SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies
  4. Exemplar Methods
  5. Participants as Experts
  6. Nomination Process
  7. Interview Protocol
  8. Use of Narrative
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Future Directions
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Biographies

This chapter specifically addresses how exemplar methods are especially relevant to examining cultural and contextual issues. Cross-cultural, cultural, and indigenous psychologies are discussed in order to highlight how studying actual exemplars in their unique and complex developmental contexts has the potential to identify themes that either differ between or hold constant across distinct peoples and cultures. The chapter addresses basic assumptions of exemplar research and specifics of the method that are sensitive to the incorporation of cultural and contextual influences. Suggestions are made as to how exemplarity research can be even more effective to explore development in a valid means across cultures and be more attentive and applicable to local cultures. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

One of the most acute challenges facing the field of developmental psychology today is finding means and methods of understanding how culture and context impact development (Arnett, 2008; Brown, Larson, & Saraswathi, 2002; Jensen, 2008, 2012). Although culture and context have long been recognized as seminal influences on development, currently the field's dominant methodologies emphasize nomothetic findings and universals across populations. Frequently used quantitative strategies restrict the depth and richness of investigation, and all too often do not allow for variation among diverse contexts to emerge. Exemplar methods, especially those that combine quantitative and qualitative approaches, have been demonstrated to be effective for discovering both nomothetic and idiographic findings (Bronk, King, & Matsuba, this volume; Colby & Damon, 1992; King, Clardy, & Ramos, 2013), providing opportunities for the particularities of cultural and contextual influences to be revealed. Although exemplar methods generally have been employed to investigate psychological constructs that are less understood (e.g., thriving, purpose, spirituality), this chapter addresses how exemplar strategies are especially relevant to examine cultural and contextual issues that influence development.

In order to highlight some of the potential opportunities and challenges of exemplar research, this chapter identifies some of the key challenges in the broader field of psychology that are specifically raised by the unique subfields of cross-cultural, cultural, and indigenous psychology and discusses them in light of exemplar research. Further, because personal and cultural narrative has been identified as being particularly relevant to addressing cultural issues (Shweder et al., 2006), this chapter discusses the particularly valuable role of participants’ narratives. Therefore, although exemplarity research has historically employed both quantitative and qualitative methods, this chapter refers primarily to the qualitative or case study approach to exemplar research. From this perspective, we then discuss some of the guiding assumptions of qualitative exemplar strategies with regard to understanding the participant in context.

In order to illustrate how cultural approaches are relevant to exemplar methods, we present and discuss a specific study on adolescent spiritual exemplars from around the world (King et al., 2013). The sample of 30 youth, ranging from 12 to 21 years old, was geographically and culturally diverse, with six exemplars from India, six from Kenya, six from the United Kingdom, six from the United States, four from Peru, and two from Jordan. The sample contained atheist, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim, Protestant, Jewish, Sikh, and one self-identified mixed-religion youth.

In addition to the youth spiritual exemplars, we offer examples from other exemplar studies that illustrate both the cultural considerations illuminated by exemplar research, as well as the ways in which such research may be made relevant when applied in various settings. We then discuss existing and potential challenges to current exemplar strategies that are evident in the literature. Finally, recommendations for further investigation and understanding of cultural and contextual influences using exemplar methods are offered.

Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies
  4. Exemplar Methods
  5. Participants as Experts
  6. Nomination Process
  7. Interview Protocol
  8. Use of Narrative
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Future Directions
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Biographies

Given the increased awareness of global diversity and its relevance to human development and functioning, psychologists have begun to question many long-held assumptions of the field. In his prominent article in the American Psychologist, Arnett (2008) challenges the premise that most human science studies may generalize to all human beings regardless of their sample's nationality and culture of origin. The massive diversity of living conditions—value systems, socioeconomics, education, ethnicity, and resources—throughout the world challenges the current field's tendency to generalize across cultures and developmental contexts. Similarly, Shweder et al. (2006) posit that studies on the development of the self have generally proceeded primarily from one cultural viewpoint and draw upon a set of untested assumptions about the self. Furthermore, Jensen (2012) has challenged the broader field of developmental psychology to bridge cultural and universal approaches in order to identify theoretical and methodological frameworks that are sensitive to cultural issues, just as she has done so effectively in the moral domain (Jensen, 2008). The fields of cross-cultural psychology, cultural psychology, and indigenous psychology have arisen, in part, to address such concerns (Allwood, 2011; Chirkov, Ryan, & Sheldon, 2011; Jensen, 2008; Kim, Yang, & Hwang, 2006; Shweder et al., 2006).

While each of these fields differs in its particular approach to psychological phenomena, they all draw upon theoretical frameworks and methodologies that are sensitive to issues of particularity in developmental processes and outcomes.1 All three fields have emerged as a response to the tendency in psychology to speak in terms of universal traits. In seeking to identify the possible cultural biases of psychological theories, cross-cultural psychology has historically emphasized the existence of universals, but has paid attention to assumptions and methods that enable researchers to understand how universal qualities are expressed differently across a variety of distinct settings. One example of such an approach can be found in cross-cultural positive psychology, which seeks to identify both psychological universals (e.g., well-being) and their diverse expression given culture-specific characteristics of various populations (e.g., collectivist vs. individualist goals). As such, cross-cultural psychological research design pays attention to the dialectic between universal human capacities and needs and specifically examines cultural influence on the expression and fulfillment of these needs (Chirkov et al., 2011). Nevertheless, the often controversial assumption of universal traits is foundational to this approach.

