Emergence and contributions of a Latin American indigenous social psychology

This article is reprinted  from Wedding, D., & Stevens, M. J. (Eds). (2009). Psychology: IUPsyS Global Resource (Edition 2009) [CD-ROM]. International Journal of Psychology, 44 (Suppl. 1).
Emergence and contributions of a Latin American indigenous social psychology

Rolando Diaz-Loving
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, Mexico

Increasingly, understanding behaviour requires a multidimensional conceptual and methodological approach. A historical analysis of social psychology leads to the identification of separate and clear psychological, sociological, and cultural perspectives in the thinking and research of the field. In an overview of the highlights of each orientation, this paper identifies the way in which each subbranch of social psychology flourished and is closely tied to the psycho-socio-cultural ecosystem in which its theoreticians and researchers developed. Evident from this process is the inclination of psychological researchers to stress functional aspects of behaviour and utilize experimental methodologies; the sociological orientation stresses structural variables and is inclined toward observational and field descriptive studies; and cultural investigation tends to pull from both the psychological and sociological perspectives and places major interest on the ecosystem in which behaviour presents itself. Linked to individual researchers’ interests and training, and congruent with the sociocultural parameters and ecosystem in which Latin American social psychologists have evolved, novel indigenous interpretations of each social psychology have emerged. Documentation of the research topics, preferred theoretical and methodological approaches, and idiosyncratic findings is presented for the emergence of social psychology in Latin America. Emphasis is placed on the process of creating and shaping an indigenous view of social psychological thought, in which phenomena derived from a combination of one of the three views, and the behavioural manifestations and ideas representative of autochthonous everyday life, are stressed. As a conclusion, true to its upbringing, and born out of a perennial antithesis between mainstream thought and mundane reality, both a series of replications and novel conceptualizations and findings have emerged that have a distinct psychological, sociological, and cultural flavour.

De plus en plus, la compréhension des comportements requiert une approche conceptuelle et méthodologique multidimensionnelle. Une analyse historique de la psychologie sociale mène à l’identification de perspectives psychologique, sociologique et culturelle claires et distinctes, autant sur le plan de la réflexion que sur celui de la recherche. En regard des points marquants de chacune de ces orientations, cet article identifie la façon dont chaque branche de la psychologie sociale a évolué et est étroitement liée à l’écosystème psycho-socio-culturel dans lequel ses théoriciens et chercheurs se sont développés. L’inclinaison de la perspective psychologique est d’insister sur les aspects fonctionnels du comportement et d’utiliser la méthode expérimentale. Pour sa part, l’orientation sociologique insiste sur les variables structurelles et elle est encline à mener des études observationnelles ou à caractère descriptif. En ce qui concerne la perspective culturelle de la psychologie sociale, celle-ci se manifeste par la conjonction de la sociologie et de la psychologie et elle s’intéresse à l’écosystème dans lequel le comportement se manifeste. Relié aux intérêts personnels et à la formation des chercheurs et en accord avec les paramètres socioculturels et avec l’écosystème dans lequel les psychologues sociaux de l’Amérique latine ont évolué, de nouvelles interprétations indigènes ont émergé pour chaque champ de la psychologie sociale. La documentation des thèmes de recherche, sur les plans théorique et méthodologique, et des résultats particuliers est présentée en lién avec l’émergence de la psychologie sociale en Amérique latine. L’emphase est mise sur les processus de création et de mise en forme de la vision indigène de la pensée psychologique sociale, tout en insistant sur les phénomènes dérivant de la combinaison d’une des trois perspectives et des manifestations comportementales et idées représentant la vie quotidienne des autochtones. En conclusion, en lien avec son évolution et nées de l’antithèse perpétuelle entre la pensée dominante de la psychologie et la réalité de ce monde, une série de réplications et de conceptualisations et trouvailles nouvelles ont émergé en montrant une saveur psychologique, sociale et culturelle distincte.

Cada día es más evidente que el entender el comportamiento humano requiere de modelos y teorías multidimensionales y metodologías diversas. Al analizar las raíces y evolución de la psicología social resulta inevitable percatarse de claras y distintivas corrientes psicológicas, sociológicas y culturales en la teorización e investigación representativa del área. Al analizar el desarrollo de cada una de los campos, en este trabajo se identifican la relación entre los contextos eco-socio-culturales y el advenimiento y predilección por ciertas orientaciones teóricas y metodológicas propias de cada rama de la psicología social. De hecho, es notoria la inclinación de la perspectiva psicológica por un marco referencial funcionalista y la metodología experimental que permite aproximarse al estudio y explicación de procesos; mientras que, la orientación sociológica prefiere una conceptualización estructuralista y la utilización de diversos métodos de observación en campo que dan oportunidad de describir las características de un fenómeno. Por su parte, la postura cultura de la psicología social se manifiesta en la conjunción de lo social y lo psicológico inserto en un ecosistema particular. Un recorrido documentado por las etnopsicologías y los tópicos de investigación, resultados obtenidos y preferencias teóricas y metodológicas de los psicólogos sociales latinoamericanos, apunta a la congruencia de la formación e intereses de cada grupo de investigadores, los parámetros socio-culturales en que se desenvuelven y la realidad cotidiana de los ecosistemas en que viven en la determinación de la manera en que han construido nuevas formas autóctonas de entender cada una de las ramas de la psicología social. Como conclusión, fieles a sus raíces, y nacidos de una perenne antitesis entre la corriente hegemónica de la psicología y sus mundanas realidades, han surgido una serie de replicas, extensiones y conceptuaciones y datos novedosos con un distintivo sabor psicológico, sociológico y cultural.

Latin America
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Map of Latin America

Ezequiel Chavez (1901), a Mexican social psychologist who introduced ethnopsychology to the country, wrote the following:

Character varies across ethnic groups, thus, the most relevant human endeavor is lodged in the study of ethnic character. Not considering this cardinal observation has induced some to fall victims to the absurdity of attempting a direct transplant… without even reflecting on the possible incompatibility of intellect, feelings and will, of the people… it is not enough for laws to satisfy intelligence in the abstract, it is indispensable that they concretely adapt to the special conditions of the people they were created for. Ideas and programs may seem very noble, however, the sad reality is lived so often in Latin-American countries, when marvelous plans are traced on paper, harmonic constitutions are advanced, and like Plato’s dreams they crash against the crudeness of practice and reality (p. 2).

