Two Views of Culture

An etic perspective refers to a psychological construct or process that is universal, or true across all cultures. An etic perspective is closely associated with cross-cultural psychology. Remember our earlier example of child development and Piaget, an etic perspective seeks to compare development stages across cultures for similarities.

Cultural universals are psychological processes that exist in every human culture and includes attributes such as values and modes of behavior. These are often the areas of focus and study in psychology. Some examples of cultural universals in psychology are:

  • Language and cognition
  • Group membership
  • Ritual
  • Emotions

The idea that specific aspects of culture are common to all human cultures is contrary to the emic perspective which focuses on cultural differences and culturally specific processes that shape thinking and behavior. Research using an emic perspective is often considered to be an ‘insider’s’ perspective but can be biased if the participant or researcher is a member of the culture they are studying. A participant-researcher may fail to consider how the culture and cultural practices might be perceived by others and valuable information might be left out.

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Culture and Psychology by L D Worthy; T Lavigne; and F Romero is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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