Emic and Etic Concepts

Etic and Emic are different approaches to the studying of behavior. Etic studies aim to discover or investigate a behavior or set of characteristics that all humans have in common, this involves cross-cultural analysis. However, emic based studies aim to investigate a culture-specific phenomena and is rooted by the theory that the attribution of a behavior can only be understood within that specific culture.

An example of an etic approach is the study of conformity by Bond and Smith (1996). This study involves a meta-analysis of findings of studies with the same technique (Asch’s Paradigm) which was repeated across 17 different countries. The researchers found that countries with a collectivisitc rooted culture showed higher levels of conformity and individuals from an individualistic culture showed low levels of conformity.

An example of an emic based study is that of Manson et al (1985) aiming to investigate the depression in Native American Indians. The researchers used the method of interviewing with Hopi native informants to understand the illnesses relevant to depression. They found 5 behaviors that were similar to depression: worry sickness, unhappiness, heartbroken, drunken-like craziness and disappointment. Most Hopi natives could not identify a word that was equivalent to the term of depression but they were all familiar with the 5 behaviors. The Hopi diagnosis of depression shows not to be consistent with the Western diagnosis of that mental illness thus supporting that behaviors are culture dependent.


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