Cross-Cultural Neuropsychological Assessment: Theory and Practice

By Victor Nell | Go to book overview

Chaptar 1
Westernization and the Politics of Culture

Psychological tests are conceived and standardized within the matrix of Western culture. This book focuses on individuals whose culture is not the same as the culture of the test-maker or of the test-maker's target group, which is almost invariably Western. Geographically, "Western" refers to the countries of western Europe and North America. This seems strange: What cultural commonality might one attribute to London, Stockholm, New York, Rome, and Quebec? Although they do not have a common language, they do share the cultural tradition that Bloom ( 1994) called the Western canon -- a body of literature that includes works in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and Russian, and is authoritative in Western culture.

There are also psychological commonalities that derive from the ascendancy of individualism over collectivism ( Triandis, 1995), and the centrality of the achievement motive ( McClelland, 1961) in Western culture. Westerners have a driven, competitive attitude not only to testing, described later, but also to all other opportunities for the demonstration of individual excellence. Brooding over these values is the Protestant Ethic ( Albee, 1977; Weber, 1904/ 1965), a secular religion that brings salvation in the next world and high status in this one through hard work and unremitting effort.

But the core psychological meaning of Westernization is "test-wiseness." Test-taking skills are so taken for granted in Western society that it is difficult to grasp the extent to which they are absorbed rather than explicitly taught. We all grow up knowing that when you take a test, you are highly motivated, that is, keyed up, a little nervous, and ready (with not a little trepidation) to meet the challenge. Consequently, when the test session begins, you sit still, concentrate intensely, don't chat with the examiner

-3-

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