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Open Access Publications from the University of California


The World Cultures eJournal welcomes articles, data, and comparative research material dealing with any aspect of human behavior. Publication of any comparative database, regional or worldwide, will be considered. Submissions of programs and teaching materials are welcomed, as are communications on research, coding, sources, and other materials of interests to comparative researchers.


Pictures of Hearts and Daggers: Strong Emotions Are Expressed in Young Adolescents’ Drawings of their Attitudes towards Mathematics

Enthusiasm for learning mathematics often declines in early adolescence. The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) (2003) found that 50% of fourth-graders but only 29% of eight-graders agreed strongly with the statement, “I enjoy learning mathematics.” The present study explored attitudes towards mathematics through the use of adolescents’ drawings and assessed the reliability and validity of drawings of math. One hundred twenty-nine U.S. students (mean age = 13.7 years) responded to these instructions, “Draw a picture of math and write about math. You can draw your feelings about math and your experiences with mathematics.” Drawings were scored by independent raters according to sixteen criteria; with interrater reliability ranging from .67 to 1.00. One hundred and one students also expressed their levels of agreement on a four-point scale with the TIMSS statements about learning, valuing, and enjoying mathematics. Attitudes towards mathematics expressed in drawings significantly correlated with attitudes expressed in the TIMSS statements about mathematics. On their drawings many students expressed strong feelings about math ranging from “I absolutely love math!” to “You die math.” This study demonstrated that adolescents’ drawings provide a good means for assessing young adolescents’ thoughts and feelings about math. The study also included comparisons of drawings of mathematics collected from 96 young adolescents from Ghana and South Africa.

Daoist/Taoist Altruism and Wateristic Personality: East and West

Based on the Daoist/Taoist model of water-like (or wateristic) personality features (Lee, 2003, 2004), four hypotheses were derived with a focus on altruism and modesty. A total of 122 Chinese college students and 106 American college students participated in this cross-cultural study. It was found (1) that American college students were more altruistic than Chinese counterparts; (2) that levels of modesty were more trait-specific than culture-specific; and (3) that Chinese participants were more altruistic and receptive toward outgroup members or outsiders (e.g., aliens) than American counterparts in uncertain situations. Theoretical implications are also discussed.

A View of Identity as Developed by a Korean-American Teenager: Cultural Adaptation in a Korean Community in the United States

This study explores how a 17-year-old Korean American girl displays identity and cultural adaptation in a Korean community in the United States. Audio-taped interviews and ethnographic observations were used to answer three main questions: (1) To which cultural identity does the girl primarily orient herself? (2) With what communication style does she interact in the Korean community? (3) How does she adapt her communication style to the Korean culture? The main subject was a 17-year old Korean American girl living in a southeastern coastal city in the United States. In-depth interviews of both the informant and her mother revealed the girl’s bicultural orientations. The girl considers herself both an American who is familiar with Korean culture and a Korean who is familiar with American culture. Her discourse, however, demonstrates the dominance of her American identity. Additional studies are needed to further our understanding of how such an identity is constructed in everyday interactions.

Altruism in Animal Play and Human Ritual

Altruism is generally defined as the selfless concern for the wellbeing of others or, in the case of nonhuman animals, as behavior that appears to be detrimental to the survival of a given individual but which may contribute to the survival of the others. Calls by social prey species that warn others of the approach of predators, for example, are often regarded as altruistic in that they may help the majority of animals survive while simultaneously drawing the attention of the predator to the individual giving the warning. Animal play and human ritual are areas that are not commonly considered to involve altruism but closer inspection may be warranted. I will argue below that play is the context wherein animals first exhibit, and learn, altruism and that it is displayed by some, although perhaps not all, participants in a ritual common to Latin America.

Initiation and Passage: Multilingual Encyclopedic and Bibliographic Approach

An encyclopedic and bibliographic review of “initiation” and life course rituals (Janssen, in preparation) highlights a number of indexing problems that complicate previous efforts to code the cross-cultural distribution of such rituals. Qualitative assessment of this classification issue is extensive and draws from a number of disciplines beside anthropology. Contemporary interest in ritualized organization of status change on the level of metaphor, narrative and discourse and across social sciences and public appropriations (Janssen 2007) foregrounds concerns substantial enough to compromise any comparative approach to the problem. This is, of course, an inevitable corollary of semantically convoluted concepts such as initiation. In this short research note I briefly list available cross-cultural tools and provide short critiques of them.

Modernization Magnitude: An Interval Measure Applicable to Post- and Pre-Industrial Societies

An interval measure of modernization is devised, applicable to pre- and post-industrial societies. The modernization of a society denotes the recency of its form of social organization in human (pre-)history. Murdock and Provost’ (1973) ordinal markers of pre-industrial modernization are updated to be interval measures observable today. The recency (in years) of marker gradations is not currently observable in prehistory, but marker gradations are observable in databases such as the pre-industrial “Standard Cross-Cultural Sample” and the World Bank’s post-industrial “World Development Indicators.” The modernization magnitude of a society is defined to be the mean of the standardized, updated, marker variable measures on the society. The new modernization construct and measure may be used for many purposes, including the testing of behavioral theory spanning post- and/or pre-industrial societies.