Frameworks of cultural variability (Psyc 338) July 25, 2006


Frameworks of cultural variability (Psyc 338) July 25, 2006 Ype H. Poortinga Tilburg University, Netherlands and University of Leuven, Belgium Frameworks of cultural ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Frameworks of cultural variability (Psyc 338) July 25, 2006

Frameworks of cultural variability(Psyc 338)
July 25, 2006
  • Ype H. Poortinga
  • Tilburg University, Netherlands and
  • University of Leuven, Belgium

Organization of this presentation   Culture
always matters, an example   What is culture? (A
psychological approach) Two dimensions of
interpretation of cc differences   A bit of
history   An alternative theory Culture as a set
of conventions   Conclusions
Culture ALWAYS matters in human behavior An
example, the Horizontal-Vertical Illusion
Example horizontal-vertical illusion (results)
(Segall, Campbell, Herskovits, 1967)
What do psychologists mean with
culture?   Culture arises from a faculty (or
set of faculties) of the human species We learn
from experience, we reflect on experience and we
transmit knowledge (including beliefs) to the
next generation more than other species   Culture
is the context in which a person lives, including
ecocultural (economic, political) and
socio-cultural (values, norms beliefs, practices)
aspects   Behavior-culture relationships are
studied as external influences on the person
(antecedent conditions) and as part of the person
(internalized, meaning)
How culture matters Two theoretical
dimensions 1. Relativism vs. universalism (also
cultural vs culture-comparative approaches) -
Cultural relativism (primacy of culture context
is mediating qualitative) Culture and
psyche make each other up There is one mind
but many mentalities (cf. machoism, detachment)
- ?al universalism (primacy of organism
antecedents quantitative) ?al processes are
universal, but manifestations in overt behavior
differ 2. (In)coherence of culture-and-behavior
relationship - Culture as coherent (system,
syndrome) Geertzs octopus - Culture as a set of
conventions (i.e., rules about what to do,
what to believe)
Explanations of cc differences ordered in two
A bit of history Perception   Rivers (1901)
concluded from a review of the literature and
data from the Torres Strait Islands that savage
and half-civilized people had a somewhat better
visual acuity than the normal European (p. 42)
  He also observed among the native population a
great attention to detail and saw this as an
impediment to cognitive development the
predominant attention of the savage to concrete
things around him may act as an obstacle to
higher mental development (p. 45)   Such a
trade-off is known as the "compensation
hypothesis" (e.g., Deregowski, 1980)
A bit of history Perception   Biesheuvel (1943)
and Ombrédane (1954) suggested that Africans were
more oriented towards the auditory modality and
Europeans towards vision based on, e.g., sense of
rhythm and the variety of languages spoken by
unschooled urban Africans, and the tradition of
reading and writing among Europeans
  Compensation hypotheses are no longer in
fashion, perhaps because empirical studies found
little support (Deregowski, 1980 Poortinga,
1971), but more likely because there has been
change in the common view about cross-cultural
A bit of history Perception   Differences that
have stood up to empirical scrutiny are specific
(limited to precise antecedents and categories)
and can be explained against a background of
cultural invariance in psychological
functioning Examples include susceptibility to
visual illusions (Segall et al., 1967), effects
of direction of reading (Chokron De Agostini,
2000) and word segmentation
A bit of history Cognition   Where we infer
"culture", 18th century authors tended to infer
climate (e.g., Montesquieu) with a moderate
climate as favorable for the development of
"civilization" A century later evolutionary
differences between "us" and the "primitives"
were in fashion (cf. racial differences in IQ
Porteus, 1936) In the 20th century "culture"
became the main focus of analysis   In the 1930s
Luria (1971) studied syllogisms with unschooled
and schooled farmers in Central Asia. He
concluded that the faculty for abstract thinking
is absent among illiterates it is a culturally
mediated faculty (Vygotsky) Later on Scribner
(1979) showed that not the Aristotelian
principles of logical reasoning, but the
selection of information (own experience, vs
information given in the premises) is the key
A bit of history Cognition   Scribner and Cole
(1981) demonstrated with the Vai in Liberia that
not literacy per se, but knowledge learned in
western style education makes the
difference Dasen (1975) showed a gap between
performance and competence for Piagetian tasks of
operational thinking among Australian Aboriginal
children Cole (1996) has followed a
domain-oriented approach, studying how children
learnt to use computers   There has been a trend
away from "Great Divide" theories, towards
explanation of cc differences in more specific
influences Note An exception is work by Nisbett
and colleagues (e.g., 2001) who see an East-West
distinction between analytic and holistic
thinking, traceable to the ancient Greeks vs
A bit of history Personality research   Perhaps
the most sweeping generalizations about cc
differences are found in the area of personality
research Benedict (1934) characterized entire
cultural populations in terms of unique
configurations, to which most members learn to
adapt and conform thus the Pueblo Indians were
qualified as Apollonian and the Plains Indians
as Dionysian. Mead (1928) is best known for her
controversial description of the sex life of
adolescent girls on Samoa (Freeman, 1983) Mead
(1935) also described the Tchambuli where the
ideal woman was alleged to be energetic and
asserting, while the ideal man stayed at home and
occupied himself with gossip and domestic tasks
A bit of history Personality research   Other
notions derived from anthropological traditions
include "the authoritarian personality syndrome"