After taking into account Chavez’s sobering words, an overview of social psychology across cultures (Smith & Bond, 1998) reaffirms the unquestionable fact that human beings from different cultural backgrounds show differences in certain behaviours. At the same time, research on the human genome indicates that we share over 99% of our chromosomal composition. As a consequence, the combination and interaction of general behavioural tendencies, guided by species-universal parameters of what are possible human behaviours, with idiosyncratic probable behaviours prevalent in each sociocultural system, determine the behavioural outcomes that emerge in a specific environment. These differences and similarities in human behaviour surpass the actions and processes observed and described in social psychological studies, to include the theories, thoughts, and motives of researchers who make the observations (Diaz-Loving, 1999). Considering that theorists and researchers develop and are socialized in a particular context, it would seem logical that the topics they choose, as well as the explanations they give to the phenomena they study, are congruent with their sociocultural heritage and the realities they confront in their sociocultural context (Kimble, Hirt, Diaz-Loving, Hosch, Lucker, & Zarate, 1999). Given the differences in the behaviour of people from different ecosystems and of the phenomena studied by researchers who represent distinct niches, it seems essential to question how universal is each observation, methodology, and theory (Diaz-Loving, 1998).

Social behaviour develops in the interplay of genetic character, ecological niche, sociocultural heritage, and individual differences. In social psychology, the theoretical perspectives and research have centred on three basic topics: (1) the processes related to the creation and establishment of a human-made environment within each sociocultural group: This environment consists of the subjective construction of beliefs, attitudes, norms, traditions, roles and values, and the concrete, objective creations such as diets, forms of transportation and communication, shelters, etc.; (2) the idiosyncratic way in which humans process information: The process includes heuristics to sift through mountains of stimuli based on information-processing techniques, such as generalization, integration, and discrimination; and finally, (3) the study of the forms and sources of social influence through which subjective and objective culture is transmitted and learned through the processes of socialization, enculturation, and acculturation. In order to capture the multidetermined richness of human behaviour, three apparently all-inclusive molar orientations have evolved in social psychology with foci on the individual, the social structure, or the cultural ecosystem in which human beings are born, developed, and socialized.

Given the complexity of human behaviour, it is logical that different theoretical fields would offer differing explanations for social behaviour. Triandis (1990) has documented a difference between individualistic and collectivistic cultures. He maintains that there is a tendency for individualists to be independent, competitive, egocentric, and self-affirming and to explain behaviour based on personal attitudes and attributes. It follows that subjects and researchers inclined toward individualism share a functionalist, empirical, pragmatic, and individual philosophy of life common to the research methods, themes, and interests of psychological social psychology. On the other hand, theorists and researchers of a sociological and cultural persuasion have offered two other distinct perspectives on social psychology. These positions have received less attention in individualistic societies, but are predominant among researchers and philosophers who favour orientations congruent with a collectivist’s intellectual framework that is compatible with the description that Triandis (1990) gives for collectivist societies. Groups are the basic social units, they are self-modifying, cooperative, and patient, define themselves in terms of reference groups, and the explanation of behaviour is based on social norms.

Social psychologists who have a structural perspective favour the description of norms, status, culture, customs, and social structure as the basis for explaining behaviour. They utilize methodologies that correspond to description more than process, to structure more than function, and that are in tune with sociocultural rather than biopsychological variables. On the other hand, the focus of cultural social psychology began with anthropologists’ search for psychological explanations of the behaviour they so thoroughly described. Culture and personality as an important area of research led to the now classic field of cross-cultural psychology, in which mostly developed-country researchers compare, share, and divulge their vision of the world. In recent years, two other growing areas in cultural social psychology have emerged: cultural psychology, which is conducted predominantly by developed-country psychologists who wish to study other cultures by stressing the perspective of the group they are investigating, and indigenous ethnopsychology, mainly carried out by researchers of developing countries studying psychosocial phenomena in their own culture.

In Latin America, these three theoretical positions regarding social psychology have influenced the development of the discipline based on the characteristics of the culture in which the research is conducted, and the academic training each individual researcher received. In other words, the cultural reality in which researchers are immersed impacts not only the subjects they study, but also their own development and orientation; additionally, researchers trained in their own countries favour indigenous explanations, those trained in North America prefer psychological social psychology, and those who have studied in Europe, particularly in France, are inclined towards a sociological view of social psychology. In fact, programmes are placed either in behavioural and natural science or social sciences and humanities surroundings, depending on the prevalent philosophy and training of its professors. One thing that is clear, and that permeates all programmes, is that regardless of the orientation, Latin American researchers manage to inject sociocultural roots into even the purest psychological research, paying homage to prescriptions stating that cultures in Latin America are identified with a collectivist orientation. Given this collectivist orientation, topics like family, affect, norms, cooperation, interpersonal relationships, etc., have upstaged themes like achievement motivation, equity, attitudes, and cognitive dissonance that receive attention in individualistic cultures (Diaz-Guerrero, 1985). Additionally, collectivist researchers prefer holistic and structural theories and qualitative methodologies, which account for the history and context of phenomena over functional theories and quantitative methodologies. Diaz-Guerrero (1972), considered to be the father of empirical Mexican social psychology, clearly shows this perspective in his depiction of social psychology. In an extensive review of the social psychological literature, he incorporates the sociological work of Weber, Durkheim, and Marx in the past with the more recent advances made by Merton or Parsons, which state that human behaviour stems from the family structure, the role each human being plays at a particular moment in history, their social status in the specific structure of the groups we belong to—in summary, to the structure of the society in which our lives unfold. Diaz-Guerrero goes on to include the cultural anthropological views of Tylor in the past and Kroeber and Kluckhohn in more recent years, who indicate that social behaviour depends fundamentally on the values of the principal group to which we belong. He then incorporates the psychological theories of Freud, Adler, Jung, Maslow, and Fromm, regarding the reliance of behaviour on the fundamental needs of human beings. Given the extensive field covered by social behaviour (sociology, cultural anthropology, history, and psychology), Diaz-Guerrero then proposes a systematic and eclectic theory of the historic-bio-psycho-socio-cultural bases of human behaviour.

