Cultural Considerations and Indigenous Personality

When measuring personality, we need to remember that when comparing traits across cultures we are using group averages. There are certainly differences in personality traits between cultural groups but there is still a lot variability that exists within a specific culture (McCrae et al., 2005). Individualist cultures and collectivist cultures place emphasis on different basic values. People who live in individualist cultures tend to believe that independence, competition, and personal achievement are important. Individuals in Western nations such as the United States, England, and Australia score high on individualism (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmier, 2002). People who live in collectivist cultures value social harmony, respectfulness, and group needs over individual needs. Individuals who live in countries in Asia, Africa, and South America score high on collectivism (Hofstede, 2001; Triandis, 1995). These values influence personality. For example, Yang (2006) found that people in individualist cultures displayed more personally oriented personality traits, whereas people in collectivist cultures displayed more socially oriented personality traits.

We also need to remember that people do not act consistently from one situation to the next and people are influenced by situational forces and culture. For example, individuals who score high on the Extraversion scale are likely to be outgoing and enjoy socializing but where, when and how they socialize will be influenced by culture (McCrae et al., 1998).

Indigenous Personality

Much of this chapter has been dedicated to the etic approach for understanding personality which posits that personality is innate, biological and universal but still acknowledges that culture plays an important in shaping personality by way of geography (environment), resources, and social supports.

Indigenous Personality is a perspective that suggests personality can only be understood and interpreted within the context of the culture. In this way personality is considered emic, meaning that it is culturally specific and can only understood within the culture from which it originates. This means that personality is not something that can be measured by a universal test.

The indigenous approach came about in reaction to the dominance of Western approaches to the study of personality in non-Western settings (Cheung et al., 2011). Because Western-based personality assessments cannot fully capture the personality constructs of other cultures, the indigenous model has led to the development of personality assessment instruments that are based on constructs relevant to the culture being studied (Cheung et al., 2011). Although there is debate within the indigenous psychology movement about whether indigenous psychology represents a more universalistic or a more relativistic approach (Chakkarath, 2012), most of these 10 characteristics are advocated by the majority of those in the indigenous psychology movement.


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