Although cross-cultural psychology represents a much-needed step forward for the field, other approaches have emphasized the shortcomings of the cross-cultural framework. Specifically, the fields of both cultural and indigenous psychology argue that researchers need to expand their understanding of cultural sensitivity beyond a search for universal tendencies and their potentially unique expressions in different cultural contexts (Cheung, van de Vijver, & Leong, 2011; Jensen, 2012; Shweder et al., 2006). They argue for a movement beyond treating cultural perspective as a form of bias, and therefore something to be eliminated from research procedures or controlled for in data analysis. Instead, their aim is to employ theory and methods that allow for cultural and contextual particularities to surface.

Thus, the question of cultural psychology is: How do cultural practices and mentalities shape who humans become, what they believe, and how they behave (Jensen, 2008; Shweder et al., 2006)? Cultural psychology aims to understand the psychologies of different people groups by means of culturally sensitive theories and methods. For developmental psychologists working within a cultural psychology framework, such context-specific distinctions might offer insight into the healthy development or treatment of children and adolescents from divergent contexts and cultures. From this perspective, cultural psychologists use ecologically sensitive theories and methods, and value the search for both cultural differences and cultural similarities (Jensen, 2012).

While both cultural and indigenous approaches to psychology are interested in intracultural particularities, indigenous psychology is unique insofar as it emerges exclusively within a specific culture and for that culture. As such, indigenous psychology is based on the philosophical assumptions and intellectual history of the specific culture. In contrast, cultural psychology often involves experts from one people group seeking a deeper understanding of the key beliefs and practices of another people group. Indigenous studies are led by local scholars and experts in the culture, and research is conducted among the indigenous population. It gives priority to the study of culturally unique psychological and behavioral phenomena or characteristics of the people. From an indigenous psychology perspective, culture is as much under scrutiny as the psychological phenomenon being studied; culture is inseparably bound up with psychological phenomenon. Thus, given that a fundamental premise of indigenous psychologies is that they are to be anchored in local culture, from an indigenous approach it is often to be expected that many unique indigenous psychologies will be developed around the globe (Poortinga, 1999).

Although cross-cultural, cultural, and indigenous psychologies all examine psychological phenomena and processes, they each have a different emphasis that stems from important philosophical assumptions and results in different methodologies. One distinguishing ontological issue is how the field's assumptions about universality guides the theories and methods used for inquiry in each approach. At the risk of oversimplifying these important fields, one could say that cross-cultural psychology examines psychological differences between cultures, cultural psychology emphasizes psychological diversity within another culture, and indigenous psychology emphasizes the exploration of psychological phenomena by a culture. While all are sensitive to cultural differences, each holds different implications for exemplar methods.

Exemplar Methods

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies
  4. Exemplar Methods
  5. Participants as Experts
  6. Nomination Process
  7. Interview Protocol
  8. Use of Narrative
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Future Directions
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Biographies

Although often intended to examine an aspect of human development that is recognized across different peoples, exemplar methods allow for cultural and contextual issues to emerge in the data. Exemplar methods explicitly examine a specific construct in actual lives of individuals who exhibit it in an intense and highly developed manner. Studying the lives of exemplar participants reveals what the development of the construct looks like (Bronk, 2012). Qualitative case study exemplar methods consider youth in their unique and complex developmental contexts. In this way, exemplar methods provide a “real world” look at development of a given trait. As described in the introduction to this volume, whereas other methods, such as purely quantitative approaches, may strip away potentially “muddling” influences of experience, context, and confounding variables, the exemplar approach does not (Bronk et al., this volume). As a result of focusing on lived experience, qualitative exemplar methodologies, in particular, may provide insight into characteristics and processes related to the phenomenon under investigation that are hard to capture through other methods, allowing researchers to distinguish what is nomothetic, differential, and idiographic—and therefore potentially contextually salient. The following section addresses some of the basic assumptions of exemplar research and specifics of the method that are sensitive to the incorporation of cultural and contextual influences. At every step of the research design, cultural and contextual variation may be taken into consideration.

Participants as Experts

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies
  4. Exemplar Methods
  5. Participants as Experts
  6. Nomination Process
  7. Interview Protocol
  8. Use of Narrative
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Future Directions
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Biographies

Consistent with the various cultural psychologies, exemplar methods take seriously the meanings and interpretations of the participants. Most qualitative exemplar methods explore lesser-understood and multifaceted domains of development by specifically engaging the exemplar-participant as a collaborator in investigation, allowing the participant to bring his or her cultural ideology and experiences to the data. This is done, in large part, through interviews designed to evoke reflection by asking exemplars to narrate, interpret, and share their opinions on particular experiences from their own lives. In doing so, such interviews enable participants to express their own interpretations of the meaning of their actions, commitments, and ideals. Indeed, when compared with standardized questionnaires, these types of in-depth, semi-structured interviews allow for “thicker” data that have the capacity to reveal the complexity of exemplars’ experiences and interpretations of self and meaning (Reimer, Dueck, Adelchanow, & Muto, 2009). This aim is consistent with all three forms of cultural psychologies. Because participants are nominated for exemplifying the construct under investigation, they are viewed as “experts,” and their unique stories, experiences, and interpretations are taken seriously. Their expertise in the area of study and high levels of self-awareness make their own representations and interpretations an invaluable resource in the exploration (Colby & Damon, 1992).

