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From Emic to Etic: Exporting Indigenous Constructs



The study of culture differs by methodology. This article distinguishes etic (global) and emic (focal) approaches to cross-cultural research, and uses empirical studies in personality and social psychology as examples to illustrate the pros and cons of these two approaches and examine their relationships. Then, the article reviews origins and trends of research on several culturally derived constructs, including face, harmony, filial piety, and modesty. The import and export processes of pan-cultural and indigenous constructs reveal that generalization and indigenization are interrelated, complementary. It is suggested that cultural similarities and differences be better conceptualized as malleable and dynamic, and that etic and emic approaches can be integrated to form a unified system, balancing universality and distinctiveness.