PSYCHOLOGICAL SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY IN LATIN AMERICA

Psychological social psychology studies the impact of the interaction between social settings and individuals on the perceptions and responses given by people to their everyday life. Even in an individualistic empirically based psychology, the collectivistic orientation of Latin America researchers has led them to incorporate situation and culture as integral parts of the equation. To incorporate the Latin American social and cultural context to our understanding of psychological social psychology, a sample of research that replicates, extends, and sometimes questions the generalizability of mainstream psychological social psychology is presented. Latin American psychological social psychology has studied the following phenomena and processes: socialization, the development and consolidation of the self-concept and masculinity-femininity, personality traits, cognitive balance, impression formation, attribution, sexual behaviour, jealousy, locus of control, anxiety, empathy, assertiveness, altruism, attitudes, self-disclosure, attraction, interpersonal relationships, love, power, communication, coping styles, and behaviour in general. The methods used to conduct research include experimental and correlational studies, as well as the construction of psychometric measures of personality, values, attitudes, and behaviour. Among the principal researchers are Mladinic and Saiz from Chile, Rodriguez and La Rosa from Brazil, Nina-Estrella and Ortiz-Torres from Puerto Rico, Casullo and Rimoldi from Argentina, Thorne and Alarcon from Peru, Reyes-Lagunes, Pick-Steiner, Diaz-Guerrero, Flores-Galaz, Villagran-Vazquez, Rivera-Aragon, and Diaz-Loving in Mexico, and Ardila in Colombia. Examples of their work are described in the following sections.

The self

The self is probably the most central theme in psychology. James, Freud, Cooley, Mead, Sullivan, Hilgard, Rogers, and Allport, all seminal thinkers in psychology, conceived of the self-concept as the central explicative function of behaviour and of psychological processes. Searching for the psycho-socio-cultural self of Mexicans, LaRosa and Diaz-Loving (1991) carried out a series of studies aimed at obtaining a culturally sensitive description of the self-concept. Brain-storming, free-association sessions, and short answer interviews were conducted with several groups of high school and university students, who agreed on five general self-concept categories: physical, social, emotional, moral, and occupational. In further sessions, they offered culturally appropriate attributes to describe each of the five dimensions. A final self-concept inventory was administered to over 3000 young adults and adolescents in Mexico City. The self-concept dimensions obtained for these samples concur with proposals and findings reported in ethnopsychological studies of the basic personality characteristics of the Mexican (Diaz-Guerrero & Diaz-Loving, 1992). The most significant finding was that the social and emotional aspects of the self were paramount, indicating that cultures with collectivist or sociocentric tendencies emphasize social and affective aspects of personality. In fact, in the context of a philosophy of life that prescribes self-modification (changing oneself to adapt to needs and wishes of others) and affiliative obedience (obeying parents and those in power in exchange for protection, love, and attention) as the ad hoc methods of coping with interpersonal relationships, Mexicans have developed the ability and need to get along with others in a smooth and nonconfrontational style. The social attributes that describe the Mexican allow for considerate and constructive interpersonal relationships. It thus is socially desirable to be respectful, amiable, decent, friendly, pleasant, simple, polite, courteous, and considerate, which allows one to get along with anybody. The second most prevalent aspect of the Mexican self is the emotional dimension. The culture gives great weight to being animated, happy, optimistic, glad, and joyful. In fact, positive mood states are related to success, while being sad is the principal determinant of psychopathology in Mexican society (Diaz-Guerrero, 1994). In terms of responding to problems and stress of everyday living in the search of social harmony, it is best to approach problems and interpersonal relationships with a calm and tranquil philosophy, reflecting and thinking things over, being reflexive, not getting easily upset, maintaining stability, trying to get along within others, and being generous and noble. These attributes fit well with a value system that bases its evaluation of subjective well-being on the positivity of human interactions (Diaz-Guerrero, 1977).

Derived from research on the self, the study of self-disclosure, defined as the act of revealing personal information to others, falls into the fields of communication and social relations, covered in mainstream psychological social psychology. The most consistent finding in self-disclosure experiments has been the reciprocity shown in the intimacy of self-disclosures. In order to study the self-disclosure reciprocity phenomena in a Latin-American sociocultural context, Diaz-Loving and Nina-Estrella (1982) conducted a field experiment in Mexico in which students approached people on the street and offered four possible disclosure levels: low, moderate, high, and very high intimacy. Half the subjects were given a reactance-liberation manipulation and the other half simply read the student’s self-description and were asked to write their own. Regardless of freedom to speak or reactance, subjects in Mexico comply with the reciprocity norm, increasingly disclosing more intimate details as the student’s communication became more intimate. An explanation for the cross-cultural difference in the disclosure patterns can be extracted from an attraction towards the student rating made by subjects. As intimacy grows, attraction should follow. This was true only of subjects in the freedom condition; while in the reactance condition, Mexican subjects were reciprocal in disclosure, but disliked students who put them under the pressure of the intimacy norm. In short, it seemed reasonable that a socioculture that stresses strict obedience to norms and premises (Diaz-Guerrero, 1994) will closely follow the situational demands created by the reciprocity norm. However, this does not mean that reactance effects are not created; they are simply displaced to a less public demonstration of dislike expressed without the “knowledge” of the student.

Socialization and gender

Male and female differences can be segmented into biological, social, and psychological levels. At the biological level there are aspects determined by genetics; at the social level we find gender and roles; and from the psychological perspective, there is the development of traits and behaviours that are either masculine or feminine (Diaz-Loving, Rivera-Aragon, & Sanchez-Aragon, 2001). In response to sociocultural norms and expectations derived from the biological, social, and psychological differences between men and women, parents have been shown to treat their offspring differentially with regard to what they believe to be an adequate development for each sex. To understand the way Argentinean mothers raise their children, Pascual, Schulthess, Galperin, and Bornstein (1995) compared actual and ideal behaviours of mothers and their perception of their husband’s actual and ideal behaviour toward their offspring. Three dimensions were evaluated: social, didactic, and disciplinarian. Social upbringing referred to interpersonal relationships (parent -offspring) full of affect, sensibility, and reciprocity. For this factor the authors report mothers seeing themselves as more sensible and affectionate than fathers, although urban fathers are higher in this social dimension than rural fathers. The didactic factor focuses on directing children to the properties of objects and events, in an attempt to provide the child with the opportunity to observe, imitate, and learn. Here again, mothers are seen as more stimulating than fathers. Finally, for the disciplinary factor, which covers conformity to social norms and respect for authority, there were no differences in parents’ behaviour. It is interesting to note that in traditional gender differentiated cultures, the mother is affectionate and stimulating, as expected for feminine gender roles, but she also has power when it comes to interaction with their offspring, as indicated by the disciplinary equity with father. This implies that power is also assigned to women in Latin American societies but it is restricted to the roles of mother or other traditionally feminine activities.

