Cross-cultural research

Hemant Desai (
Wed, 30 Mar 1994 16:29:06 -0600 (CST)

I found out about the pcp mailbase through the NAPCN newsletter.
I am a Ph.D. student in educational psychology keenly interested in the
application of personal construct psychology to cross-cultural cognitive

I was wondering if anyone knows of references or work done in this
area. I am relatively new to pcp (my background is in sociology
and clinical counseling). For a researcher from another "world" (I
spent my first 27 years in India), the constructivistic approach seems
an ideal basis for a study that compares "cognitive styles" -- via
laddering (e.g., Neimeyer, 1993) or a pyramidal elucidation of
constructs (e.g., Epting & Landfield, 1978) -- for a comparative
analysis of data from two or more 'contrasting' cultures.

A correlational map or repgrid data from appropriate representative
samples of diverse cultures might reveal interesting patterns of
individual and social constructs that may eventually boil down to a
basic triad, a form which signifies the uniquely human ability to
distinguish between dichotomous pairs of ideas. The Kellyan approach
has, I believe, an important (if not prophetic) role to play in the
integration of knowledge.

George Howard recently mentioned that if we look at the evolution
of psychology, it now appears to be nearing a critical phase
(impending a Kuhnian shift or transformation) in its history. The
colloqium with Professor Howard made it clear to me that it has taken
nearly 30 years (since the time George Kelly's book was published) for
psychological science to come to be poised at the brink of so many
possiblilities--close to an integration that could revolutionize education
and science as we know them.

Witness the growth of the three great forces in psychology of the
last century: depth psychology; cognitive science & behavior therapy;
and personal construct psychology. They represent, respectively,
ontological evolution or three distinct stages of growth in the history
of scientific thought. Dr. Howard's example: the past-event focus of
psychoanalysis, the present or environment-centered emphasis of
behavioristic thought, and the self or future-oriented (anticipatory)
nature of personal construct theory.

Work by Mahoney, Lyddon, Landfield, the Neimeyers, Hoshmand,
Polkinghorne, Mancuso, Adams-Webber, Bannister, Mair, Howard, and the
many other scholars in the field, have through their eloquent writing
and pioneering research defined the field for new students (such as me)
to follow. The above work has established constructivistic psychology
as a unique discipline that, rightly, sees the distinction between philosophy
and science as artificial. Cross-cultural research could further validate
and perhaps, even elaborate the constructionist paradigm.

By using the concept that we all think in a fundamentally similar
manner--we determine how any two things are similar or different--
crosscultural research in any department (developmental, counseling,
cognitive science, etc.) can benefit. I welcome any suggestions for
pursuing research within a personal construct framework. Any help will
be greatly appreciated. Please see the footnote below for some details
on my research interests.

Hemant Desai
Hemant K. Desai, Ph.D. student
Department of Educational Psychology
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
116 Bancroft Hall, Lincoln, NE 68588-0345
Phone (402) 476 7297

FOOTNOTE: My main research interest

The application of personal construct psychology for research on
cognition and development in a cross-cultural context.

Cross-cultural psychology has for far too long borrowed the
culture-dependent method of mainstream research and has succeeded in
"accumulating fragments" of "truth" (i.e. objective reality), but
without a corresponding focus on interpreting past events (history) or
understanding traditional ways of life (culture), viz., not sufficiently
getting at the meaning of life for the "subject of the experiment". At
the same time, ethnographers have emphasized that interactive experience
may be the best way to get an unfragmented perception of a culture
different from one's own.

Progress in scientific knowledge at this stage of human evolution
would have to come from the emergence of an acceptable framework for the
integration of pre-existing social science research which could then guide
further empirical research. This would need a thorough understanding of
the (on one hand--complex and enigmatic, while on the other hand
--profoundly simple) nature of psychological constructs.

In other words, what is anticipated here is a culture-free (i.e.,
a language-free) methodology. This already exists, I believe, in the
literature of constructive alternativism. The Person as Scientist
metaphor (of how any two ideas can be and are differentiated from a
third idea) seems to me a very sound theoretical basis for
cross-cultural/comparative study.

By plotting only the categories of objects, ideas, and emotions
(and thus avoiding semantic variations of an individual's abstractions
of artifacts, thoughts, or feelings in that particular culture) it
appears to me that pcp is the perfect foundation for an integration and
expansion of previous research in the cross-cultural area.

The Kellyan notion that human beings function in a reflexive manner
has, I believe, pointed the way toward a more meaningful, integrative,
and human-oriented science that can anticipate the future needs of a
global society and information age through its contribution towards a
better understanding of the human condition.