Assignment: approaches to indigenous psychology

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Assignment: approaches to indigenous psychology

Assignment: approaches to indigenous psychology


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Assignment: Identified two approaches to indigenous psychology


Enriquez (1993) identified two approaches to indigenous psychology: indigenization from without and indigenization from within. Indigenization from without involves taking existing psychological theories and methods, and modifying them to fit the local cultural context. The approaches advocated by some cultural and cross-cultural psychologists are examples of indigenization from without (e.g., Triandis, 2000). Rather than assuming that a particular theory is universal a priori, researchers modify and adapt psychological theories and integrate them with the local cultural knowledge. Those aspects that can be verified across cultures are retained as possible cultural universals.

In indigenization from within, theories and methods are developed internally and local information is considered to be a primary source of knowledge (Enriquez, 1993). For example, one of the core values and assumptions that psychologists from East Asia are questioning is that of individualism (Ho et al., 2001). In East Asia, human relationships occupy center stage in defining interactions within family, school, work settings, and society (Azuma, 1986; Ho et al., 2001; Kim & Park, 2005). Recently, both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have yielded results that confirm the importance of close relationships in South Korea that are highly reliable, valid, and applicable (Kim & Park, 2005; Park & Kim, 2004). Although psychological theories have emphasized individualism, research indicates that relationships are central to understanding human development and functioning in different parts of the world (Helgesen & Kim, 2002; House, Landis, & Umberson, 1988; Kim et al., 1994).


Culture is not a variable, quasi-independent variable, category, or mere sum of individual characteristics. Culture represents the collective utilization of natural and human resources to achieve desired outcomes (Kim, 2001b). Differences in cultures can exist if we pursue different collective goals, utilize different methods and resources to realize these goals, and attach different meaning and values to them. Researchers have found that the majority of Americans and Europeans emphasize the values of individual rights, personal freedom, and open debate, whereas the majority of East Asians are likely to emphasize an orderly society, harmony, and self-discipline (Hofstede, 1991).

Although our physiology is the basis for all our actions, it is culture that shapes, directs, and modifies our actions. To use an analogy, computers consist of hardware and software. Our physiology is like the hardware of a computer and culture is like the software (Hofstede, 1991). A computer operates differently depending of the type of software that is downloaded. When children are born, although they have the potential to learn any language, they usually learn one language. Language represents symbolic knowledge that provides a cultural community with the collective ability to organize, express, communicate, and manage ideas.

People have a capacity for self-reflection and creativity that computers do not possess. Computers must be programmed to operate. Human beings have the capability of changing themselves, others, and their environment. Without culture, human beings would be like other animals, reduced to basic instincts. Culture allows us to know who we are, define what is meaningful, communicate with others, and manage our environment. It is through culture that we think, feel, behave, and manage our reality (Shweder, 1991). Just as we use our eyes to see the world, we use our culture to understand our world. For a person born and raised in a particular culture, his or her own culture feels supremely natural. Because we filter events and experience through our culture, it is difficult, but not impossible to recognize our own culture (Shweder, 1991).

Cultures undergo dramatic transformations. At the turn of the century, East Asian societies were far behind in science and technology, lacking in educational, economic, and political infrastructure and experiencing national turmoil. Despite limited natural resources, East Asian governments and companies were able to design appropriate educational, political, and economic systems to transform latent human resources into powerful nations. Currently, Japan is the second largest economy in the world. South Korea (abbreviated hereafter as Korea) and Taiwan have two of the fastest growing economies in the past 30 years. China is emerging as a major international player with a rapidly expanding economy. The purpose of the following section is to provide an indigenous analysis of educational and economic achievement in East Asia.

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