To study the impact of parents’ differential socialization practices on the development of their children’s personality, Andrade-Palos (1987) worked with 11- and 12-year-old children in Mexico. In general, congruent with traditional social and cultural gender expectations, parents give more emotional support and solve more problems for girls. For boys, they show more interest in their activities and encourage them more toward personal achievements. For both sexes, children develop an external, fatalistic locus of control when mothers are less affectionate and acceptant and more punitive. The same pattern occurs when the father is punitive and not affectionate, and it becomes extreme when both parents are punitive. For boys to develop an internal locus of control, they require high levels of emotional support, some instrumental help, and shared activities with mother, added to achievement encouragement by fathers, while girls develop an internal control with less help and emotional support. It seems that acceptance by both parents is sufficient for girls to develop this orientation in life.

Following up in the process of human development, it is clear that the effects of family structure and socialization practices extend from childhood far into adolescence. Saez-Santiago and Rossello (1997) report high depressive symptomology in Puerto Rican teenagers when they perceive dysfunction in the family or a critical perspective from parents. It is worthwhile to place these long-lasting findings in the Latin American context, where young people stay very close to the family unit up until marriage, and even then, in many situations they move in with, or integrate into, the extended family. This social context makes the acquisition of individual autonomy and independence weaker, while it strengthens the effects of family on the specification of traditional gender roles and the development of collectively inclined personality characteristics that persist well into to adulthood.

As can be seen, differential patterns of socialization for men and women are linked to gender roles, which in turn have a direct impact on the attributes men and women develop. Masculinity and femininity has been conceptualized as those personality characteristics that ideally or typically are assigned to and identify men and women. These two types of attributes can be present at the same time in men or women (androgyny), can be either predominantly instrumental-agentic (masculinity), expressive-communal (femininity), or absent altogether (undifferentiated). Data from Mexican subjects show the existence of the same four basic masculinity and femininity dimensions, including both positive and negative factors, as are found in the United States (Diaz-Loving, Diaz-Guerrero, Helmreich, & Spence, 1981). Certain changes were necessary in order to incorporate and explain what was found in Mexico. For example, the attributes “dominant” and “dictatorial,” considered undesirable in the United States, appear as socially desirable instrumental traits in both sexes in Mexico. These findings are consistent with data reported by Diaz-Guerrero (1977) showing that obedience to authority is more common in Mexico than in the United States, and that a passive confrontation coping style, adequate for hierarchically inclined societies, is more prevalent in Mexico, making authority more acceptable. The item “servile,” from the US negative femininity scale, is a further example of cultural specificity. In Mexico, this adjective shows a social desirability pattern similar to adjectives from the positive femininity construct. Evidence obtained by Holtzman, Diaz-Guerrero, and Swartz (1975) shows that the complacent self-modifying coping style and abnegation of Mexicans is a fundamental characteristic for the proper interaction of interdependent members of a social group, especially at the family level.

The social and cultural orientation towards gender roles and the differential socialization and enculturation practices that accompany them have effects on varied phenomena related to sexuality. Based on the concepts of androgyny vs. sex-typed or undifferentiated, DeSouza and Hutz (1995) found that Brazilian sex-typed men scored higher on hedonistic sexual orientation (erotophilia) than their female counterparts. This indicates that traditional gender role demands can be particularly strong and inhibiting for sex-typed females. In other words, conservative gender-based Brazilian society promotes sexual freedom for males but not for females. However, androgynous females (masculine plus femininity and more flexible social/gender roles) are far more comfortable with their sexuality and thus do not present erotophobic (fear of sexuality and its expression) tendencies. As it has become evident, gender roles and socialization practices regarding sexual identity and behaviour have a discernible impact on the development of masculinity and femininity personality characteristics in males and females. In addition, they create a sociocultural context that directs and evaluates men and women, their attitudes, and their interpersonal relationships. In a similar analysis of gender roles and their impact on behaviour, several researchers in Chile have documented interfamily violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, even though Chilean women in general are not aware of unequal or harmful treatment (Nieto, 1995). This contradiction between behaviours toward women and their perception of subjective well-being has been interpreted to depend on a marked social ambivalence towards women (Eagly & Mladinic, 1993), making prejudice not uniformly negative. The ambivalence is expressed through two different dimensions of sexism: hostile sexism that reflects antipathy and intolerance, and benevolent sexism that reflects stereotyped and restrictive attitudes of a subjectively positive tone. Benevolent sexism, in turn, stimulates behaviours typically defined as prosocial (e.g., women need help) or intimate (e.g., women are interested in intimate disclosures or closeness). This stereotype goes along the lines of male dominance and the need for protecting females and the family, prevalent in traditional collectivist cultures (Diaz-Guerrero, 1994).

In order to assess the existence and structure of ambivalent sexism among Chileans, and its relationship to social desirability, Mladinic, Saiz, Diaz, Ortega, and Oyarce (1998) interviewed university students from the south of Chile. Ambivalent sexism was divided into hostile sexism and benevolent sexism in Chile. Additionally, benevolent sexism breaks down into three dimensions: protector paternalism, the belief that males should provide economic security, love, and protection and rescue helpless females from “catastrophes”; complementary differentiation, which presumes that females have positive characteristics such as expressivity and emotional solidarity only to complement male traits of achievement orientation, independence and competition; and heterosexual intimacy, which attests to the male needs for love and the companionship of women to feel complete. As hypothesized, antipathy and intolerance toward women are positively correlated with benevolent attitudes and not with social desirability, showing the existence and general acceptance of ambivalent sexism in both sexes. However, according to the intensity of each type of sexism, males tend to score high on both types simultaneously, while females incline towards embracing benevolent sexism and only mildly accepting hostile sexism.

