THE EMIC VERSUS ETIC DILEMMA IN CROSS CULTURAL MARKETING RESEARCH: A PERSONAL CONSTRUCT THEORY PERSPECTIVE Richard E. Plank, Western Michigan University ABSTRACT Cross-cultural research in marketing, particularly involving the measurement of behaviors and attitudes using methodologies which require the respondent to respond to scale type questions, is difficult as well as time and resource intensive. A major issue is the so called emic versus etic dilemma which focuses on whether or not the measure is culture bound (EMIC) or can be used across all cultures (ETIC). This paper argues, based on personal construct theory, that behavioral type measures or scales must be examined within each cultural domain to determine if the construct and its measure is relevant in cultural context and provides a method to do it. INTRODUCTION Surprisingly, there has been little research on the topic of etic versus emic scales and the problem of cultural impact on meaning and scaling of constructs. (Herche, Swenson, and Verbeke 1996). Emic instruments, those which are culture bound, if used in inappropriate research venues result in research which is neither valid nor reliable in any sense. Since marketing scholars often use scaling methodologies, often using scales borrowed from other contexts, notably from psychological research, and since most of these scales have been developed in the U.S., it is important to determine if the scales are appropriate for use in other cultures. Obviously, in developing new constructs and measures of those constructs, the pursuit of etic concepts, if possible, allows for cross-cultural research. Yu, Keown, and Jacobs (1993) in reviewing attitude scaling for cross-cultural research cite six major methodological issues; functional equivalence, conceptual equivalence, instrument equivalence, sample selection, data collection methods, and data analysis. Conceptual and instrument equivalence are of interest here. Conceptual equivalence refers to the culture boundness of many concepts which are also often time bound as well (Hage 1972). Instrument equivalence, which includes both the measurement and vocabulary aspects, refers to the fact that the instrument must be at least "culture fair" (Yu, Keown, and Jacobs 1993), to respondents in multiple cultures under study. From a theory development perspective Hage (1972) notes the importance of developing timeless and nonculture bound concepts, specifying them carefully, and then developing operational definitions that correspond. One might argue that a valid concept is one where the theoretical and operational definitions have a "one-to-one" correspondence. Personal Construct Theory is a useful theoretical perspective to understand and deal with the problems of culture and its impact on the theoretical and operational specifications of constructs. Personal Construct Theory, originally developed by Kelly (1955), is a personality theory which seeks to provide a theoretical basis for understanding and predicting an individuals interpretation of their environment and hence their reactions to it. The theory itself, has been extensively discussed in the marketing literature by both Reynolds and Darden (1974) and Plank and Greene (1996). It has also been used to examine various aspects of the
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construction of "group realities" including families (Proctor 1996); cultures (Ross 1996; Jankowicz 1996), and Organizations (Kalekin-Fishman; Tooth 1996). The theory consists of a fundamental postulate and a series of 11 corollaries. The heart of the theory is that it defines personality and resulting behavior as a function of differences in individual cognitive structures. A basic notion of the theory is the use of "personal constructs" which are abstract mental...