Indigenized conceptual and empirical analyses of selected Chinese psychological characteristics

Kuo-Shu Yang*
Fo Guang College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Ilan County, Taiwan

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An academic movement to switch from Westernized Chinese psychology to an indigenized Chinese psychology in Chinese societies (Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China) has existed for about three decades. Indigenous-oriented Chinese psychologists have conducted serious indigenized research on about 50 different broad topics. Kuo-Shu Yang's conceptual and empirical analyses on 3 of them are briefly reviewed in this article: (a) Chinese familism, familization and pan-familism; (b) Chinese psychological traditionality and modernity; and (c) theoretical and empirical analyses of the Chinese self. On the first topic, an indigenized conceptual scheme for the psychological components of Chinese familism at the cognitive, affective, and intentional levels was proposed. On the basis of the framework, standardized familism scales were constructed and used to study the relationships among the major components at each psychological level, using Taiwan students and adults as participants. In addition, the process of familization, an important aspect of Chinese familism, and its ability to form pan-familism in outside-family organizations, is briefly analysed. On the second topic, Yang empirically found that Chinese psychological traditionality (T) and modernity (M) were two independent psychological syndromes, each with five factor-analytically identifiable oblique components. Two separate standardized assessment tools were developed and applied in various empirical studies involving T and M. One study revealed that most T factors only negligibly correlated with most M factors, indicating a general trend for the two sets of components to coexist with each other during the process of societal modernization. Finally, on the third topic, Yang developed a four-part theory of the Chinese self from an indigenized perspective, based upon his conception of social vs individual orientation. The theory proposed that the Chinese self is composed of four self subsystems, viz., individual-, relationship-, familistic(group)-, and other-oriented selves, differing from each other in many respects. Yang and associates have conducted a series of empirical studies to examine a number of testable hypotheses derived from the theory. Findings from these studies are basically supportive.

Un mouvement académique faisant la transition d'une psychologie chinoise occidentalisée à une psychologie chinoise indigène dans les sociétés chinoises (Taïwan, Hong Kong et Chine) existe depuis environ trois décennies. Les psychologues chinois orientés vers la psychologie indigène ont mené des recherches sérieuses sur environ 50 grands thèmes différents. Les analyses conceptuelles et empiriques de Kuo-Shu Yang sur trois d'entre eux sont brièvement revus dans cet article: (a) le familisme chinois, la familisation et la panfamilisation; (b) la tradition et la modernité psychologiques chinoises et; (c) les analyses théoriques et empiriques du concept de soi chinois. Pour le premier thème, on retrouve une proposition de schème conceptuel indigène pour les composantes psychologiques du familisme chinois sur les plans cognitif, affectif et intentionnel. Des échelles standardisées de familisme furent construites sur la base de ce cadre de travail. Celles-ci furent utilisées pour étudier les relations entre les composantes majeures de chacun des plans, auprès d'étudiants et d'adultes taïwanais. De plus, le processus de familisation, un aspect important du familisme chinois, et son habileté à former le panfamilisme dans les organisations extérieures à la famille sont brièvement analysés. Pour le deuxième thème, Yang a empiriquement trouvé que la tradition et la modernité psychologiques chinoises étaient deux syndromes psychologiques indépendants, chacun comportant cinq composantes pouvant être identifiées par une analyse oblique. Deux outils d'évaluation standardisés séparés furent développés et appliqués dans diverses études empiriques impliquant la tradition et la modernité psychologiques chinoises. Une étude a révélé que la plupart des facteurs de tradition sont corrélés seulement de façon négligeable avec la plupart des facteurs de modernité, indiquant une tendance générale de coexistence des deux ensembles de composantes au cours du processus de modernisation sociétal. Finalement, en ce qui concerne le troisième thème, Yang a développé une théorie du concept de soi chinois comprenant quatre parties, à partir d'une perspective indigène, basée sur sa conception de l'orientation sociale versus individuelle. La théorie proposait que le concept de soi chinois est composé de quatre sous-systèmes différant les uns des autres sur plusieurs aspects: le soi orienté vers l'individu, vers les relations, vers la famille (groupe) et vers autrui. Yang et ses collègues ont mené une série d'études empiriques pour tester un certain nombre d'hypothèses dérivées de la théorie. Les résultats de ces études appuient les hypothèses.