It is important to note that although exemplar participants are viewed as experts in the phenomenon under examination, the method promotes a dialectic between data and existing literature, and between participant and researcher. Indeed, it is critical to recognize that although the participant might be a “procedural expert” (i.e., I do something well), this does not necessarily make them a “declarative expert” (i.e., I can explain what I am doing, why I do it, and how I do it). Existing research suggests that at times what is happening with moral exemplars is implicit, procedural, automatic, and nonconscious (Haidt, 2001). Consequently, a method that allows for in-depth interaction between existing theory, participant input, and researchers’ insight is critical to maximizing understanding of the expression and development of the construct under investigation.

Nomination Process

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies
  4. Exemplar Methods
  5. Participants as Experts
  6. Nomination Process
  7. Interview Protocol
  8. Use of Narrative
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Future Directions
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Biographies

Given the expert status of the participants in exemplar methodology, selection procedures are seminal to the methodology and are an important opportunity for cultural considerations. As presented previously in this volume, exemplar methodologies use a form of nomination criteria for selection of participants. Criteria are usually developed through a systematic and rigorous process based on theory, literature, and recognized experts in the field of the domain (see Colby & Damon, 1992; Hart & Fegley, 1995; Reimer et al., 2009). Although theory or existing definitions may inform initial criteria, iterative processes are then used, in which various diverse and (hopefully) culturally informed experts revise and refine criteria in order to maximize cultural sensitivity. Bronk (2012) points out that, ideally, nomination criteria should be made as concrete as possible, being both narrow enough to be descriptive of a “highly developed” group of individuals who manifest the construct under investigation and simultaneously broad enough to capture a range of characteristics and experiences within the exemplary sample.

The issue of nomination criteria is addressed differently from cross-cultural, cultural, and indigenous psychologies. Like traditional psychology, cross-cultural positive psychology would utilize nomination criteria designed to solicit individuals who possess a potentially universal trait or who embody a potentially universal psychological phenomenon. As such, cross-cultural psychologists begin with broad criteria capable of “catching” a range of behaviors in different cultures or adjust the criteria in particular settings in order to allow for the nomination of exemplars who manifest the construct differently in different cultures. In contrast, from the perspective of cultural psychology, the criteria for nomination are initially created taking the ideology, practices, and norms of different culture(s) into account, with the intention of yielding a sample representative of the variability of the phenomenon within a culture. In both cross-cultural and cultural psychology, experts on or from the culture may have input on the nomination criteria in order to be sensitive to cultural nuances. On the other hand, in an indigenous psychology research design, the nomination criteria could be devised by local experts and based on local ideology and practices with the intent to solicit a sample that highlights the unique values and behaviors of that culture. As such, indigenous psychologists would likely be minimally concerned with creating nomination criteria that could generalize across cultures. Instead, the validity of such criteria within the culture becomes paramount.

The adolescent spiritual exemplar study (considered a hybrid of the cultural and cross-cultural approaches) highlights how nomination criteria may take cultural issues into consideration (King et al., 2013). For instance, the construction of nomination criteria involved social scientists, theologians, clergy, and youth practitioners from different countries and diverse spiritual traditions, who provided four iterations of feedback on the criteria. In addition, the study employed a local researcher in each country where data was collected to ensure that local religious and cultural issues were included in the nomination criteria. This iterative process was designed to minimize the potential impact of Western, American, and Christian intellectual and religious biases into the definition of exemplary spirituality.

In addition to the content of nomination criteria, nominators themselves also contribute to the contextualization of the criteria. Specifically, the use of individual nominators in exemplar research influences the interpretation of the criteria in local settings. So although criteria may be based on theory or a normative understanding of the topic, indigenous nominators interpret the criteria for themselves when making their selections of potential participants and thereby infuse the data with cultural and contextual variability. For example, in the spiritual exemplar study, most nominators identified young people who practiced a religion as an expression of their spirituality. However, one nominator from Northern Ireland nominated an atheist as a spiritual exemplar. This boy's family had experienced much violence and loss in the name of religion. The political-religious climate in which he was raised greatly impacted his experience of spirituality. The case of this boy demonstrates how researchers influence the study by their selection of the nominators, and must take into consideration the diversity of their nominators.

Typically, researchers select informed nominators, who although not scholars, are expert practitioners who have a clear understanding of how the nomination criteria are manifested in real lives in their context (see Bronk et al., this volume). By using local, lay people as nominators, investigators hope to elicit a local, context-specific interpretation of the nomination criteria, in order to increase the construct validity of the exemplar nominations in each culture being studied. The importance of nominator choice is evident in a study by Oakes Mueller, Sando, and Furrow (2010), who found that the same nomination criteria solicited significantly different “caring exemplars” when used by nominators from varying organizational contexts within the same city. Specifically, although all nominators were asked to identify adolescents who had demonstrated particular, concrete acts of caring, youth nominated through schools reported significantly different values than youth nominated through community-based organizations. Specifically, teacher-nominated exemplars reported stronger endorsement of academically oriented personal values such as conformity and achievement (Schwartz, 1996), suggesting teachers may have included academic responsibility in their understanding of “care.”

