Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences


Carl Ratner

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Theories have the power to shape our conceptualization of psychological issues. Very general, abstract theories of ontology and epistemology have very specific and practical effects on cross-cultural psychological research. They shape our general understanding of culture, the interrelation between culture and psychology, and methodological principles of empirical research. Because theories are so powerful, it is vital that we examine them. Limitations in theory will lead to limited conclusions.

I will contrast two theories: contextualism and positivism. I argue that the ontological principles of contextualism are more helpful than positivism for conceptualizing what culture is and the relation between culture and psychology than positivism is. Moreover, the ontological principles of contextualism lead to epistemological principles and research methodology that are more suitable for researching cultural psychology than positivistic methodology is. Contextualism is thus more valuable for understanding “indigenous psychology” than positivism is.

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