Assignment: indigenous psychologies

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Assignment: indigenous psychologies

Assignment: indigenous psychologies


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Kim and Berry (1993) define indigenous psychology as “the scientific study of human behavior or mind that is native, that is not transported from other regions and that is designed for its people” (p. 2). Indigenous psychology advocates examining knowledge, skills, and beliefs people have about themselves and how they function in their cultural context. It represents a descriptive approach in which the goal of psychology is first to provide documentation of how human beings function in their ecological and cultural context. With this decriptive understanding as a foundation, theories, concepts, and methods are then developed and tested. The goal is to create a more rigorous, systematic, and universal science that can be theoretically and empirically verified (see , this volume, for more on how emic description can lead to the discovery of etic constructs).

First, indigenous psychology emphasizes contextualized understanding rooted in a particular setting (e.g., ecological, political, historical, or cultural context). It emphasizes the discovery and use of natural taxonomies in search of regularities, general principles, and universal laws. It examines how people view themselves, relate to others, and manage their environment.

Second, contrary to popular misconception, indigenous psychologies are not limited to the study of native peoples, ethnic groups, or people living in distant lands. Indigenous research has often been equated with the anthropological analysis of “exotic” people living in distant lands. Although such studies are necessary, indigenous psychology is needed for all cultural, native, and ethnic groups, including economically developed countries (Kim & Berry, 1993; Kim et al., 2006).

Third, acceptance of indigenous psychology does not affirm or preclude the use of a particular method. Indigenous psychology is part of the scientific tradition in which an important aspect of the scientific endeavor is the discovery of appropriate methods for the phenomenon under investigation. Scientists should not and cannot be bound to a particular method (Boulding, 1980). The use of qualitative, quantitative, and multiple methods are recommended to increase our confidence that a particular finding is valid and not an artifact of research methodology (Enriquez, 1993; see , this volume). Results from multiple methods should be integrated to provide a more comprehensive and robust understanding of psychological phenomena.

Fourth, it has been assumed that insiders have a better understanding of indigenous phenomena and that outsiders can have only a limited understanding. Although a person who has been born and raised in a particular community may have insights and understanding of indigenous phenomena, this may not be true in all instances. An outsider with an external point of view can call to attention what is assumed to be natural, but is actually cultural. Although an outsider may have a superficial understanding of indigenous phenomena found in other cultures, he or she may point out peculiarities, inconsistencies, and blind spots that insiders may have overlooked. Both internal and external points of view are necessary in providing a comprehensive and integrated understanding of psychological phenomena.

Also, with globalization many scholars from non-Western countries receive their training in the West. Although most psychologists continued to replicate Western theories (Sinha, 1997), the most vocal criticism comes from psychologists who have been trained in the West and have worked to establish psychology in their own country (e.g., Hiroshi Azuma in Japan, Sang-Chin Choi in South Korea, Rogélio Díaz-Guerrero in Mexico, Michael Durojaiye in Nigeria, Virgilio Enriquez and Alfred Lagmay of the Philippines, David Ho in Hong Kong, Bame Nsamenang in Cameroon, José Miguel Salazar in Venezuela, Durganand Sinha and Jai B. P. Sinha in India, and Kuo-Shu Yang and Kwang-Kuo Hwang in Taiwan) Bicultural psychologists, who have insights from two or more cultures, can point out bias in psychological research and contribute to the development of a truly universal psychology (Ho, 1995).

Fifth, many indigenous psychologists search philosophical and religious texts for explanations of indigenous phenomena. Too often, they use philosophical treatises (e.g., the Confucian classics) or religious text (e.g., the Koran or Vedas) as an explanation of psychological phenomena. We need to distinguish indigenous philosophies and religions from indigenous psychology. Philosophical and religious texts were developed for specific purposes several thousand years ago. In order to utilize these texts, we must first translate these philosophical or religious ideas into psychological concepts and empirically verify their validity. We cannot assume that, because a person is Chinese, he or she will necessarily live by Confucian values or that Hindu Dharma can explain the behavior of an individual because he or she is Indian. Psychologists have used these texts to develop psychological concepts (Paranjpe, 1998), but these analyses are more appropriately viewed as speculative philosophy and have yet to be supported by empirical evidence.

Sixth, as with other scientific traditions, one of the goals of indigenous psychology is the discovery of universal facts, principles, and laws. Psychological universals, however, must be theoretically and empirically verified, rather than assumed a priori.

Seventh, indigenous psychology represents a transactional scientific paradigm in which individuals are viewed as agents of their own action and collective agents through their culture (Bandura, 1997; Harré, 1999; Kim, 2000; Kim & Berry, 1993). In human sciences, we are both the subject and the object of investigation, and we communicate our understanding to other people. Although the objective, third person viewpoint is necessary in psychology, it is not sufficient. We need to supplement it with a first-person perspective (i.e., incorporating agency, meaning, and intention; (Bandura, 1997) and a second-person analysis (e.g., discourse analysis; (Harré, 1999). We need to derive an integrated understanding of first-person, second-person, and third-person perspectives in order to construct a complete picture of human functioning. Research is a creative and generative enterprise in search of a probabilistic understanding of human action, rather than a deterministic search for objective knowledge (Bandura, 1997). Research topics and stimuli must be meaningful and contextualized.

Eighth, psychologists have criticized indigenous psychologies for accumulating idiosyncratic data, fragmentation, reverse ethnocentrism, and moving against the trend of globalization (Hermans & Kempen, 1998; Ho, Peng, Lai, & Chan, 2001; Triandis, 2000). Speculative analysis of indigenous concepts has been presented as a prime example of indigenous psychology. The concepts of amae in Japan (indulgent dependence; Doi, 1973) and kapwa in the Philippines (shared identity with other; Enriquez, 1993) have been introduced. It is difficult to evaluate the scientific merit of these indigenous concepts since very little empirical evidence exists to support the anecdotal accounts of how they operate. This has been among the main criticisms of indigenous psychology.

The Japanese concept of amae has been a focus of international attention; it was first described by Doi (1973). Yamaguchi and Ariizumi (2006) pointed out that both Japanese and U.S. scholars have erroneously interpreted the concept of amae as an example of dependence (Doi, 1973; Johnson, 1993; Rothbaum, Weisz, Pott, Miyake, & Morelli, 2000). This assertion was made without a clear definition of amae or empirical evidence to support the underlying assumption. Kim and Yamaguchi (1995) administered an open-ended questionnaire to 841 respondents living in various parts of Japan (237 middle-school students, 224 high-school students, 243 university students, and 137 adults) to explore various facets of amae. The results indicated that amae involves an exchange between two people: one person who requests a specific favor and another person who grants the request. Amae occurs in close relationships, and the special request, which is often demanding and unreasonable, is granted because of the close relationship.

Yamaguchi and Ariizumi (2006) conducted a series of experiments to analyze different facets of amae. They defined amae as the “presumed acceptance of one’s inappropriate behavior or request” (pp. 164–165). They developed scenarios containing instances of amae and carried out studies with a sample of Japanese, U.S. and Taiwanese students. They found that respondents engage in amae in order to obtain a desired goal through the help of a powerful other (i.e., proxy control) as well as to affirm the close relationship. They found that the U.S. and Taiwanese respondents were more likely than Japanese respondents to engage in amae. They concluded that although amae is an indigenous Japanese concept, the psychological features of amae can be found in other cultures. Thus, a series of empirical studies have helped to clarify the confusion that was initially created by Japanese and U.S. scholars. These studies outline key features of amae, which could potentially challenge some of the precepts of attachment theory (Yamaguchi & Ariizumi, 2006).

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