Desde hace aproximadamente tres décadas se observa una tendencia académica hacia una transición de una psicología china occidentalizada a una psicología china tradicional en las sociedades chinas (Taiwán, Hong Kong y China). Los psicólogos chinos con una orientación tradicional han llevado a cabo investigaciones tradicionales serias acerca de cincuenta tópicos generales. En este artículo se revisan los análisis conceptuales y empíricos de Kuo-Shu Yang acerca de tres de estos temas: (a) el familismo chino, la familización y la panfamilización; (b) la tradición y la modernidad en la psicología china y (c) los análisis teóricos y empíricos del concepto del yo en China. Respecto al primer tema, se propone un esquema conceptual tradicional para los componentes psicológicos del familismo chino a niveles cognitivo, afectivo e intencional. Se construyeron escalas estandarizadas de familismo basadas en este esquema, que se utilizaron para estudiar las relaciones entre los componentes principales de cada nivel psicológico, aplicándolas a estudiantes y adultos taiwaneses. Se analizan, además, el proceso de familización, elemento importante del familismo chino, y su capacidad para crear un panfamilismo en organizaciones de la familia externa. En el segundo tópico, Yang encontró empíricamente que la tradicionalidad (T) y modernidad (M) psicológicas en China eran dos síndromes psicológicos independientes, cada uno con cinco componentes oblicuos de análisis factorial. Se desarrollaron dos herramientas estandarizadas de evaluación por separado, y se aplicaron en varios estudios empíricos que involucraban a T y a M. Uno de los estudios reveló que la mayor parte de los factores T sólo se correlacionaban sólo de manera poco significativa con la mayor parte de los factores M, lo que indica que las dos series de componentes muestran una tendencia general a coexistir entre sí durante el proceso de la modernización social. Por último, en el tercer tópico Yang desarrolló una teoría en cuatro partes del yo chino a partir de una perspectiva tradicionalista, con base en su concepto de la orientación social contra la orientación individual. La teoría propuso que el yo chino está compuesto de cuatro subsistemas del yo, a saber, el yo individual, el yo de las relaciones, el yo familístico (del grupo) y los yos con otras orientaciones, todos los cuales difieren en muchos sentidos. Yang y sus colaboradores llevaron a cabo una serie de estudios empíricos para poner a prueba varias hipótesis verificables derivadas de la teoría. Los hallazgos de estos estudios son básicamente de apoyo.

China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan

Map of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan

Yang (2004b) recently made a systematic distinction between indigenous psychology, Westernized psychology, and indigenized psychology. He defined indigenous psychology as a discipline that applies the scientific method to the study of psychological and behavioural phenomena of people in a specific ethnic or cultural group, in such a way that the theories, concepts, methods, and tools used are highly compatible not only with the studied phenomena, but also with their ecological, economic, social, cultural, and historical contexts. Indigenous psychology is spontaneously, naturally, and gradually formed through an endogenous process without the intrusion and domination of a powerful alien scientific psychology. In contemporary world psychology, only psychologies in the Euro-American countries and the former Soviet Union are genuinely indigenous.

In the last two centuries, these Western indigenous psychologies have hegemonically dominated the initiation and development of scientific psychology in non-Western countries, which have thus generated almost the same kind of artificially transplanted psychology—that is, Westernized psychology. This kind of psychology, now prevalent in most non-Western societies, is formed by a process of academic Westernization through which non-Western psychologists uncritically adopt Western theories, concepts, methods, and tools in their research with local people as participants. Such a culture-ignoring psychology, or more aptly, imposed-etic (Berry, 1969) or pseudo-indigenous psychology, is nothing more than a distorted non-Western copy of Western indigenous psychology.

In recent years, increasing numbers of non-Western psychologists in an increasing number of non-Western societies have criticized the artificiality, superficiality, and incompatibility of their culturally alienated Westernized psychology in understanding, explaining, and predicting their people's mind and behaviour. They aim to transform their seriously undesirable psychology into an indigenized psychology through the process of quasi-indigenization. What they need to do is to consciously and purposely indigenize their research in such a way that the theories, concepts, methods, and tools created and used are sufficiently compatible with the studied local psychological and behavioural phenomena as structurally and functionally embedded in their ecological, economic, social, cultural and historical contexts.

The scientific psychology developed in major Chinese societies (Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China) is also a kind of Westernized psychology. But in the last three decades, an increasing number of Chinese psychologists, mainly those in Taiwan, have devoted themselves to the collective academic enterprise of systematically converting their Westernized Chinese psychology into an indigenized Chinese psychology that is able to understand, explain, and predict Chinese mind and behaviour much more efficiently (Yang, 1993, 1997a, 1997b, 1999). More and more indigenous-oriented Chinese psychologists have been endeavouring to conduct indigenized research on a wider variety of topics in various areas of psychology. There have been about 50 different topics on which serious indigenized studies have been completed. More than half of the topics fall into the field of personality and social psychology, followed by family and developmental psychology, clinical and counselling psychology, and organizational and managerial psychology, in that order.

