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EMIC & ETIC CONCEPTS

The IB Syllabus Says: Using one or more examples, explain emic and etic concepts.

Etics and emics are abstract concepts that are useful to researchers. Etics are universal behaviors Examples of etics are marriage, concepts of intelligence, time, the education of children, and stress. Emics are culture-specific behaviors Examples of emics are specific definitions of marriage and intelligence, what is valued in educating children, and how stress is experienced. Researchers often approach a cross-cultural study with a mistaken etic description of a concept in mind, such as a Western view of depression. The behaviors defining the category unipolar depression are useful to the researcher but may be different from emic descriptions of depression within another culture. If paying attention researchers quickly realize that the original etic description really does not apply and must collect data on the emic description to avoid ethnocentrism. Emic descriptions may include the word depression but can be used quite differently. An interview study about etics/emics and depression Tahassum et al (2000) conducted an interview study and aimed to answer this question: What are the emics (culturally specific) and etics (culturally universal) aspects of depression? based on research from the UK pakistani community.. The procedure they used was interviews, and they compared emic definitions of depressive symptoms from Pakistanis living in the United Kingdom, with the existing predominant etic descriptions used by Western psychiatrists treating them. The sample consisted of First- and second -generation Pakistani men & women were participants. All lived in a poor U.K. urban setting. It was hard to get a sample.

The interviews were all conducted in family groups because males typically would not allow females to meet with the researchers alone. 79 participants took par, 22 males and 57 females. Interviews took place in participants homes in English, Urdu, Punjabi, or a combination of the languages. Only seven families allowed the researchers to record the interviews, creating transcription difficulties, when recording was not possible, researchers took detailed notes and categorized responses immediately after the interview. The interviews contained 21 questions: - Topics included the perception of causes for mental disorder, help seeking behavior, family perception and reaction to mental disorder, and the community status of people with mental disorder, - The researchers experienced some difficulties translating the questions because Western symptoms did not always directly translate and the Pakistani culture had some different ways of conceptualizing mental disorder. The findings were reported as percentages. They showed an etic (culturally universal) description of mental disorder centering on physical symptoms. The participants were fairly knowledgeable about Western mental health explanations of depression However, 63% viewed aggression as a main symptom of abnormality. Pakistani culture is collectivist and emphasizes politeness in social behavior, so aggressive displays are viewed as abnormal more so than anxious or depressed symptoms. So in the Pakistani community aggression is an emic (culturally specific) symptom of depression However, many of the other identified causes of mental disorder were similar to those from Western explanations, with 63% emphasizing stress as a primary factor. Stress is an etic (culturally universal), though there are emic (culturally specific) features of how the Pakistani display stress. Some participants used the terms anxiety and depression but the words in Urdu had different meanings from Western descriptions. 25% percent of the participants attributed mental disorders to supernatural causes and 35% believed in faith healers (emic/ culturally specific explanation)

Most males thought a doctor should be consulted for treatment. Fewer females identified a doctor as the first person to consult, but there may be cultural barriers to women getting help from doctors. These difficulties include language barriers, the fact that many doctors are males, and that many Muslim women have difficulty with hospitalization because of the purdah. One prevalent attitude was that families should cope with mental health problems. Hospitalization was a last resort. (Pakistani community emic treatment in the family) Participants were reluctant to discuss intimate family matters with the researchers, even at times saying they did not know someone first hand with a mental disorder, contradicting previous statements that they did. Pakistanis may fear the stigma associated with mental disorder.

In conclusion, The study successfully identified barriers that women face in getting mental health services. In addition, differences between emic (culturally specific) and etic (culturally universal) aspects of depression were uncovered. In evaluation, western research models where individuals respond to interview questions are not always the best way to collect data in collectivist cultures. In addition, the interviewer was known to be a doctor, so social desirability possibly interfered with the responses. The study raised some important questions: -Do doctors have enough information about cross-cultural views of abnormality? -How can we collect data to accurately identify another cultures views? John Berrys comments about using etics and emics properly in research John Berry (1969) was the first to apply etics and emics to cultural research in psychology. It was Berry (1967) used a variation of Aschs conformity paradigm and found that the Temne people of Sierra Leone conformed significantly more than the Inuit people of Canada. Studying etics and emics are different ways to gather data about culture. The danger is that many Psychologists adopt the universal man assumption We are all the same culture does not influence our behaviour. Smith & Bond (1998) found that Psychology is Ethnocentric (western centred) they reviewed textbooks and found that only 10% of the

world is sampled in psychological research. Cultural relativists believe culture is important vs. absolutists believe that our biology most important in determining our behavior. The emic approach looks at behaviors that are culturally specific. Emics have challenged psychologists to re-examine their ideas of truth with regard to culture. In most cases, truth may be relative, based on the culture in which one is raised. In that case, it is important for psychologists to recognize these cultural variations in order to best understand members of other cultural groups. Psychologists studying culture must avoid imposed etic where they presume a behaviour to be universal but in fact it is culture specific. Here are some examples of which show why it is important to avoid imposed etic: 1)Cole & Scribner (1974) found that Liberian children who did not go to school did not categorize words into groups order help them recall them. 2)Rogoff and Waddel (1982) found that Mayan childrens memory is superior to Americans when information is presented in the form of a diorama. 3)Glick (1971) wanted to measure intelligence in the Kpelle tribe, and asked participants to sort twenty objects into groups. They did this using functional grouping (knife with orange, potato with hoe). The experimenter was expecting normal category sorting (knife, hoe, potato, orange) and when challenged the that was how the wise man would do it. When asked how a fool would do it they sorted the objects into the categories the experimenter was originally looking for. The problems of imposed etic can be overcome by make sure there is: Translation equivalence: In order to ensure that this back translation is used- the measure that is being used is translated into target language and then a second person translates it back to English). If the two English versions are similar it is assumed that the initial translation is adequate. Conceptual equivalence: This begins by identifying the etic (culturally universal) and this is followed by a further identification of the emic aspects relative to the particular culture. E.g. IQ is the etic, and the emic for western countries will be mental quickness whereas for Ugandans it would be slow, careful, deliberate thought for the Baganda people of Uganda. Researchers must recognise these distinctions when carrying out their research.