Social cognition, impression formation, and attitudes

It is interesting that basic social cognition has not made deep inroads into Latin American social psychology, perhaps because these lines of research represent the ultimate in abstract, experimental, and individualistic positions. However, in an ambitious research project, Rodriguez (1982) set out to replicate classic social cognition experiments with Brazilian subjects, showing that the basic phenomena described in the original studies with United States college students exist in Brazilian students, although the patterns of results were different with the more collectivistic cultural orientation. In a more mundane world, in a study of impression formation, the “real” (social perception) and ideal (interjected value) attributes subscribed by and ascribed to males and females were obtained by Rivera-Aragon, Diaz-Loving, and Flores-Galaz (1986). Just looking at the results for single and married females, the following is reported. Single females described an ideal couple as tall, handsome, financially well-off, understanding, sociable, tender, gentleman-like, intelligent, happy, responsible, and thin. Married females preferred handsome, tender, caring, responsible, clean, successful, well-bred, sociable, financially well-off, and tall men. The main difference is that single females stressed physical and socioemotional characteristics, while married women emphasize attributes that were functional for everyday married life. When asked to whom they were actually engaged, single women overwhelmingly said, “with someone different from what I would like,” although they also mentioned tender, home-oriented, and economically solvent. On their behalf, married women indicated their husbands were handsome, intelligent, tall, gentleman-like, jealous, uninterested, and insecure. It is interesting to note the convoluted perceptions subjects create through sociocultural evolution of what they like and have, considering the straightforward predictions made by sexual evolutionary theory in which women are only seeking protection.

Attitude research is extremely popular because of its immensely practical applications in a context of grave poverty, illness, and economic differences. In the area of sexual and contraceptive behaviour, components of the theory of reasoned action predicted 25% of condom use in young Mexicans when the intention to use it was included (Diaz-Loving & Villagran-Vazquez, 1999). These results are a great improvement over percentages documented for behaviours with knowledge and general attitudes towards AIDS. Nevertheless, similar studies conducted with subjects from individualistic societies explain over 50% of variance. It is possible that the higher levels of external locus of control and self-modification copying styles present in Hispanic (collectivist) populations (Diaz-Guerrero, 1994) reflect a sociocultural tendency to focus more attention on situational variables that interfere with the effect of personal intentions, reducing the importance of individual-centred variables (attitudes and subjective norms). It is true that the subjective norm could be considered to be part of an interdependent coping style, although one should consider that this norm refers to cross-situational stable cognitive structures developed by the subject based on his/her reference group’s position, and thus does not include the specification of situational demands present in different sexual encounters.

Locus of control

Stemming from a behavioural tradition, individual beliefs and behaviours are consistently based on their reinforcement history and the control and the placement of it by subjects, either in their own activities and capabilities, or in situational forces. Cross-cultural literature reflects the relevance that control of reinforcement and punishment has, making the construct universal. In Mexico, Diaz-Loving and Andrade-Palos (1984) replicated the traditional dimensions of internal control and external locus of control, and identified a new dimension in Mexican children. Internal-affective control describes the indirect manipulation of the environment through the affiliative and communication abilities of the subject (i.e., “If I am nice to my teacher, she will give me a good grade”). Strictly speaking, from the original theoretical perspective, this dimension could be categorized as external control, because Rotter’s definition describes powerful others controlling the subjects’ destiny as part of external control. However, from a sociocultural perspective, it is acceptable to manipulate the environment through others who can execute the direct modification. Thus, controlling others would be to control one’s destiny, which is to say internal control. This idiosyncratic form of coping control evident in Mexican children has been replicated in adolescents and adults, showing that this characteristic is not a consequence of human development, but rather a stable trait within the culture. In fact, affiliative internal control prescribes a coping style compatible with the affiliative obedience and self-modifying coping style of the Mexican philosophy of life and its socio-cultural premises (Diaz-Guerrero, 1994).

Diaz-Loving, Pick, and Andrade-Palos (1988b) studied the relation between sexual life and instrumental and affective internal locus of control among low socioeconomic female adolescents from Mexico. Early adolescents (12-15 years old), high in affective internal control and heavily dependent on the family structure, strictly follow the traditional sociocultural premises that indicate females should remain “virgin” until marriage (Diaz-Guerrero, 1994). With age (16–19 years old), those who continue to show high levels of internal affective control, and are no longer under the protection of the family, become easy prey to the affect advancements of potential sexual partners. In addition, these adolescents show higher probability of engaging in unprotected sex, and are often victims of unwanted pregnancies. These conclusions are reflected in the high scores in affiliative internal control obtained in the sample of pregnant teenagers. The pattern for internal instrumental control is exactly the opposite. In early adolescence, high internal instrumental control is related to more unprotected sexual activity, while adolescents who develop this characteristic over time, and achieve a mature instrumental orientation towards the latter parts of adolescence, tend to engage less in sexual activity, and protect themselves when they do engage in it.

Interpersonal attraction

Interest in the expectations and behaviours of couples has stimulated a great deal of psychosocial theory and research in the West. In several Latin American countries there has been psychosocial research with couples on their perceptions of the ideal and real attributes of couples (Rivera-Aragon et al., 1986), reactions to interpersonal interaction (Diaz-Loving & Andrade-Palos, 1996), the symbolic conceptualization of love (Diaz-Loving, Canales, & Gamboa,1988a); the measurement of intimacy, passion, and commitment (Sanchez-Aragon & Diaz-Loving, 1996), jealousy (Diaz-Loving, Rivera-Aragon, & Flores-Galaz, 1989), communication (Nina-Estrella, 1988), marital satisfaction (Diaz-Loving, Alvarado Hernandez, Lignan Camarena, & Rivera-Aragon, 1997), and power (Rivera-Aragon & Diaz-Loving, 1995).

SOCIOLOGICAL SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY IN LATIN AMERICA

Symbolic interactionism

Symbolic interactionism in Latin America has led to the development and refinement of several methodological advances as well as to the creation of indigenous thought. Semantic networks, free association, and discourse analysis have been stressed as the preferred research methods to study the Mexican self, the Mexican family, the economy and education in Colombia, corruption in Venezuela, social representation of sexual practices in Brazil, gender and sexual behaviour in Puerto Rico, and political discourse in El Salvador. Some of the principal innovators who have conducted research in this area include Valdez, Reyes-Lagunes, and Diaz-Guerrero in Mexico, Montero and Salazar in Venezuela, Grubits in Brazil, and Serrano and Toro in Puerto Rico.

