Cross‐cultural research can make contributions to theory development by identifying groups of people who seem not to behave according to established theories and by increasing the range of independent variables available for study in any one culture. A major methodological orientation to such studies, developed over the last 10 years, is the emic‐etic distinction. An emic analysis documents valid principles that describe behavior in any one culture, taking into account what the people themselves value as meaningful and important. The goal of an etic analysis is to make generalizations across cultures that take into account all human behavior. Examples of these approaches are given from studies on ingroup‐outgroup relations in Greece and the United States; and studies on the need for achievement and its relation to the need for affiliation. A specific method to document emic and etic principles is presented which involves the development of core items to measure concerns in all cultures under study, and culture‐specific items which are designed to measure concerns in one culture that may not be appropriate for all cultures under study. The techniques of back‐translation and decentering are related to the emic‐etic approach, as are the techniques developed by Triandis which involve the development of research instruments within each culture and the use of factor analysis. The most general approach, applicable to all comparative studies, is the plausible rival hypothesis analysis which forces the research to examine each and every potential explanation for any data set. The suggestion is made that the future of cross‐cultural research will depend on its contribution to theory in general psychology, and methods (such as those presented here) will only be a means to the major goal of discovering important, central facts about human behavior.
International Journal of Psychology – Wiley
Published: Oct 1, 1976
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