Since the early 1970s, Yang and his associates have conducted indigenized research on such topics as familism and pan-familism, psychological traditionality and modernity, the Chinese self, Chinese basic personality dimensions, psychology of yuan (beliefs in predestined interpersonal affinity), relationship orientation, psychology of ren (forbearance and endurance), social-oriented achievement motivation, filial piety, and deviant adolescent behaviour. Empirical research on the first three topics will now be briefly reviewed.

CHINESE FAMILISM, FAMILIZATION, AND PAN-FAMILISM

Ever since ancient times, Chinese people have emphasized family as the centre of life, forming a strong sense of familism. At the micro level, Yeh and Yang (1997) defined familism as a person's complex system of social attitudes towards their family, family members, and family-related affairs, and conceived a familistic attitude as comprising three components, viz., cognitive, affective, and intentional (behavioural intention). They proposed a conceptual scheme for the major psychological contents of Chinese familism. According to the scheme, the cognitive contents of Chinese familism are the emphases on one's own family's prolongation, harmony, solidarity, wealth, and fame; the affective contents are the feelings of familial unity (being one), belongingness, concern and love, glory, responsibility, and safety; and the intentional contents are the tendencies to engage in such behaviours as producing offspring, interdependence, forbearance, modesty, conformity, striving for family, respect for seniority, and in-group favouritism. On the basis of this framework, three standardized Chinese familism scales, respectively labelled the Familistic Cognition Scale, the Familistic Affection Scale, and the Familistic Intention Scale, were constructed to measure the three major aspects of Chinese familism.

Using these standardized scales, Yeh and Yang (1997) made further empirical analyses revealing that for both Chinese students and adults in Taiwan, the correlations among the three empirically identified cognition components (solidarity and harmony, family prolongation, and family prosperity) and among the three corresponding intention components (solidarity and harmony, family prolongation, and family prosperity) were all positive and substantial, and that the overall affect or feeling of familial unity was strongly positively correlated with all the cognition and intention components. These and other relevant results attest to the fact that the cognitive, affective, and intentional components of Chinese familism constitute a coherent psychological syndrome.

As Yang (1995, 1998) pointed out, Chinese people's family experiences are so deeply engraved in memory from childhood that they take their family as the prototype for the structuring and functioning of all the other organizations (including social, business, and even government ones). The structural and functional similarities between the family and outside-family organizations tend to make Chinese people transfer or generalize their familistic cognitions, affects, and intentions (and corresponding behaviours as well) to their life in other organizations. Through such a process, Chinese people familize other organizations to such an extent that they can think, feel, intend, and behave in them in a familial way. Yang (1993, 1998) labelled this complex process of stimulus generalization familization. The emergence and functioning of generalized familism in various kinds of nonfamilial organizations is called pan-familism. Yang (1998) reviewed research findings that revealed the existence of pan-familism in industrial and business organizations. An outstanding example of pan-familistic organizational phenomena is the Chinese paternalistic leadership style as recently defined, assessed, and studied by Farh and Cheng (2000).

CHINESE PSYCHOLOGICAL TRADITIONALITY AND MODERNITY

Yang's (2003) long-term programme of research on Chinese psychological traditionality (T) and modernity (M) may be divided into two stages. In the first stage (1972-1984), a measuring instrument, the Chinese Individual Traditionality-Modernity Scale, was constructed under the assumption that T and M constitute a unidimensional, bipolar psychological continuum. This scale was used in quite a number of empirical studies (for review, see Yang, 1996).

In the second stage, starting from 1985, Yang and his associates (Yang, 1996, 2003; Yang, Yu, & Yeh, 1991) adopted a new research strategy with two major assumptions: (1) T and M are two separate independent psychological syndromes, and (2) T and M are two multidimensional psychological syndromes. With these assumptions, and based on separate conceptual schemes of the contents of T and M, two assessment tools, the Multidimensional Scale of Chinese Individual Traditionality (MS-CIT) and the Multidimensional Scale of Chinese Individual Modernity (MS-CIM), were constructed with Chinese university students and adults as participants. The former scale measures five oblique T factors or components: Submission to Authority, Filial Piety and Ancestral Worship, Conservatism and Endurance, Fatalism and Defensiveness, and Male Dominance. The latter assesses five oblique M factors: Egalitarianism and Open-mindedness, Social Isolation and Self-reliance, Optimism and Assertiveness, Affective Hedonism, and Sex Equality (Yang, 1994, 1996, 2003; Yang et al., 1991).