Selection of nominators varies between the different cultural approaches. Cross-cultural psychologists would select individuals that understand the potential universality of the construct, but are sensitive to its potential unique manifestations in different cultures. In contrast, cultural psychologists would select nominators that are sensitive to the diversity of cultural ideologies of the sample. Such nominators would be attentive to and have intimate knowledge of the culturally specific expressions of values, beliefs, and behaviors relevant to the construct under scrutiny. In an indigenous study, both researchers and nominators would be native to the culture and have a deep understanding of the beliefs and meaning systems of the culture. It is important to note that after nominations are completed, researchers again can influence the cultural variation and depth of understanding by using practical criteria to select the final sample from the nomination pool to ensure cultural diversity. Researchers often use demographics to select a sample balanced with gender, age, income, ethnicity, religion, and other demographic variables.

For example, in the spiritual exemplar study (King et al., 2013), scholars and expert practitioners from multiple different religious and spiritual traditions were recruited as nominators. Specifically, of the 17 nominators, six countries were represented, and nine spiritual/religious traditions were represented. In addition, in order to increase the diversity of their sample and, thereby, sensitivity to within- and between-culture variations, researchers oversampled U.S. exemplars from Buddhist, Jewish, and Muslim communities.

Interview Protocol

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies
  4. Exemplar Methods
  5. Participants as Experts
  6. Nomination Process
  7. Interview Protocol
  8. Use of Narrative
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Future Directions
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Biographies

In addition to sample selection, data collection also provides many opportunities for contextual and cultural influences. An interview itself is a cultural construct, and the format of the interview (e.g., one-to-one, collective) is a cultural concern. For example, the development of the interview protocol involves many of the same issues as the development of the nomination criteria. So from a cross-cultural or cultural psychology perspective, although often initially based on existing theory, the protocol will be refined by different cultural experts, adding probes sensitive to issues of meaning and interpretation. This will allow the protocol to either (a) reveal cultural-specific characteristics of a psychological universal (as is the intention of cross-cultural psychology) or (b) yield findings that describe the variation within a given culture (as is the aim of cultural psychology). For example, within the adolescent spiritual exemplar study, the local research consultant in India pointed out the importance of asking about spirituality in the context of the family and not just as an individual experience (King et al., 2013). Within an indigenous design, the protocol would be created expressly by locals and based on local theory, ideology, and literature so as to better reveal particularities of the culture.

Again, in order to be relevant in the different religious and cultural contexts, the protocol used in the spiritual exemplar study underwent 11 iterations of feedback from scholars and practitioners from different academic disciplines, religious traditions, and cultures (King et al., 2013). In addition, the local research coordinators reviewed and modified questions when necessary in order to elicit cultural nuances in each setting. The interview protocol was also pilot tested on subjects from various religious traditions and ages in order to give feedback regarding cultural and religious relevance. Some of the modifications of the content of the protocol included the importance of asking about a young person's sense of self-concept from their own perspective, as well as the perspective of others. Expert input also raised the issue of probes that were sensitive to potentially pertinent settings within a young person's ecology that may not be as obvious from a Western perspective, such as grandparents or even ancestors. In addition, local researchers gave guidance on appropriate behaviors and dress for interviews.

Use of Narrative

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies
  4. Exemplar Methods
  5. Participants as Experts
  6. Nomination Process
  7. Interview Protocol
  8. Use of Narrative
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Future Directions
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Biographies

Although mixed methods are often used in exemplar research, the richest descriptions of exemplary lives typically result from semi-structured clinical interviews (Colby & Damon, 1992; Piaget, 1929). Narratives gained through interviews allow for “thick” data and unique interview experiences with enough structure to explore common themes across interviews, while simultaneously retaining enough flexibility to identify unique characteristics and experiences that highlight sources of cultural and contextual influence (see Colby & Damon, this volume; Reimer et al., 2009). Indeed, the solicitation of narrative is a methodological tool often used in cross-cultural, cultural, and indigenous approaches to data gathering. It provides a means of capturing the reality of participants’ psychological lives, while allowing for the emergence of specific individual and cultural meanings and values. Specifically, Shweder et al. (2006) identify narrative as a cultural universal, and one of the most powerful interpretive tools that humans possess for organizing, interpreting, and valuing human experience and behavior. Narrative data allows researchers to distinguish between universal human capacities and needs, culture-specific characteristics or expressions of these universals, and entirely unique cultural phenomena (Chirkov et al., 2011).

In addition, interviews are generally conducted in person and administered in the participant's indigenous context, allowing for researchers to get to know participants’ environments and make contextual observations about personal meanings. It is noted that the emphasis on participants’ meanings and interpretations of their experiences and life are only as good as the protocol allows and the clinical skills of the interviewer. Thus, protocol development and training of the interviewer cannot be underestimated. While indigenous studies would involve local interviewers, cross-cultural and cultural psychologists might utilize culturally astute interviewers from another culture.

