Get access

Cultural System vs. Pan-cultural Dimensions: Philosophical Reflection on Approaches for Indigenous Psychology



The three approaches for conducting psychological research across cultures proposed by Berry (1989), namely, the imported etic, emic and derived etic approach are critically examined for developing culture-inclusive theories in psychology, in order to deal with the enigma left by Wilhelm Wundt. Those three approaches have been restricted to a certain extent by the pan-cultural dimensional approach which may result in the Orientalism of psychology in understanding people of non-Western cultures.

This article is designated to provide the philosophical ground for an alternative cultural system approach to construct culture-inclusive theories in psychology. Following the principle of cultural psychology: “one mind, many mentalities” (Shweder et al., 1998), the alternative strategy contains two steps: First, based on Bhaskar's (1975, 1978) critical realism, all universal mechanisms should seek to represent the operation of the human mind. Second, based on Archer's (1995) analytical dualism, the mechanisms of the universal mind may be used as frameworks for analyzing any cultural tradition. The culture-inclusive theories thus obtained represent the synchronic morphostasis of a cultural system, which may be used as theoretical frameworks for conducting either qualitative or quantitative empirical research in studying the diachronic morphogenesis of socio-cultural interaction in a particular culture.

Get access to the full text of this article