Psychometrics: An Ancient Construct for Maori

By Palmer, Stephanie | New Zealand Journal of Psychology, March 2005 | Go to article overview

Psychometrics: An Ancient Construct for Maori


Palmer, Stephanie, New Zealand Journal of Psychology


Capacity to measure the mind and monitor changes in psychological attributes is an ancient and inherent component of classical Maori culture. Within a contemporary context, however, Maori have yet to fully realise the power and potential of psychometric paradigms. As a particular discipline, psychometrics provides methodologies for constructing measurement tools and frameworks for testing whether such tools achieve expected objectives. Psychometric theory provides the rationale for critical analysis and evaluation of assessment tools commonly used on Maori. The advancement of psychometric skills and expertise among present-day Maori will enable the establishment of world class tools that meet the needs and aspirations of Te Ao Maori. The following discussion aims to raise awareness, generate debate and facilitate understanding of psychometric techniques, principles and issues that hold relevance for Maori engaged in the development and use of measurement tools.

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Capacity for conceptualisation and measurement of conscious and sub-conscious psychological qualities is evident in classical Maori tradition and culture. The universe itself, for example, is seen to be pure energy eternally engaged in a process of logical progression: i te kore, kite po, kite ao marama (Shirres, 1997). Maori pantheon and cosmology is premised upon concepts of ebb and flow between material, psychic and spiritual realms interwoven and influenced by knowledge of Te Kete Aronui, Te Kete Tuauri and Te Kete Tuatea (Marsden, 1975). In retelling of Te Wehenga, the ancient creation story painstakingly describes subtle differences in character, form, disposition and quality. For example, the concepts of te korekore, te korekore-te-rawea, te-korekore-te-whiwhia, te-korekore-te-tamaua and te po-i-tuturi, te-po-i-pepeke, te-po-uriuri, and te-po-tangotango, represent particular states with discernible purpose, intent and implication (Fitzgerald, 2002; Marsden, 1975). Within the unfolding of the universe there is establishment of hierarchy, relativity and conceptual frameworks for the measurement of difference over aeons.

Evidence of the importance our tupuna rangatira placed on meticulous definition and classification is demonstrated in karakia and other genre. In Tenei Au, Ruawharo from Takitimu refers to Rangi-tu-haha and Tihi-o-manono, both archetypal constructs for distinguishing between multiple levels of vitality, existence, consciousness and enlightenment (Shirres, 1998). In his oriori for Tu-Tere-Moana, Te Matorohanga (1865) of Wairarapa describes the sequential, incremental growth and development of cognition and consciousness during human gestation. Similarly, Enoka Te Pakaru uses the waka wairua of kumara to describe the methodical implantation of essential human qualities in her oriori Po Po (Te Reo Rangatira Trust, 1998).

Around each atua, there are psychological benchmarks for the conceptualisation and manifestation of human potential. For example, Io-matua-kore is the all-encompassing source. Tane is associated with forty-one qualities, each with its own set of attributes and implications, such as Tane-nui-a-rangi, Tane-te-wananga, Tane-matua and Tane-te-waiora. Likewise, the female archetype, Hine is associated with multiple domains, such as, Hine-angiangi, Hine-i-te-korikori, Hine-rauwhangi, Hine-i-te-iwaiwa, Hine-te-hihiri and Hine-i-te-whita.

Whare runanga represent another example of Maori determination to establish systems for classification. Each whare contains spiritual dividers, spatial divisions, symbolic pointers and numerous meaningful artefacts, for example, kopaiti, ihonui, kauwhanga, tahuhu, kaho, paepae, rehutai and rukatai (Fitzgerald, 2002). Each division serves its own purpose in terms of discerning difference and grouping people on the basis of physical, intrinsic, seemingly esoteric thresholds or attributes for example, mate/ora, tangata whenua/ manuhiri, rangatira/ringawera, tane/ wahine, puhi/pakeke, kauwae runga/ kauwae taro and tapu/noa. …

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