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A Study of Personal and Cultural Values: American, Japanese, and Vietnamese (Culture, Mind, and Society) Hardcover – April 15, 2008
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About the Author
ROY GOODWN D'ANDRADE is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, USA.
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D'Andrade acknowledges that using quantitative data from questionnaires to do a cross-cultural study of values has its limitations, but he argues that it has virtues too and our understanding of values is at such a stage where the contribution from such research would be important. His discussion of how his measures were constructed is also, as usual, thorough and forthright. Ditto his methods of analysis. Much can be learned from these two sections, and together they demonstrate the challenge of doing good quantitative research into cultural phenomenon. This is no simple ask-and-tally procedure.
Although there are some surprising findings -- for example, the Japanese appeared more like the Americans than the Vietnamese on the individualism versus collectivism dimension -- for D'Andrade and others working on the project the greater surprise seems to be that the value differences were so small. This leads him to conclude -- and I may be missing something here -- that the "values" of the questionnaire were too general; what counts as satisfaction of that value for a given person in a given instance is more informative.
I think that sums up the limitations of questionnaire research in a nutshell. It's why we do ethnography (if you're an anthropologist) -- although, as D'Andrade noted, that takes more time, money, resources, ...
So what would the next step look like? One example is Adrie Kusserow's compelling American Individualisms (2004), which shows how different social groups may share the value of "individualism" but give different meanings to the word/concept, based on their (class) experiences. Note that these are all "Americans." Taking this one step further, if you will, Claudia Strauss shows how individuals learn, hold, and use different, even discordant, value-schemes to judge behavior in different contexts (see her chapter in Quinn's Finding Culture in Talk, 2005).
I bought this book on the strength of the author's reputation, his fine The Development of Cognitive Anthropology (1995), and the book's title (I study Japan). I confess I was surprised at the approach he used here. I need more convincing on the subject of generalizing from small samples to large societies, for example. I would be more interested in seeing how values emerge in a more narrowly defined context, perhaps discussion of a specific moral dilemma (a la Lawrence Kohlberg, Carol Gilligan, Naomi Quinn, or Claudia Strauss). In general, I find the approach of Strauss and Quinn more useful. All the same, I was glad to see this work published, because D'Andrade's honest scholarship really clarified for me the limitations of this type of research for this type of topic. And he has left us with some new questions. So if your library has a copy you might want to give this a look.
Strauss and Quinn:
D'Andrade and Strauss:
Due to its impressive theoretical coverage and empirical depth, the influence of the study extends beyond the highly specialized research niche that anthropology reserves for the quantitative studies of enculturated ideas. This book is widely used among cross-cultural psychologists, cognitive scientists and sociologists focusing on values studies. The obvious appeal of this text is in its comprehensiveness, detailed cross-cultural comparison and robust findings. These are the qualities where most reviews of this text converge, and I humbly concur, but it is not where the most essential merit of this source lies.
Cross-cultural values studies have a long multidisciplinary tradition. This line of research has generated a theoretically rich, conceptually confusing and methodologically complex literature (Rokeach, Kluckhohn, Hofstede, Schwartz, D'Andrade, Saucier...). Given the multitude and the dynamism of the theoretical and methodological perspectives (which are aptly articulated in D'Andrade's text - definitely a must-read if you wish to learn about the data-theory link), the intensive empirical research is bound to present us with new questions. As a result, over the years values research has uncovered numerous issues in the values landscape, some more recent than others, which signals a need for a revision and more sensitive research. Some of these unsettling issues challenge the long-lived ideas that by themselves have a large body of publications behind themselves. Some of these ideas have been subjected to re-evaluation, at least in psychology (for example, the individualism - collectivism debate, see Oyserman et al., 2000 for review). Some however are still causing a liberal amount of distress to methodologists (for example, the distribution of variation in values across and within samples, see Schwartz, 2013 (JPSP) or the collective vs. individual level analysis, see Fisher, 2013, in press). The methodological dimension is a separate source of difficulties, as in the often-cited case of Japanese and American ratings on individualism/collectivism continuum; but those are hardly counterintuitive if one is familiar with how the scaling methodology works.
Having done the work on values for a decade myself, and having watched these methodological conundrums gradually unfold over the last couple of years (mostly in the form of the new books on values offering new solutions, see Cambridge University Press, they publish a lot of high-quality scholarship on values studies), I would like to register that it is the analysis of these pressing issues that is the best and the most valuable part of D'Andrade's text. This is exactly where his empirical meticulousness and methodological minimalism paid off. Since the publication of the book in 2008, D'Andrade's findings have been directly or indirectly supported by researchers working within both qualitative and quantitative niches (which is why I was so surprised to see one of the reviewers almost contrasting D'Andrade's findings with those from qualitative work - I am not sure why he arrived at that conclusion if he has read Quinn and Strauss and other works on cultural models).
Yet, there is a drawback even in the most excellent books. Targeting complex problems, they often require, regrettably, no mean amount of expertise from the reader - both in terms of relevant knowledge about the methodological fixes applied by the great many researchers preceding you in this field, and also in the area of conceptualization which needs to be subtle and able to adjust in the face of the new evidence. D'Andrade's works are never conceptually simplistic while enviably elegant in their methodological execution. The very conceptualization of a value and how all the variables are operationalized in his research design present a daunting challenge to a novice in this area. As the previous reviews have shown, it is still a frustrating problem (Blaine Connor's review, 2010). But the concept of a value deserves the effort to try to understand it to be researched properly. Values affect how we see the world and how we feel about it, and in itself a value is a fascinating subject. If you or your graduate students do research on values, D'Andrade's book is a one of the most useful references to get one's hands on.