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Explain, using examples, emic and etic concepts



  • Emic research studies one culture alone to understand culture-specific behavior.
  • Researchers attempt to study behavior through the eyes of the people who live in that culture. The way the phenomenon is linked to the culture (structure) and the meaning it has in this particular cultural (context) is emphasized. The focus is on the norms, values, motives, and customs of the members of the culture as they interpret and understand it themselves, explained with their own words.

Example 1:

Bartlett (1932) mentioned the extraordinary ability of Swazi herdsmen to recall individual characteristics of their cattle. He explained that the Swazi culture revolves around the possession and care of cattle and it is important for people to recognize their animals because this is part of their fortune.

Example 2:

Yap (1967) suggested the term “culture-bound syndrome” (CBS) as a culture-specific psychological disorder which can only be fully understood within a specific cultural context. Among the Yoruba people of West African it is believed that spirits may come into the possession of a person’s soul and that the person can be treated by healing and spells spoken by a medicine man or a healer.


  • Etic research compares psychological phenomena across cultures to find out what could be universal in human behavior.
  • The purpose of research is to compare and contrast cultural phenomena across cultures to investigate whether phenomena are culture-specific or universal.

Study to use: Berry (1967)