Personal Statement, Draft #2
*Bold text indicates notes made by the author.
I first arrived in Zengcheng with four other foreigners
on the tutoring program, selected to meet with elementary students in
this rural village in southern China, to teach new words and encourage
their English studies. In those muddy streets, forty five curious faces
before mine and my Chinese floundering, I wondered where all my knowledge
had gone. We had planned to teach names, selling plastic fruit like
vendors of vocabulary, and the students would practice their spoken
English. Crowded around me, school girls in dark navy pantsuits took
turns standing near the front, where shyness gave way to eager curiosity,
and nervous questions inquired about the prices of bananas and oranges.
To encourage dialogue, I played the game, "this is an apple. Whate
else here is like an apple?" When I came to the strawberry, the
reply was quick, from the left. "Beef." Startled, I followed
the gaze of my respondent to a square of styrofoam, colored with red
marker, labeled in blue ink, "beef."
"No, beef's not a fruit, it's a cow." "Right,"
she grinned, "cow eat strawberry." Several small heads nodded
approvingly. Here, I faltered. I recognized the difference between
the category grouping I had assumed and the one she had made-I grouped
by individual characteristics of color and shape, while she linked objects
based on relationships. Displaced, I wished for grounding-why
did this seem so different? My curiosity, however, was lost among their
own. While they wanted to touch my hair, I wanted to know how these
students could use English taught from teachers whose English I coulnd't
understand, picking up new words from me and using them in conversation
less than ten minutes later. Do they remember and learn the way
I do? Obviously their sense of categorization was very different from
my own. How different were their concepts of communication, competition,
friendship and conflict? I felt as if this moment was corrective lenses
for my nearsightedness, and all that had been distant and blurred was
now moving into focus. On that afternoon, I could see that it would
be impossible for me to continue to study psychology without including
My semester at the Chinese University of Hong Kong has
broadened my concerns, while narrowing my intent. At the University,
I took "The Psychology of the Chinese People" from Dr. Michael
Harris Bond, president of the International Association of Cross Cultural
Psychology. I discovered how psychological material yet untouched could
prove crucial to Western nations encouraging developing countries
to contribuet to the international community. Perhaps the West fails
to provide its full potential, by relying on only American perspectives
regarding education and development, instead of employing more culturally
relevant methods. Driven by the faces of Zengchenng, along with Professor
Bond's encouragement, I began my honors thesis research, my own investigation
of cultural psychology.
In 1995, psychologists at the Chinese University of Hong
Kong developed the Chinese Personality Assessment Inventory, which found
six total personality factors, in comparison to the widely-accepted
American Five Factor Model. Although most of these Chinese factors directly
corresponded to those in the American model, one new factor appeared,
called Chinese Tradition, which includes the critical concempt of face
(honor) and shame. In chinese society, unacceptable, devient behavior
is often subjected to public chastisement, which causes people to e
unwilling to commit themeselves when there are elements of uncertainty
involved. This is clearly a barrier to creative accomplishment, which
relies on uninhibited expression as a basic tenant. Thus, perhaps the
presence of a high level of this tradition factor serves to effectively
suppress behaviorthat would otherwise lead to greater expressed creativity.
Given this possible link between a culture's specific behavioural rules
and the resulting creative output, I am researching creativity among
Chinese and American college students, accounting for the indigeous
Chinese personality factor of tradition. This allows me to study the
role of culture in shaping not only the individual creator, but also
the personality and culural determinants on the product.
This type of cross cultural psychology is currently happening at Oxford University, under the...
As educational opportunities are crucial for a country
such as the People's Republic of China to lift its total society
to the global position it is fast approaching, I chose to research a
significant area for the progression of education, the concept of creativity.
Typically, the creation of novel ideas and technologies has been viewed
as the driving force behind much of modern society's advancement, making
th econcept of creativity in relation to cultural influences an important
issue for developing nations. Subjects in Asian societies do average
lower scores than North Americans on typical Western tests of creative
thinking, current research identifies diverse cognitive, social and
cultural influences on this result.
In developing the study of culture and psychology, I believe
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