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Triandis_1996_article - The Psychological Measurement of...

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The Psychological Measurement of Cultural Syndromes Harry C. Triandis University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign An examination of a range of definitions of culture indi- cates that almost all researchers agree that culture is re- flected in shared cognitions, standard operating proce- dures, and unexamined assumptions. Cultural syndromes consist of shared attitudes, beliefs, norms, role and self definitions, and values of members of each culture that are organized around a theme. Two methods of measure- ment of syndromes that allow the examination of the con- vergence of the data from each method in each culture are (a) the identification of questionnaire items to which an arbitrary 90% of each sample responds on the same side of the neutral point and (b) the identification of items to which an arbitrary 90% of triads--consisting of members of each culture--agree among themselves in fewer than 60 seconds on the appropriate response to the item. The shorter the time to reach agreement, the more likely it is that the item is an element of culture. Examples of these approaches are presented, and discussion focuses on how to obtain good descriptions of cultures through psycho- logical methods. Almost all the theories data contemporary and of psychology come from Western populations (e.g., Europeans, North Americans, Australians, etc.). Yet about 70% of humans live in non-Western cultures (Triandis, 1995). If psychology is to become a universal discipline it will need both theories and data from the majority of humans. In recent years, psychologists who were raised in non-Western traditions such as Hui, Kim, Kitayama, Leung, Setiadi, and others (see Triandis, 1995, for references to their work) have supplied such data. Their work has suggested that each culture may have, at least to some extent, its own psychology. These indigenous psychologies (Kim & Berry, 1993) are both similar and different from contemporary psychology. Contemporary psychology is best conceived as a Western indigenous psychology that is a special case of the universal psy- chology we as contemporary psychologists would like to develop. When the indigenous psychologies are incor- porated into a universal framework, we will have a uni- versal psychology. To bridge the gap between contemporary psychology and many of the indigenous psychologies, we need con- structs that will indicate how a phenomenon found in contemporary psychology is modified in indigenous psy- chologies. This article proposes that cultural syndromes (Triandis, 1993, 1995) are such constructs. Cultural syn- dromes are conceived as dimensions of cultural variation that can be used as parameters of psychological theories. That is, if a population is high on a given dimension of cultural variation, the theory will take one form; if the population is low on that dimension, the theory might take a somewhat different form (e.g., Kitayama, Markus, & Lieberman, 1995; Kitayama, Markus, & Matsumoto, 1995). In that way, the current psychological theories will become special cases of the universal theories.
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