What Actually Happened to Jose: A Descriptive Psychology Approach to Cultural Values Implementation for a Culturally Displaced Person

Silva, Joseph C. (Ph.D., 1980)

Thesis directed by Associate Professor Peter G. Ossorio

After an extensive review of the literature in the social sciences pertaining to Mexican Americans, Nick C. Vaca (El Grito, Fall 1970, pp. 17-51) noted the predominance of what he termed the "cultural determinism" model. Following the model one would focus on cultural values, or value orientations, as a way of understanding cultural influences on behavior. The model contrasts with most theories of behavior in that they literally bypass the area of cultural characteristics and differences.

Since application of the cultural determinism model has resulted in some real-world failures toward the understanding of culturally different people, the present study critically examines the conceptual adequacy of the model. A Descriptive Psychology approach is taken in formulating a concept of culture which makes explicit the relationship between culture, values, persons, and behavior.

The research application of the conceptualization centers on the participation and success of Chicano freshmen at a predominantly white, middle-class, university their first academic year. The effect on participation and success of: (1) A cultural identity closely tied to the specific, concrete, social practices of Chicano culture; (2) flexibility in cultural values implementation; (3) central cultural values and pure ethnic identity conflict; and (4) academic knowledge and ability were all considered.

A construct validity approach was taken in the study. Academic knowledge and ability was assessed by an index of past academic performance and success. Participation was assessed by rating sheets filled out by faculty members of classes currently being taken by the students. Academic success was assessed by a standard academic year university grade point average adjusted for non-credit courses and attrition. Other indices were contained on a questionnaire constructed for the study (i.e., the Chicano Cultural Research Questionnaire).

The results of the study show that cultural conflict on the level of pure ethnic identity as a Chicano was related to an overall lower level of participation in essential university social practices, or requirements, than for those individuals who did not see this sort of conflict. Also, Performative persons (i.e., individuals whose cultural identity was closely tied to the specific, concrete, social practices of Chicano culture) saw more conflict between their cultural values and essential university social practices or requirements. Some substantial differences were found between the two sub-groups used in the study. In general, stronger relationships between the variables associated with the predictions were found for Chicano students who had met the regular admissions standards of the University than for those who were admitted by Special Action.

The significance of the results, apart from their episodic statistical significance, is in establishing the applicability of the conceptualization for the particular setting and in the manner demonstrated by the research. The findings of the study have implications for institutions of higher education in their potential accommodation and support of culturally different students, and for the students themselves in terms of their resolution of cultural conflict when culturally displaced. [211 pp.]