Although many exemplar studies are based on the assumption of the existence of universal qualities (see Walker, this volume), some studies approximate an indigenous approach. When examining a specific psychological phenomenon, indigenous researchers investigate both the specific content and the involved processes of the phenomenon. Such research begins with a thorough immersion into the natural, concrete details of the phenomenon under exploration (Kim et al., 2006). Essentially, this is the intention of exemplar strategies—for the researcher to immerse him- or herself in the life, perspectives, and opinions of the exemplar. For example, Walker and Hennig's (2004) study of Canadian heroes was an exemplar study designed by Canadians, using national Canadian awards as nomination criteria, data gathering, and analysis by Canadians (see also Walker, this volume, for further discussion).

Data Analysis

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies
  4. Exemplar Methods
  5. Participants as Experts
  6. Nomination Process
  7. Interview Protocol
  8. Use of Narrative
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Future Directions
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Biographies

Although exemplar methods are defined more by participant selection and sample than by analysis, data analysis allows for opportunities for cultural and contextual input. Although the depth and complexity of data common among qualitative exemplar studies makes comparisons between samples challenging, common themes across exemplars may be identified. For example, three common themes of spirituality, specifically transcendence, fidelity, and action, emerged from the analysis of the adolescent spiritual exemplars (King et al., 2013).

From a cross-cultural perspective, qualitative or quantitative findings may be compared between cultures by using culture or context as a predictor variable to highlight cultural distinctions and particularities. Nevertheless, such researchers remain vigilant to context-specific meanings in their interpretations of findings. For example, transcendence was experienced between the individual and God or Allah in Christianity and Islam, respectively. However, transcendence was more often reported to be apparent in communal experiences among family members or faith community for the Jewish and Hindu youth.

From a cultural psychology perspective, analysis would include culturally relevant predictor variables that differ within the local population, so as to uncover the diversity of the expression of a psychological phenomenon within a culture (Shweder et al., 2006). Within indigenous psychology, analysis would be conducted by locals who are familiar with the meanings of the culture; ideally, empirical findings would be distributed and reviewed by different members of the culture to ensure that the various meanings and interpretations of the culture were accounted for in the data gathering and analysis. Although not a purely indigenous design, findings from the spiritual exemplar study illustrate this point. From a Western positive youth development perspective, we anticipated volunteer service as relevant to youth spirituality; however, cultural norms greatly informed how spirituality was enacted in different contexts. Specifically, in more industrialized contexts, exemplars described engaging in service to the poor. For example, American and British exemplars often participated in “mission” trips to developing nations where they assisted locals in various ways. In less industrialized contexts, however, the exemplars served through leading worship or teaching younger children within their mosque or church (King et al., 2013).

In summary, the complex and arduous methods that comprise exemplar research—especially qualitative exemplar research—allow for complex data that may facilitate the identification of themes that either differ between or hold constant across distinct peoples and cultures. Whether the investigator is more concerned with commonalities or particularities, exemplar research may be adapted to maximize the inclusion of culture and context. The findings are usually descriptive in nature, and may both highlight cultural issues and generate hypotheses to be further tested or explored in more diverse or specific samples.

Future Directions

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies
  4. Exemplar Methods
  5. Participants as Experts
  6. Nomination Process
  7. Interview Protocol
  8. Use of Narrative
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Future Directions
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Biographies

Although, for the most part, existing exemplar studies have focused primarily on highly developed psychological characteristics, and to a lesser extent culture, exemplar methods are well poised to explore development in a valid means across cultures and be more attentive and applicable to local cultures. Even so, some modifications of typical exemplar strategies could significantly enhance the cross-cultural sensitivity and applicability of their findings. An interdisciplinary approach that considers the perspectives of cross-cultural, cultural, and/or indigenous psychologies gives specific direction for deliberate cultural and contextual inquiry. Indeed, while some studies are explicitly designed to explore and examine cultural issues (King et al., 2013; Reimer et al., 2009), the identification of culture-specific expressions is secondary, at best. The following discussion addresses specific methodological recommendations for exemplarity research of both types, with an aim to increasing their sensitivity to issues of culture and context.

Exemplar researchers will better understand developmental-cultural issues when methods allow for the consideration of an individual's reciprocal interactions with his or her environment. Currently, qualitative exemplar methods consider the lives of actual individuals in the complexity of their developmental contexts. In-depth inquiry naturally facilitates developmental psychologists’ aim at revealing the “person-context” interaction (Lerner, 2006), the “dialectical synthesis” (Valsiner, 2011), or “transactional events” (Rogoff, 1990). Narratives, as well as other potential qualitative or quantitative sources of data, illuminate the complexities of the bidirectional influences between the developing person and their peers, families, culture, faith, and so forth. Not only do qualitative exemplar methods allow for social and macrocultural issues to be considered, but they also allow for historical trends relevant to exemplarity to be included in analysis (see Colby & Damon, 1992, this volume). Furthermore, given the “thick” narrative data common to exemplarity research, these methods allow for the emergence in analysis of less familiar systems of development than those typically assumed by dominating Western theories.

