Asian American culture
Western psychology had been the dominant force in psychology, whatever concepts, theories and assumptions psychology had espoused, it was always based on Western psychology - Asian American culture introduction. It was only when the said concepts and assumptions had been applied and researched on different ethnic and cultural groups; it was found that not all assumptions of Western psychology were true. As the discipline of psychology reached other countries, the burgeoning realization that mainstream psychology or Western psychology was not universal, many events, situations, perceptions, values and beliefs were contrary to what western psychology explained it would be. For example, the concept of attribution error says that people tend to attribute success and achievement to oneself while people tend to attribute failures and negative situations to others. However, in a study of attribution in Asian cultures, it was found that success, achievement was attributed to one’s family, luck, and even as God’s blessing, while failure was attributed to one’s personal faults and misgivings (Kitayama, Markus, Matsumoto & Norasakkunit, 1997).
Asian Americans belong to a subgroup of mixed races and this means that although they have embraced American way of life, they still hold on to the more fundamental Asian beliefs and values. For example, Asian American students are always excellent students, become scholars, and are more likely to finish high school and go to college compared to other ethnic groups. This is because, Asian Americans value education as a means of attaining personal and family success. Asian American students are expected to be achievers and to perform well in school as it ensures a brighter future (Kao, 1999). Western psychology says that positive self-esteem and the need for success drives academic performance. However, as observed, most Asian American students have poor self-esteem, most are shy, and have very few friends and generally study hard because it is expected of them, not because they want to. This challenges the conception of self-esteem and motivation of western psychology, making the concept less universal as it was previously thought to be.
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According to Marcus and Kitayama (1991), Western psychology had construed the self as independent, egocentric, and autonomous, however, Asians and in a sense, Asian Americans have an interdependent construal of the self. This would mean that for Asian Americans, the self cannot exist without the other, the Asian American is nothing without his/her family, his/her identity is always tied to his/her family, culture and ancestors. As such, when an American is asked to describe him/her self in relation to others, the self is more vividly described, have more details and is known more than the other is. With Asian Americans, the self is described always in relation to the other, the other is given more importance and detail to explain how similar the self is from the other, not to differentiate the self from the other. For example, the independent self would claim to be a unique entity, different from others, of value and importance for being unlike others, the interdependent self on the other hand would claim to be similar to or like the general group, shares the same goals and values and always refer to oneself as a member of society or family, not a separate individual.
It is without a doubt that western psychology cannot understand, explain, predict, and control all behavior of all people; there is a need to recognize that western psychology is a limited body of knowledge that may be applicable only to where it was developed and observed.
Kitayama, S., Markus, H.R., Matsumoto, H, & Norasakkunit, V. (1997). Individual
and collective processes in the construction of the self: Self enhancement in the United States and self-criticism in Japan. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 72. 1245-1267.
Kao, G. (1999). Racial identity and academic performance: An examination of biracial Asian and
African American youth. Journal of Asian American Studies, 2(3), 223-249.
Markus, H. R. & Kitayama, S. (1991). Culture and the self: Implications for cognition,
emotion, and motivation. Psychological Review, 98. 224-253.