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Cultural Differences in Psychology: Indigenous Psychology

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 1934 words Published: 20th Apr 2018

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Bedia, Ben Joseph

People often attribute culture with cultural products such as the food they eat, the music they listen to, the dance that their body imitates and with psychological constructs such as beliefs, values, and norms. But in order to have a deeper understanding of culture, one should dig in to bodies of knowledge such as superstition, history, and language. In understanding culture, one should take an insider’s view who is capable of feeling, thinking, and identifying themselves as members of the culture. The creation and re- creation of culture is a continuous process and starts every time a child is born. With this, new patterns of relationships between the person and the environment develops and is also shared with others. Several units of the society such as tribes, clans, and families make strategies to cope and adapt with natural conditions that affects their livelihood and entire existence (Segall et al., 1990).

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Culture makes human beings unique from animals because without culture, people would not be able to think and behave the way they do. Humans are able to communicate with one another, make meaningful conversations, are able to manage their physical and social world, and more importantly, they make their own identity. All of these are because of culture. There are two approaches in understanding culture: understanding a culture from within and understanding a culture from without but I will only discuss about understanding a culture from within because the concern is to understand culture in the Filipino context.

Results of years of psychological research have been disappointing since data have been based with objective third- person analysis (Kim, 199; Koch & Leary, 1985). Two types of knowledge are identified in indigenous psychology. The first one are semantic, analytic, and declerative which is about information about impartial, objective analysis and the second one is about phenomenological, episodic, and procedural knowledge describes the subjective first- person experience. With these, it is really hard to understand culture because each person has each own approach and views. That is why scholars have developed Sikolohiyang Pilipino or Filipino Psychology.

According to Enriquez (1994a), Sikolohiyang Pilipino wants to explain Philippine realities putting into consideration distinct Filipino values, characteristics, and experiences which other psychological models fail to explain. Western methods and concepts are the ones being used in the education and practice of psychology in the Philippines and there applicability to the Filipino culture and society is being questioned by Filipino scholars. But the prevalence of western psychology is not only felt in the Philippines but as well as in other countries around the globe and this led to the development of indigenous psychology.

A characteristic that defines Sikolihiyang Pilipino is the use of Filipino language for research and writing. SP scholars have noted that the use of native languages are important sources in the construction of native constructs as it can reach a wider audience and can contribute to the development of national identity (Enriquez, 1994b; Enriquez & Marcelino, 1984; Javier, 1996; Rood, 1985; Salazar, 1982b, 1991; Sibayan, 1994). Research also shows that the language used in data collection reflects the identity and quality of the data (Church, Katigbak, & Castañeda, 1988; see Church, 1986, pp. 106–113, for a review).

Two types of indigenous psychologies were identified by Enriquez (1993). Indigenization from within and indigenization from without. Indigenization from within involves the development of methods, concepts, and theories within the Philippines while indigenization from without involves the transfer of western psychological methods, concepts, and theories and modify it to fit local culture. These types of psychologies aim to understand how people behave naturally and when they interact with the real world.

Several challenges have been encountered in the indigenization of psychology in the Philippines. One example is hybridization. Hybridization can be seen as a result of intercultural marriages as it results to the combination of existing beliefs and practices forming into new forms creating new identities. In other words, it is a transformation of existing culture into new ones (Pieterse, 1995; Rowe & Schelling, 1991). The stronger the hybridization, the greater the influence it has to the person and this has both negative and positive effects.

Another challenge is the one according to Wilkinson (1995). He states that is there is only on civilization and those who interact intensely, continuously, and significantly belong to one civilization even if it is a hostile interaction and their cultures are very dissimilar. These criterion were made by Wilkinson because according to him warfare, conflict, and even hostility when frequent creates a system for socialization composed by the antagonists and protagonists who cannot live in isolation.

Glocalization is an attempt to fuse the global and the local. One best example is micromarketing in which global brands are tailoring their products to fit in the local market through advertisements, In order for their products to sell, they should incorporate locality. For example, in selling a shampoo brand in the Philippines, international brands should have a sachet version of it because Filipinos love to use small versions of products as it make them save more money. The third challenge is cultural complexity in which again discusses the diversity of methods that culture is taught and understood. Technology had a big help with these. Dubbed as “machineries of meanings”, they enable personal communication even without the presence of one another (Hannerz,1992).

If I were to study Filipino culture in a psychological lens, I would take into view social class as culture. Social class divides the society into elements such as schools, forms of recreation, the neighbourhood they choose to live, and the choice of food to eat (Domhoff, 1998). A person’s everyday life is controlled by his or her social class and it is already becoming a cultural identity. Objective social class refers to wealth, social behaviours, and preferences and these signals other people on how to perceive us. Social class can also be seen in non- verbal behaviour such as head- nods and eye contact for the lower- class individuals and less eye contact and head- nods for upper- class individuals. When a person identifies himself into a social class, he or she also identifies himself into a hierarchy and hierarchies provide individuals access to privilege and resources.

A person’s social rank also affects his or her social cognition. For example, lower- class individual’s decisions are influenced by external factors such as their bosses, government policies etc. as compared to upper- class individuals where their lives are more individualistic in which they decide whatever decision they would like to make on their own. In other words, lower- class people just tend to follow what upper- class people tell them because they think that upper- class individuals know-it-all and they would not question that. A perfect example for me is our household helper. I noticed that whenever my mom tells her to do some errands, she just always say yes without having any questions. I later on concluded that maybe because she thinks that my mom is knowledgeable enough and that no further question should be asked.

Research has shown that individuals with low income blame educational opportunity as the reason for their poverty and wealth problems as opposed to upper- class individuals where they attribute their situation with their disposition.

Emotional empathy also differs with your social class. Kraus & Keltner (2009) noted that lower- class individuals are more engaged and reliant with others. Also, research indicates that having less makes a person more sensitive to others, interacts more, and is more emphatic leading to the theory that lower- class individuals are more prosocial. A study by Piff et al., (2010) found that individuals with lower socio- economic status gave more to charity than upper- class individuals.


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