Yang (1994) found that in all samples of students and adults, the total score of the five T components was only minimally negatively correlated with the total score of the five M components. This finding confirms the new assumption that Chinese T and M are two separate and distinct psychological syndromes. Further analyses revealed that the Male Dominance T factor substantially negatively correlated with the Sex Equality M factor, but the other four T factors only negligibly or minimally correlated with the other four M factors. This and other relevant findings were interpreted as indicating a trend for most T components to coexist with, rather than be replaced by, most M components with continued social change in Chinese societies. To explain this and other related phenomena, Yang (1988, 1994, 1996) proposed a cultural-ecological, interactionistic theory of psychological convergence and divergence during the process of societal modernization.

THEORETICAL AND EMPIRICAL ANALYSES OF THE CHINESE SELF

Yang (1995) termed the psychological pattern of strong autonomy and weak homonomy individual orientation, and that of weak autonomy and strong homonomy social orientation. He further proposed that Chinese social orientation consists of four (sub)orientations, namely, relationship orientation, authoritarian orientation, familistic (group) orientation, and other orientation. Individual orientation and the four social-oriented orientations respectively represent the five sets of characteristics of Chinese daily social interaction in five major life domains: (1) The domain of a person's interactions with himself or herself, (2) the domain of horizontal interpersonal interactions between two related persons with approximately equal power, (3) the domain of vertical dyadic interactions between two persons with unequal power, (4) the domain of a person's interactions with his or her own family or some other membership group, and (5) the domain of a person's interactions with unidentifiable nonspecific others, or the generalized other, as a real or imagined diffuse audience.

According to Yang (2004a), the five Chinese psychosocial orientations are regarded as the results of the Chinese self's successive differentiations between, and integrations within, each of the five life domains of daily social interaction in culturally specific ways in the Chinese lifeworld during the lifelong developmental process. The between-domain differentiations and within-domain integrations tend to make the psychological and behavioural functioning in each of the five life domains so functionally autonomized and structurally specialized that they form the five domain-specific subsystems, or more directly, subselves, that comprise the Chinese self. The five self subsystems are respectively named the individual-, relationship-, authoritarian-, familistic(group)-, and other-oriented selves. Since both the relationship- and authoritarian-oriented selves involve an interpersonal relationship, they are simply combined as the relationship-oriented self.

On the basis of Yang's (1995, 2004a) theoretical analysis of the Chinese self, a series of empirical studies has been conducted to explore the four domain-specific Chinese selves in terms of self-concept, self-esteem, and self-process. Since there are four Chinese selves, there should be four corresponding Chinese self-concepts (Yang, 1995, 2004a). Using university students from Taiwan and China as participants, Yang (2000) carried out a study to construct a tool for assessing the four domain-specific self-concepts. He began with a comprehensive pool of relevant items written on the basis of the conceptual scheme of the four Chinese selves and concluded with a factor analysis of the empirical data to identify the components of Chinese self-concept. Four major psychologically meaningful oblique factors were obtained, respectively labelled Individual-, Relationship-, Familistic-, and Other-oriented Selves. High loading items for the four factors were respectively chosen to construct the Multidimensional Self-Concept Scale for research with Chinese students and adults.

Also based on Yang's four-part model of the Chinese self, Weng, Yang, and Hsu (2004) attempted to develop an instrument for assessing four kinds of specific trait self-esteem as the major aspects of Chinese self-evaluation. Using university students from Taiwan and China as respondents, they obtained four major psychologically meaningful oblique factors, which were labelled Individual-, Relationship-, Familistic-, and Other-oriented Self-Esteem. High loading items for the four factors were respectively selected to construct the Multidimensional Self-Esteem Scale. In addition, Yang (2002) completed a study to analyse Taiwan students' components and changes of state self-esteem under success and failure situations, private and public conditions, and social- and individual-oriented life events. Yang's theory of the Chinese self has also been applied to the study of Chinese self-process, but the findings in this respect are beyond the coverage of this short article.

The reader may have noticed that Yang basically adopted a psychometric dispositional approach in the indigenous studies of all the three topics. This neither means that Yang has not relied on other approaches in doing research on other topics, nor that indigenous-oriented Chinese psychologists have all used the same approach. As a matter of fact, the methods employed by Chinese indigenous psychologists in their indigenized research are widely diversified, ranging from dialogics and heuristics, narrative analysis, analysis of stories and proverbs, and in-depth and semistructured interviews, to questionnaire surveys, standardized scales, and field and laboratory experimentation.


NOTE

Correspondence should be addressed to Kuo-Shu Yang, Department of Psychology, Fo Guang College of Humanities and Social Sciences, 160 Linwei Rd, Jiaushi Shiang, Ilan Country, Taiwan 26247, ROC, kuoshu@ntu.edu.tw

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© 2006 International Union of Psychological Science
DOI:10.1080/00207590544000086

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