Title

The Etic Perspective: Does it Have a Home in Occupational Science?

Start Time

16-11-2002 8:15 AM

End Time

16-11-2002 9:45 AM

Abstract

There is little doubt but that occupational scientists are, as a group, strongly committed to understanding people's subjective experiences of occupation. Indeed, the emic perspective or the insider's view of what it feels like or means to an individual to experience particular events and situations is so central to occupational science that the personal meaningfulness of occupations to individuals is recognized as one of the discipline's primary domains of study (Clark, Wood, & Larson, 1998). Likewise, scholars commonly regard personal meaningfulness as an indispensable criterion for defining occupation, the core construct in occupational science (Christiansen, 1994; Gray, 1997; Trombly, 1995). But does the enormous value placed on understanding people's uniquely felt, encountered and understood experiences of everyday life suggest that the etic perspective or the outsider's view of what others may be doing or feeling and why has no home in occupational science? In the other words, is the etic perspective regarded as inherently of less value, validity, or relevance to the discipline than the emic perspective? If so, is this second-rate status appropriate? It is argued in this paper that the etic perspective is comparatively devalued in occupational science relative to the emic perspective and, secondly, that this devaluing could slow the discipline's advancement. To support this argument, rationales underlying the usefulness and validity of an etic perspective in occupational science research are presented. These rationales are applied to a research method of directly observing, in real time using hand-held computers, the person-environment transactions and emotional states of people with dementia. By being able to document subjective emotional states reliably, this etic method of direct behavioral observation challenges the presumed dichotomy often held to exist between the insider's (ernie) and outsider's (etic) perspectives. It also provides a more accurate account, over time, of people's time-use patterns and interactions with the social and physical environment than could be obtained by interviewing cognitively intact proxies. The example of this method is built upon to explore other ways in which occupational science's body of knowledge could benefit from so-called "objective" methodologies that view persons' behaviors through the perspective of the researcher.

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Nov 16th, 8:15 AM Nov 16th, 9:45 AM

The Etic Perspective: Does it Have a Home in Occupational Science?

There is little doubt but that occupational scientists are, as a group, strongly committed to understanding people's subjective experiences of occupation. Indeed, the emic perspective or the insider's view of what it feels like or means to an individual to experience particular events and situations is so central to occupational science that the personal meaningfulness of occupations to individuals is recognized as one of the discipline's primary domains of study (Clark, Wood, & Larson, 1998). Likewise, scholars commonly regard personal meaningfulness as an indispensable criterion for defining occupation, the core construct in occupational science (Christiansen, 1994; Gray, 1997; Trombly, 1995). But does the enormous value placed on understanding people's uniquely felt, encountered and understood experiences of everyday life suggest that the etic perspective or the outsider's view of what others may be doing or feeling and why has no home in occupational science? In the other words, is the etic perspective regarded as inherently of less value, validity, or relevance to the discipline than the emic perspective? If so, is this second-rate status appropriate? It is argued in this paper that the etic perspective is comparatively devalued in occupational science relative to the emic perspective and, secondly, that this devaluing could slow the discipline's advancement. To support this argument, rationales underlying the usefulness and validity of an etic perspective in occupational science research are presented. These rationales are applied to a research method of directly observing, in real time using hand-held computers, the person-environment transactions and emotional states of people with dementia. By being able to document subjective emotional states reliably, this etic method of direct behavioral observation challenges the presumed dichotomy often held to exist between the insider's (ernie) and outsider's (etic) perspectives. It also provides a more accurate account, over time, of people's time-use patterns and interactions with the social and physical environment than could be obtained by interviewing cognitively intact proxies. The example of this method is built upon to explore other ways in which occupational science's body of knowledge could benefit from so-called "objective" methodologies that view persons' behaviors through the perspective of the researcher.