Kwok, L., City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
The debate between the use of etic (culture-general) or emic (culture- specific) assessment instruments in culturally diverse settings has a long history in the field of assessment. The general argument is that etic instruments facilitate cross-cultural comparisons, whereas emic instruments provide more comprehensive and precise assessment in any given cultural context. To overcome this dilemma, a dual-perspective approach to cross- cultural assessment is proposed. Drawing upon the theoretical formulation of Morris, Leung, Ames, & Likel (1999), it is argued that the debate on whether the etic or the emic approach to assessment is superior is moot. Instead, the emic and etic perspectives are able to inform each other in advancing the development of better assessment tools in both traditions. Specifically, emic and etic approaches to assessment can stimulate and enrich each other and lead to important breakthroughs in both traditions that are unlikely to be attained without the stimulation from research in the other tradition. The emic program of research on the Chinese Personality Assessment Instrument orchestrated by Cheung and Leung (1998) and the associated etic research that attempts to explore the universality of the five-factor model of personality are used to demonstrate the usefulness of this dual-perspective approach to the development of assessment instruments. Future directions in research on indigenous and cross-cultural assessment instruments are discussed in light of this dual- perspective approach.