and "national character"   Most (or perhaps
all??) of these differences are
overgeneralizations reflecting stereotypes and
prejudices   Comparative research with
personality inventories has shown invariance of
personality dimensions (like the Big Five, or
Eysenck's Giant Three) A dimension found with the
Chinese Personality Assessment Inventory (CPAI),
namely Interpersonal Relatedness, which includes
aspects such as harmony and concern for
maintaining face was also found with European
American samples when this inventory was used
(Cheung et al., 2001, 2003 Lin Church, 2004)
A bit of history Social psychological
dimensions   The weight of cc research has
shifted to socio-cultural dimensions, like
individualism-collectivism or independence of the
self versus interdependence of the self   The
evidence for such dimensions derives mainly from
correlational studies or quasi-experimental
studies in which there is no control on the
independent variable   Question Has ccp finally
identified the major ways in which cultural
populations differ from each other, or will
currently popular dimensions in the future be
recognized as over-generalizations?
An alternative Culture as a set of
conventions   Within several areas of cc
research, there has been a trend from more
general to more precise (less inclusive)
interpretations of cc differences   There are few
cc theories fitting the lower half of the Figure
in slide 7 The most important of exception is
Michael Cole (1996), who belongs in the lower
left quadrant There are no theories for the lower
right quadrant   What would such a theory look
like? It would conceive of culture as an enormous
array of only loosely interconnected cultural
practices, or conventions Conventions are
partially arbitrary culturally agreed upon ways
of doing things and believing things, as well as
norms about what to think and believe (Berry et
al. 2002, Ch 12)
Conclusions   This lecture has given examples of
previous interpretations of cc differences in
behavior repertoire that did not stand the test
of time   The examples were taken from various
domains of psychological research   The gist of
the argument is not that there are no "general"
cultural factors However, such factors are not to
be inferred too lightly
  Additional materials   The following slides
provide a similar argument as given above for
domains of cross-cultural research not covered in
the lecture
A bit of history Language   Whorf (1956) argued
that "the background linguistic system (in
other words, the grammar) of each language is not
merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas
but rather is itself a shaper of ideas" (p. 212)
, and "we dissect nature along lines laid down
by our native language" (p. 213).   Decisive
research requires a natural (physical)
referent Much research has been conducted with
color words Is the spectrum split up the same
way across languages?
A bit of history Language   Another domain is
spatial orientation Levinson and colleagues
distinguish ego-referenced orientation ("on my
right side"), geocentric orientation ("on the
East side"), and intrinsic orientation (location
with reference to another object "the duck is
behind the boat") Dasen and colleagues (e.g.,
1999) found on Bali and in India that encoding to
some extent was task dependent
A bit of history Language   Bowerman (1996)
describes how prepositions such as in or on
in English often are not translation equivalent.
Thus, in Finnish the handle is in (rather than
on) the pan In Korean there is a distinction
between the verbs kkita referring to objects
that fit tightly into each other (putting the cap
on a pen) and nehta for loosely fitting
relations (putting books in a bag) that has no
direct match in English (Bowerman Choi, 2003)
In habituation experiments McDonough et al
(2001) found that both Korean and English
children as young nine months showed evidence of
making this distinction
A bit of history Language   Hespos and Spelke
(2004) obtained similar results with five months
old infants in both Korean and English speaking
environments, i.e., long before the onset of
speech. Apparently, sensitivity to a conceptual
distinction available for infants but not marked
by their native language becomes reduced.   Does
ego-referenced orientation imply "profound
linguistic effects on cognition" (Majid, et al.,
2004, p. 113)?
A bit of history Emotional experiences   "One
can assume that there exist words ('emotion
words') that dictate the way things are seen or
one can assume that there exist things
('emotions') that are given names and thus have
words assigned to them" (Frijda et al.,
1995)   Culture-specific emotions have been
inferred from emotion terms for which there is no
translation equivalent, e.g., "Schadenfreude"
"song" (justifiable anger among the Ifaluk, Lutz,
1988), or "liget" (anger associated with head
hunting among the Ilongots, Rosaldo,
1980)   Others claim that (basic) emotions are
invariant across cultures e.g., Ekman (1973)
distinguished 7 basic emotions on the basis of
facial muscular patterns Cc differences result
mainly from variations in "display rules"
A bit of history Emotional experiences   Rarámuri
Indians in Mexico who use one word for guilt and
shame were shown to differentiate between shame
and guilt components Breugelmans and Poortinga
(2005) first elicited local emotion scenarios
among Rarámuri and among rural Javanese. Ratings
by Dutch and Indonesian students were used to
select shame-eliciting and guilt-eliciting
scenarios from both regions In the crucial study
other Rarámuri respondents rated these scenarios
on emotion components that previously had been
found to differentiate between shame and guilt in
a student sample composed of Dutch/Belgian,
Mexican and Indonesian students For most
components, the pattern of differentiation found
for the Rarámuri matched that of the students
With a rural Javanese sample similar results
were obtained as for both the Rarámuri and the
international student sample
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