In addition, exemplar methods maximize their understanding of developmental-cultural issues when methods include the analysis of developmental trajectories across the lifespan. The field of developmental psychology would benefit from exemplarity research that not only focuses on the characteristics or nature of a psychological phenomenon (e.g., spirituality, thriving), but also on the different developmental trajectories across and within cultures that lead to them. In other words, research is needed that not only reveals what is embodied in these exemplary lives, but also how it came to be the case. For example, researchers might ask: What influences in childhood and adolescence occurred, and how do such influences differentially affect exemplars from different contexts? Or what culture-specific personal experiences shaped their ability to exemplify the quality?

The inclusion of different-aged exemplars and/or longitudinal data would enable researchers to better answer such questions. Specifically, Jensen (2012) suggested that analyzing the developmental trajectories of different cultures affords a window into the relative influences of nature and (cultural) nurture. She posits that children often represent a clearer test for universality, whereas adults represent a cleaner examination of cultural diversity. Specifically, because adults have had longer to become acculturated to the values and narratives of their community, they serve as a more adequate representation of larger cultural norms of their community. In contrast, because of their youth and their station in life, children are more malleable and less culturally socialized. Because of this, future exemplar studies would benefit from conducting parallel analyses of child, adolescent, adult, and later-life exemplars, as well as longitudinal exemplar studies. Both within and across cultures, such analyses could help to differentiate idiosyncratic qualities of individual exemplars both from universal qualities of exemplars and from culture-specific particularities and developmental achievements.

A further area for improvement involves the explicit acknowledgment of researchers’ guiding assumptions regarding the “goods” being exemplified in their participants. Specifically, because the focus of exemplarity research is on highly developed qualities or “end states,” the method raises teleological issues. All exemplar studies involve culturally circumscribed assumptions about exemplarity. For example, Walker and Hennig's (2004) study of bravery, courage, and compassion of national heroes in Canada studied a Canadian conception of hero. Bronk's (2008) study of youth purpose exemplars explored a sense of purpose in youth in the United States. King et al.'s (2013) study on youth spiritual exemplars attempted to study the commonalities and differences of youth in different cultures and faith traditions. However, each of these studies operated under different cultural teleological assumptions. Exemplar methods naturally allow for the acknowledgment of the role of culture in this way. In particular, the creation of nomination criteria and nomination procedures assume culturally preferred end states. Consequently, exemplar researchers must be explicit about their nomination strategies and recognize the cultural and contextual assumptions on which their studies are based. Do researchers take a normative or folk understanding of the construct under investigation (e.g., Maclean, Walker, & Matsuba, 2004; Reimer et al., 2009), in which lay people are assumed to be experts in nomination criteria? Or do they take an expert-scholar approach to identifying nomination guidelines (e.g., Colby & Damon, 1992; King et al., 2013)? Such assumptions must be explicitly stated so as to avoid either conflating such perspectives or unwittingly imposing one's own teleology on a culture.

Although the current literature calls for attention to less-Western psychological constructs such as interdependence (Jensen, 2012), it is important to remain open to different cultures’ developmental teleology—a culture's goals for development. Given that most existing developmental research is based on Western theories and their often-implicit assumptions regarding goals for human development, the field of developmental psychology would benefit from future studies that explicitly focus on exploring different cultures’ goals for development through careful and rigorous exemplar methods. Exemplar researchers need to be clear of their goals and aware of the cultural teleology they are examining.

No doubt, culture and context matter. Indeed, Oakes Mueller et al.'s (2010) finding that, despite the use of standardized nomination criteria, “care exemplars” nominated by teachers appeared to possess traits of “academic exemplars” should serve as a cautionary lesson. Such findings remind future researchers to heed the challenges of identifying effective nomination criteria, assessing the appropriateness and influence of the context in which nominations occur, and considering such complexities in their analysis and interpretation of findings. Specifically, while exemplar studies may inform observations of what is and speculation as to what may be, such findings do not necessarily offer a final validation of the specific “universal qualities” being investigated. Indeed, this is a point of cultural and indigenous psychologies, that although a certain characteristic may be manifested within a certain set of exemplars, we cannot know how common or prevalent these characteristics are among others without both investigating those from other contexts and importing particular teleological and epistemological assumptions.

In addition, Oakes Mueller et al. (2010) also raised the potential confounding issue of the “halo effect” (Thorndike, 1920), whereby an individual who is viewed favorably on one dimension may be viewed favorably on other dimensions. For example, the Oakes Mueller et al. (2010) finding that teachers nominated achievement-oriented students as “caring exemplars” raises the question of whether the expression of a high-value behavior in the school context led teachers to perceive academic performers as caring youth as well. Further exemplar research must consider the extent to which context may influence the way in which nominators understand and apply specific evaluative terms.

