Monday, February 9, 2009

Cultural context and its implication for methodology

Cross-cultural psychology attends to broad ranges of situation drawn from a cross-section of cultures. The need to study behavior in more naturalistic contexts has been emphasized. This figure represents four relationships between environmental contexts and behavioral outcomes. Toward the top of the model are natural and holistic contexts and outcomes, while at the bottom are more experimental (controlled and reductionistic) (p. 228).

The ecological context is the “natural-cultural habitat” (Brunswik, 1957) or the “preperceptual world” (Barker, 1969), which consists of all the relatively stable and permanent characteristics of the habitat that provide the context for human action and includes the population-level variables such as ecological context, the sociopolitical context, and the general cultural and biological adaptations made by the group. Nested in the ecological context are the experiential context, situational context, and the assessment context. Paralleling these four contexts are four behavioral outcomes: customs, repertoire, actions, and scores.

Many researchers argue that behavior in its full complexity can only be understood within the context of the culture in which it occurs. The emic approach (Segall et al., 1990), which studies behavior from within the system, attempts to look at phenomena and their interrelationships (structure) through the eyes of the people native to a particular culture. Cultural anthropology, or ethnography, provides the method of participant observation for the researcher to look at norms, values, motives, and customs through the eyes of the members of a particular community.

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