That the sociological orientation has been devoted to applied community and culturally based research questions is especially evident in the work of Salazar (1997) directed toward understanding social problems, the development of national identities, and the impact of Latin American psychology on cross-cultural psychology. In addition, from a strictly methodological perspective, Reyes-Lagunes (1993) has written extensively about the use of semantic networks as a way of obtaining the meaning of concepts in different sociocultural groups. For this method, subjects are given a concept (e.g., family, self, love, respect) and asked to give all the words that best define it. Once they have finished, they are asked to rearrange these words according to their pertinence as definers of the stimuli. A weighted-frequency list of definers is then produced, which gives the meaning (semantic network) and importance (semantic weight) for the concepts under study. Using this technique, Valdez Medina (1998) asked Mexican young people to define self as person, self as son, and self as friend. On average, he finds that males describe self and others as good, angry, mischievous, intelligent, affectionate, amiable, obedient, sharing, and studious, while females describe others and self as good, angry, responsible, affectionate, mischievous, amiable, studious, tranquil, dumb, and lazy. These adjectives provide an accurate picture of how young Mexicans describe themselves in relation to a combination of social roles. We should note that the words presented refer to a general self, and that when the definers are analyzed separately by role, the definitions are more positive for interactive selves (friend or son/daughter) and more neutral to negative when the self is individualistic (person). Such a pattern of results coincides with the stereotype of Mexicans as collectivistic.

Diaz-Guerrero and Szalay (1993) obtained free associations to over 50 concepts as a technique to provide a preview into the inner world and thinking of subjects who lived, socialized, and enculturated in the Mexican culture. For the “self,” Mexicans present images of a collective identity dependent on strict social norms. Importance is given to demands of reciprocity, mutual help, understanding, and cohesion, and group, family, and community unity. For “family,” emphasis is on affiliative, interdependent relationships between parents and children and excludes husband and wife. Special attention is directed to the parent’s responsibility to provide a “proper” upbringing and socialization for children, based on intimate relationships and values of love, respect, and obedience.

According to Mexicans, “love” and “marriage” include affect, sentiments, comprehension, and attachment towards someone whose intrinsic qualities, behaviours, social roles, and status are the best selection for the person and their family. Love is conceived in the family context, especially towards children, then parents, brothers, and then friends who are incorporated into the family. In terms of marriage, strong gender differences appear in expectancies and roles, and commitment to attachment is the main determinant in the development and maintenance of a “successful marriage.” With regard to larger institutions such as communities, Mexicans display strong identity and affiliative ties between individuals. Society is perceived as a great reunion of interdependent people, linked by positive interpersonal determinants like cooperation, cofraternity, and union. Integral to the conceptualization of social institutions (communities, societies, and families) are moral and religious determinants. Catholicism is conceived of as an all-encompassing faith that evokes social attitudes of love and understanding, giving attention to the compassionate moral and affective aspects of religion. “God” is seen as a supreme being with unquestionable strengths and power, looking over his/her (we think he is male but do not have any hard evidence) flock, like an understanding and loving parent; a father should act in the same manner, according to the sociocultural premises of the Mexican family. Since morality is divinely specified and dictated, values are presented as ideal, positive, and virtuous. God has sent his commandments and humans should show an immediate willingness to accept, pursue, and abide by these ideals. Obedience to this “loving father” has interpersonal and social implications, which are contingent on future reinforcement or punishment.

Analysing texts, speech, and other forms of communication in the search for the meaning constructed by sociocultural groups has led symbolic interactionism to propose several different forms of studying language. Theoreticians of discourse analysis sustain this perspective and indicate that the constructivist quality of discourse itself has meaning; it reproduces power relationships and has ideological consequences. To operationalize their perspective, they have created the notion of ideological discursive strategies that are the forms adopted to introduce, disclose, and impose a certain ideology, including the rhetoric method used to persuade self and others. An example of this technique is found in the study by Silva and Hernandez (1995) of the construction of corruption in Venezuela. These researchers obtained their material using focus groups. This technique requires groups of between six and eight subjects who discuss a specific topic, in this case the definition of corruption, examples of corruption, attributes of a corrupt action, reasons to be corrupt, when corruption began, and possible solutions for corruption. Five basic strategy components were found in the analysis. In some cases, others or the situation were used as the excuse. Using an excuse normally included alluding to an external variable as being responsible for our actions. For example, prevalent corruption among political figures or those in power spreads to the rest of society. A second justification was the need to save oneself in a corrupt situation (“not acting accordingly would put me at a disadvantage”). Still others create a justification that speaks to the positive or valuable implications of saving time, effort, and money. A fourth action involves normalizing a certain practice: “Everybody does it, if I do not I would be seen as abnormal.” A final form was to put the situation on a balance: “There is the temptation but the negative consequences or my moral values do not permit it.” Under these circumstances the weight for corrupt behaviour is again placed outside the individual; he/she fell victim to the temptation. The general analysis of the construction of a phenomenon reveals the everyday perception and actions of corruption in a specific sociocultural group.

At the macro analysis level of communication, Montero (1975) studied the impact of mass media on the attitudes and knowledge about politics among young Venezuelans. Although her subjects reported consistently high levels of exposure to radio, television, cinema, and press across both gender and socioeconomic status, females exposed themselves to more television and males to more cinema. Subjects who sought more political stimuli were more informed, especially those who listened to radio and read the press. Females indicated less interest in politics and cited their family as their source of information, and thus held political attitudes similar to their families. Males, on the other hand, seemed more conscious of their political inclinations and gave clear reasons for their political attitudes. However, there was no gender difference in the level of political knowledge or intellectual capabilities. Thus, it is incorrect to exclude women from political activities, assuming they have less political know-how or based on their “humble” reluctance to speak their minds.

Personality and social structure

The research methods in this field—in-depth interviews, surveys, and participant observation—have been used primarily to study all types of identities, gender roles, and personality. Some of the significant researchers using these methods are Capello and Diaz-Guerrero from Mexico, Maldonado from Puerto Rico, Saiz and Mladinic from Chile, Martin-Baro from El Salvador, and Montero and Salazar from Venezuela.