In addition to being aware of the potential influence of context, scholars using an exemplar strategy have much to gain from being intentional about their specific approaches to considering culture and context in their studies (see also discussion of dispositional and situational issues by Walker, in Chapter 3 of this volume). As discussed in this chapter, cross-cultural, cultural, and indigenous psychologies have very specific theoretical and methodological approaches that are consistent with their unique understanding of culture. In many ways, exemplar research is well poised to help bridge the exploration of commonalities and particularities in developmental psychology. Because exemplar studies focus on a highly developed psychological construct, there is the possibility for relevance to different people groups (Colby & Damon, this volume), but issues of generalizability need to be explicitly addressed in light of culture and ecological validity. In addition, the descriptive nature of qualitative exemplar findings also allows for culturally unique expressions or culturally ideographic findings to be acknowledged (Cheung et al., 2011). Future studies would benefit from clearly stating as research goals whether the primary intention is to study commonalities and/or particularities, describing how their methods account for culture, pointing toward potential commonalities and differences across participants, and discussing the inevitable limitations regarding issues of generalizability across cultures.

Although exemplar methods provide an effective means of bridging universal and cultural approaches (Jensen, 2012), further improvements can be made so as to increase an understanding of cultural developmental issues. Specifically, studies that balance the tyranny of universals with an obsession with fragmentation will facilitate an understanding of psychological phenomena that illuminate different trajectories in different contexts. Although the field is currently short on indigenous approaches and would gain from a deeper and more nuanced understanding of non-Western cultures, the greatest benefit will come when indigenous or culture-centered studies are effectively translated to other settings and cultures. Specifically, by developing an indigenous psychological framework that uses the native language and meaning systems of a culture to speak authentically to that culture, the corresponding danger is that the conclusions of such studies become relatively inaccessible to those from other cultures. Although it is helpful to document and describe ideographic particularities, theoretical and methodological frameworks that can include them in the larger scientific dialogue will benefit our current understanding and care of children and youth.

For example, the procedures taken in the adolescent spiritual exemplars study (King et al., 2013) represent an attempt at such first steps in collaborating among different cultures. To be sure, the study was still led predominantly by Western researchers, and therefore likely carries with it the biases of this perspective. Nevertheless, the researchers in this study attempted to partner at almost every level of investigation (nomination criteria, protocol development, ethical guidelines, data collection, and analysis), so as to minimize such bias and maximize the study's sensitivity to culture-specific narratives, values, and meaning systems. Future exemplar studies might also benefit from utilizing native leaders as creators of and collaborators in the research process. In short, with the exception of indigenous studies that aim primarily to collect culture-specific data, future exemplar studies would benefit from expanding and innovating the methods for collaboration across cultures.

Furthermore, just as the field of literature benefits from translations and compendia of literary works, indigenous exemplar studies may benefit from discussions or commentaries that aim to use the languages of other fields (e.g., anthropology) to help situate their native findings within their larger cultural narratives and meaning systems. Indeed, the field as a whole might benefit from the qualitative equivalent of meta-analyses, wide-ranging commentaries on multiple exemplar studies that aim both to contextualize the findings of each study within its native culture, and to identify across studies various culture-specific expressions of more universal phenomenon. Of course, such analyses must walk a narrow line. Just as indigenous exemplar studies risk missing the universals in human development, any failure to attend to the uniqueness of exemplars in different cultures risks mistaking real qualitative differences between cultures for quantitative differences in apparently universal (and typically Western) psychological constructs. By walking this line, such analyses may allow the findings of one indigenous study to serve as hypothesis generators for cross-cultural studies, even while respecting indigenous psychology's cautious refusal to simply use their own populations to test the hypotheses of other cultures’ psychologies.

In summary, future exemplar studies will benefit from increased collaboration between researchers and local indigenous leaders, a greater effort both to contextualize findings and to generalize across studies, and the nomination and study of exemplars at multiple developmental levels from within the same culture. Such shifts have the potential to maximize the native strength of exemplar research to identify both universal and culturally particular qualities and behaviors associated with a given construct.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies
  4. Exemplar Methods
  5. Participants as Experts
  6. Nomination Process
  7. Interview Protocol
  8. Use of Narrative
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Future Directions
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Biographies

Although, for the most part, current exemplar studies share the traditional “universalistic aspirations” (Jensen, 2012) of the greater field of developmental psychology and have aimed to elucidate less understood domains of human development, exemplar strategies are well positioned to illumine both common and particular expressions of human development. The method's focus on exemplarity allows for the exploration of cultural ideals, potentially revealing psychological constructs that Western-centric theories and methods may overlook. In addition, rigorous nomination procedures, data gathering, and analysis allow for universal and cultural investigation. Exemplar strategies yield rich descriptions of remarkable lives of individuals who embody a construct under examination with consistency and intensity. Although exemplar methods are designed to point to common characteristics and processes associated with the construct of interest, qualitative methods can prevent these commonalities from being stripped of the context and culture from which they emerge. As such, exemplar studies highlight idiographic findings and pay special attention to individual variance, allowing for the role of culture and content to be evident. In this way, the study of exemplarity provides the opportunity to study the diversity of what is deemed exceptional and noble in different cultural contexts, which nevertheless serves to inspire a sense of common humanity.

