Personal Statement, Draft #2

Jana Haritatos

*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 culture.

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 such knowledge…. program specifics here…

This web site created and maintained by the Coe Writing Center. Copyright 2001.
E-mail Dr. Bob Marrs with any questions, comments or suggestions.