The theoretical and empirical work of Diaz-Guerrero (1994) on the development of personality is a good example of the personality and social structure perspective. Diaz-Guerrero states that personality characteristics are formed through the continuous and dialectic interaction between each individual biopsychological need (nutrition, security, reproduction, affect, achievement, existential well-being) and the sociocultural norms and premises held by the individual’s reference and ascription groups. The first step to evaluate the personality development hypothesis advanced by Diaz-Guerrero is to define, and then observe or measure, the construct of social structure. This has been done by uncovering and specifying the norms and rules that regulate the behaviour of a social group. The socioculture where individuals grow and develop is the basis for the formation of national character, and the delineation of the norms and rules for accepted social behaviour and interaction. Interpersonal behaviour is directed and determined, in part, by the extent to which each subject addresses, believes, and internalizes cultural dictates. To assess the Mexican sociocultural norms, Diaz-Guerrero (1986) extracted the historic-socio-cultural premises from sayings, proverbs, and other forms of popular communication. Content analysis of the premises shows the central position that family has within the culture. Two basic propositions emerge and engulf the description of the traditional Mexican family: (1) affiliative obedience, evident in proverbs like “children should always obey their parents,” “everyone should love their mother and respect their father,” “strict and loving parents help children grow up correctly,” showing that children should never disobey parents and show respect in exchange for security and love; and (2) a strict hierarchical structure based on respect (deference) towards anybody higher on the social ladder. Constructed around these two cardinal premises, over 80% of large segments of the population in the 1950s indicated that these premises were accepted and guided their lives.

As to the impact of the premises on the development of personality, Diaz-Guerrero has been able to identify eight prototypes of dispositional tendencies in the Mexican population. Of these, the following four are the most prominent: (1) passive obedient affiliative type, which is the most common and is affectionate, dependent, pleasing, and controlled; (2) actively self assertive type is autonomous, independent, impulsive, dominant, intelligent, and rebellious; (3) active internal self-control type is capable, affectionate, rational, flexible, and thoughtful; and (4) external passive control type is authoritarian, uncontrolled, aggressive, impulsive, pessimistic, corrupt, and servile.

Identity

A common question for Latin American scholars has been “Who are we?”. Stemming from the sociological social psychology perspective, the topic of identity has been popular among politically active groups of Latin American social psychologists. In a study regarding the Chilean national identity (Saiz & Mladinic, 1996; Saiz, Rehibein, & Perez-Luco, 1993), the intricate relationship between ethnic identity, myths, history, and national identity is established. The model specifies three basic belief systems. (1) Adherence to a myth that explains the national origin (our ancestry is half Indian and half Spaniard and thus we are mestizos), which is definitely a myth because the Mapuche population was not large and did not integrate easily with European populations. In spite of this, subjects show high rates of adherence to the myth indicating a mestizo presence and the belief that they have biologically inherited the characteristics of the traditional Mapuches. (2) A stereotype of brave warriors attributed to the original Mapuche Indians, which is translated into perceiving one self as a patriot and including a positive evaluation of one’s national identity. (3) The degree to which each individual assigns more or less Mapuche or European ancestry to their ethnic heritage. The data show that most individuals perceive an egalitarian amount of Indian and European ancestry, which is related to pleasant emotions and feelings of belonging to the nation. Far fewer numbers ascribe to a specifically Mapuche or European ancestry and show more unpleasant emotions and feelings of distance to the national identity.

From a strictly sociopolitical orientation, two Mexican sociopsychologists, Bejar and Capello (1986), indicate that national identity is the degree to which citizens feel they are a part of the institutions that give value and significance to their national system (social, political, economic) as well as the solidarity expressed to the past and present of a nation. It is interesting to note that the field of political psychology and related work has often crossed the thin line separating applied research from social activism. The distinction between the scientific approach and the academic perspective with which psychologists treat psychopolitical themes, and their will to influence public opinion and induce social change, is often blurred.

Considering the sociopolitical implications of dependency identities, Martin-Baro (1990) asked Salvadorians to give the four characteristics that best described them. Analysis of the frequency of the responses shows a unilateral perception of themselves as hardworking, enterprising, happy, friendly, and machismo. On a more negative note, discussion groups identified the attributes of suffering, exploited, alienated and dependent, followed by patriotic and hardworking. It is interesting that the two inquiry methods produced such different identities in the same population. One could argue that the social process of interaction brings out the sociopolitical and economic part of the identity (suffering, alienated) whereas the self-report measure directs one’s attention to individual aspects of self (hardworking, happy) Baro goes on to state that the groups in power use the self views of Salvadorians to mobilize them to actions that favour their political interests.

In an effort to construct an interactive national identity, Montero and Salas (1993) asked Colombian and Venezuelan students to indicate verbally and graphically (maps sketched by subjects) how they perceived the world. Students perceived the northern countries, particularly the United States and Russia, to be much larger than in reality; they reduced South America, reduced or omitted most of Oceania, Africa, and Asia, and ignored Central America and the Caribbean. These data are taken to signify an ideology of dependency and a syndrome of national devaluation. On the other hand, as with Baro’s data from Salvadorians, people see themselves as happy, humourous, affable, sociable, friendly, intelligent, kind, and industrious. It seems again that the dependency comes from the evaluation of national attributes, which do not necessarily have a negative impact on the way in which people evaluate themselves.

CULTURAL SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY IN LATIN AMERICA

Cultural social psychology permeates all realms of Latin American social psychology; the methods are multiple, ranging from ethnopsychometry to focal groups and from correlational studies to experimental interventions. Study has focused on the personality of distinct cultures in countries like Chile, Argentina, and Peru, the idiosyncratic character of the Latin American, the development of personality in Mexico and Puerto Rico, self-concept and authoritarianism in Mexico and Brazil, individualism and collectivism, and the creation of bio-psycho-socio-cultural theories of human behaviour. Some representative followers of this approach are Diaz-Guerrero, Reyes-Lagunes, and Diaz-Loving in Mexico, Pacheco and Lucca in Puerto Rico, Vigano and La Rosa in Brazil, Vinet in Chile, and Ardila in Colombia, among others.