Note
  1. 1

    Although a full discussion of the complexity and interrelatedness of these fields is beyond the scope of this chapter, distinctions between cross-cultural, cultural, and indigenous psychologies evident in the literature are generalized in order to illuminate the nuances of culturally oriented approaches.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies
  4. Exemplar Methods
  5. Participants as Experts
  6. Nomination Process
  7. Interview Protocol
  8. Use of Narrative
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Future Directions
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Biographies
  • Allwood, C. M. (2011). On the foundation of the indigenous psychologies. Social Epistemology, 25, 314.
  • Arnett, J. J. (2008). The neglected 95%: Why American psychology needs to become less American. American Psychologist, 63(7), 602614.
  • Bronk, K. C. (2008). Humility among adolescent purpose exemplars. Journal of Research on Character Education, 6(1), 3551.
  • Bronk, K. C. (2012). The exemplar methodology: An approach to studying the leading edge of development. Manuscript under review.
  • Brown, B. B., Larson, R. W., & Saraswathi, T. S. (2002). The world's youth: Adolescence in eight regions of the globe. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • Cheung, F. M., van de Vijver, F. R., & Leong, F. L. (2011). Toward a new approach to the study of personality in culture. American Psychologist, 66(7), 593603.
  • Chirkov, V. I., Ryan, R. M., & Sheldon, K. M. (Eds.). (2011). Human autonomy in cross-cultural contexts. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
  • Colby, A., & Damon, W. (1992). Some do care: Contemporary lives of moral commitment. New York, NY: The Free Press.
  • Haidt, J. (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review, 108(4), 814834.
  • Hart, D., & Fegley, S. (1995). Altruism and caring in adolescence: Relations to moral judgment and self-understanding. Child Development, 66, 13461359.
  • Jensen, L. A. (2008). Coming of age in a multicultural world: Globalization and adolescent cultural identity formation. In D. L. Browning (Ed.), Adolescent identities: A collection of readings (pp. 317). New York, NY: The Analytic Press/Taylor & Francis Group.
  • Jensen, L. A. (2012). Bridging universal and cultural perspectives: A vision for developmental psychology in a global world. Child Development Perspectives, 6(1), 98104.
  • Kim, U., Yang, K., & Hwang, K. (2006). Indigenous and cultural psychology: Understanding people in context. New York, NY: Springer Science + Business Media.
  • King, P. E., Clardy, C. E., & Ramos, J. S. (2013). Adolescent spiritual exemplars: Exploring spirituality in the lives of diverse youth. Journal of Adolescent Research. doi:10.1177/0743558413502534
  • Lerner, R. M. (2006). Developmental science, developmental systems, and contemporary theories of human development. In R. M. Lerner & W. Damon (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Theoretical models of human development (6th ed., Vol. 1, pp. 117). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • Maclean, A., Walker, L. J., & Matsuba, M. (2004). Transcendence and the moral self: Identity integration, religion, and moral life. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 43(3), 429437.
  • Oakes Mueller, R. A., Sando, L., & Furrow, J. L. (2010, March). Contextual influences on exemplar nominations: Value differences between teacher- and community leader-nominated moral exemplars. Paper presented at the biannual meeting of the Society for Research in Adolescence, Philadelphia, PA.
  • Piaget, J. J. (1929). The child's conception of the world. Oxford, England: Harcourt, Brace.
  • Poortinga, Y. H. (1999). Do differences in behaviour imply a need for different psychologies? Applied Psychology: An International Review, 48(4), 419432.
  • Reimer, K. S., Dueck, A. C., Adelchanow, L. V., & Muto, J. D. (2009). Developing spiritual identity: Retrospective accounts from Muslim, Jewish, and Christian exemplars. In M. Souza, L. J. Francis, J. O'Higgins-Norman, & D. Scott (Eds.), International handbook of education for spirituality, care and wellbeing (pp. 507523). Amsterdam: Springer Netherlands. doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-9018-9_28
  • Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking: Cognitive development in social context. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Schwartz, S. H. (1996). Value priorities and behavior: Applying a theory of integrated value systems. In C. Seligman, J. M. Olson, & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), The psychology of values: The Ontario symposium, 8 (pp. 124). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Shweder, R. A., Goodnow, J. J., Hatano, G., LeVine, R. A., Markus, H. R., & Miller, P. J. (2006). The cultural psychology of development: One mind, many mentalities. In R. M. Lerner & W. Damon (Eds.), Handbook of child psychology: Theoretical models of human development (6th ed., Vol. 1, pp. 716792). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
  • Thorndike, E. L. (1920). A constant error in psychological ratings. Journal of Applied Psychology, 4(1), 2529.
  • Valsiner, J. (2011). The development of individual purposes: Creating actuality through novelty. In L. Jensen (Ed.), Bridging cultural and developmental approaches to psychology: New syntheses in theory, research, and policy (pp. 212232). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Walker, L. J., & Hennig, K. H. (2004). Differing conceptions of moral exemplarity: Just, brave, and caring. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86(4), 629647.

Biographies

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Cross-Cultural, Cultural, and Indigenous Psychologies
  4. Exemplar Methods
  5. Participants as Experts
  6. Nomination Process
  7. Interview Protocol
  8. Use of Narrative
  9. Data Analysis
  10. Future Directions
  11. Conclusion
  12. References
  13. Biographies
  • Pamela Ebstyne King is an associate professor of marital and family studies with the Thrive Center for Human Development in the School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.

  • Ross A. Oakes Mueller is an associate professor of psychology at Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, California.

  • James Furrow is Evelyn and Frank Freed Professor of Marital and Family Therapy in the School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.