The work in the cultural tradition within psychology was initiated in the cross-cultural field by Diaz-Guerrero with Holtzman on the development of personality (Holtzman et al., 1975), and with Osgood on the semantic differential (Diaz-Guerrero, 1994). The finding of certain culturally idiosyncratic characteristics in the cross-cultural research led to the publication of A Mexican Psychology (Diaz-Guerrero, 1977) and Culture and Personality Revisited (Diaz-Guerrero,1977), where the author makes explicit the need for indigenous research to better explain the behaviour of Mexicans. Further work led to the development of a scientific discipline: Ethnopsychology of the Mexican people, systematically looking for ethnic characteristics and processes (e.g., Diaz-Guerrero, 1995; Diaz-Guerrero & Diaz-Loving, 1992). Within the framework provided by the historic-bio-psycho-socio-cultural theory of human behaviour elaborated by Diaz-Guerrero (1994), Bravo, Serrano-Garcia, and Bernal (1991) contextualize the study of stress in Puerto Rico. Stress experience includes two basic components: stressors (stimuli that requires some type of adaptive behaviour) and responses (stereotypic response set to certain stimuli), which are centred in physical, biological, psychological, and social terms. Stressors can be physical, such as cold, heat, and noise, biological, e.g., bacteria or pain, psychological, e.g., ideas or emotions, or social, e.g., interpersonal conflict or economic pressures. Responses to stress represent a complete set of reactions, which include biological (physiological processes) cognitive (difficulty to concentrate, fluctuations in mood states), and social (hostility, social impairment) components. Conceptualizing stress under this multi-factor paradigm allows consideration of the true characterization of the stress phenomena that cause problems for traditional bio-medical models. Based on the bio-psycho-social perspective, these authors propose they have been far more effective in the diagnosis of the problem and in the production of adequate and more successful interventions.

Based on Diaz-Guerrero’s historic-bio-psycho-socio-cultural theoretical paradigm, and in response to a growing concern in couple relationship research with the use of small and nonrepresentative samples and the inclusion of few variables in each study, a theoretically based multimethod and multidimensional theory was proposed (Diaz-Loving & Sanchez-Aragon, 2002) for different sociocultural contexts. This theory creates a culturally sensitive structural model that will logically integrate all those variables and processes that operate in couple encounters. In order to make sense of the growing amount of research findings, an integrative approach that includes biological, cultural, social, historical, psychological, and behavioural and ecosystem variables must be considered. The biocultural dimension covers the basic need of all human beings to relate with others affectively and the ways they form bonds and follow norms. In order to measure attachment styles in a valid, reliable, and culturally sensitive form in Mexican adult couples, exploratory techniques were used to elicit the behaviours, emotions, and thoughts people had regarding each style. In an attempt to obtain Mexican sociocultural premises of couples’ behaviours, subjects indicated what they felt, thought, and did as well as what they thought was the most appropriate way to act while interacting in a couple at different stages of the relationship.

In order to assess the individual component, a multidimensional and ethnopsychologically sensitive measuring instrument of defensiveness, locus of control, masculinity and femininity, and self-esteem was developed. The creation of interaction schemata, based on what one feels and thinks in response to social stimuli, gives way to the creation of expectations and decisions as to what type of relationship one is experiencing. With the intention of providing the psychological stages that individuals can experience in the evolution of a relationship, a psychological approach-withdrawal pattern that gives context to the establishment, development, maintenance and dissolution of interpersonal relationships is presented. Each stage incorporates the feelings, emotions, thoughts, attributions, and behaviours experienced by the partners in a given life episode.

Once the personal, contextual, and motivational variables have been set into motion, each member of the couple must decide what course of action is possible and which is most convenient. At this stage of the process, individuals fall back on their personal behaviour styles and habits as guides for the evaluation of present behaviours and as precursors of future actions. In this model, negotiation strategies, love styles, and communication styles are identified, and their scales developed and validated. The final step in the model concentrates on the emission of behaviours. The positive behaviours yield three conceptually clear factors of support, expressiveness, and instrumental company behaviours. The offensive and insufficient behaviours scales include negative expressive, negative instrumental, and rejection and exclusion behaviours.

An integral evaluation of the bio-psycho-socio-cultural model involved analyzing the relationships between the components. As an example, the regression results for company and support behaviours in males (e.g., giving support, listening, laughing together, showing tenderness) show that positive communication and negotiation love styles include being friendly, practical, erotic, and altruistic, while lacking in a contentious negotiation orientation or a playful or manic love style predict support behaviours. In addition, perceiving that the relationship is in a closeness stage and possessing positive masculine and feminine traits (androgynous), self-actualization traits, and no defensive characteristics, with the addition of the bio-socio-cultural component (high feminine equity beliefs and a secure attachment style) round up the model with a multiple R of .70.

CONCLUSIONS

With the growth of indigenous psychologies, concerns arise about the stability and generalizability of psychology as a science with universal theorems, laws, and paradigms Facing the storm, some have hailed the coming of a new age with independent and vibrant ehtnopsychologies (Diaz-Guerrero & Pacheco, 1994), while others have questioned whether differences in behaviour across cultures warrant the creation of different psychologies (Poortinga, 1999), and still others are simply unaware of the existence of something outside the mainstream. As is evident in this article, from the beginning, social psychology contemplates the existence of clearly identifiable philosophical orientations that stress biopsychological, social, or cultural explanations depending on the ecological and historical context in which they emerge. This attests to the fact that all humans are bio-psycho-socio-cultural beings; however, even in each of these dimensions there is diversity, while at the same time psychologists in each confront different realities that guide the questions and research on which they center. Without a doubt, the two principal goals of any science are to be precise and to be generalizable. On many an occasion, the mainstream has emphasized internal validity and taken excessive liberties as far as external validity is concerned, while on the other side, ethnopsychologies have tangled with the need for cultural sensitivity, frequently neglecting the place of their findings within the confines of a general psychology. The lesson within social psychology seems straightforward: The parameters of human activity are set among the psychological, sociological, and cultural traditions and no matter how far we stray we must live within their limits. However, in the compass of this universal stage, indigenous psychologies can create a psychology that is appropriate for their culture (Adair, 1999). The secret may be to pull together the strengths of each theoretical framework, pay homage to the classics, recognize the multidimensional quality of life, listen to your samples, integrate and modify methodological and conceptual entities to fit realities and not the other way around, and—for this writer, consistent with my cultural background—stay humble and surprised.


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© 2005 International Union of Psychological Science
DOI: 10.1080/00207590444000168

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