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Psychology of  the Mexicans Don Kilburg (2004) 10/03/09
Purpose <ul><li>To introduce you to some broad trends in Mexican Psychology </li></ul><ul><li>To give you some practical s...
Topics of Discussion <ul><li>Attempts by Mexicans to identify a Mexican Mindset </li></ul><ul><li>D í az-Guerrero’s “Psych...
Attempts by Mexicans to Identify a Mexican Mindset <ul><li>Jose Vasconcelos (1925), writer </li></ul><ul><li>La Raza C ó s...
D í az-Guerrero’s  Psychology of the Mexican (1976) <ul><li>Love and Power </li></ul><ul><li>Mexican: Affiliation-Hierarch...
A Contemporary Perspective:  Simpat í a <ul><li>Simpat í a : the search for social harmony coupled with expressive display...
Cultural Styles, Relational Schemas, & Prejudice  Against Outgroups <ul><li>Cognitive frameworks:  </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A...
Practical Suggestions <ul><li>Overseas assignment failure rate: 30-40% (Herring, 2003); Insufficient cultural preparation ...
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2004 Psychology Of the Mexicans

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Psychology of the Mexicans, 2004. A PowerPoint given at the Foreign Service Institute, for Mexican Area Studies. I took a psychologist's perspective on Mexican culture/people in this presentation, for a State Department training session.

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  • Caveats: There is no one type of Mexican - Mexico has over 50 ethnic groups and corresponding languages At minimum we will talk about “Psychology of the Mexican” as a book by famous Mexican psychologist Rogelio Diaz-Guerrero (have the students write 1 example of what they expect to be different or challenging about the way Mexican psychology - cognition, emotion, or behavior… and to consider that throughout the talk)
  • Psychology is becoming more popular in Mexico and Mexico is becoming more popular in psychology All human endeavors relate to psychology at their core, including and perhaps especially diplomatic work: Consular, Political, Economic, Public Diplomacy, and Management
  • Mexican Philosophers, Poets, and Social Scientists have attempted to synthesize information from many sources to paint a picture of the typical culture &amp; personality of the Mexican These scholars include names such as Samuel Ramos, Octavio Paz, and Rogelio Diaz-Guerrero Initial attempts to define a Mexican psychology or at least a national mindset centered around Mexico’s tragic history and Mestizo composition Later attempts focused with much conjecture on family roles and the subconscious importance of maternal love Contemporary investigations are less lofty but more rigorous, attempting to describe how cognitive frameworks influence interpersonal relations The notion of “Simpatia” is currently important in the psychological literature.
  • Jose Vasconcelos (1925), Mexican teacher, propagandist, and writer Wrote in “The Cosmic Race” that Mexican culture (and Latin American culture more generally) was special as a Mestizo people Rejected the Anglo-Saxon and Nordic cultures as “cold”, in favor of the more exuberant Mexican culture denounced democracy and tended to glorify force and racism. Samuel Ramos (1938), Mexican philosopher Wrote “The Profile of Man and the Culture in Mexico” Mexicans have an inferiority complex that shows best in their Machismo and particularly in their tendency as a culture to imitate others, especially the Spanish Octavio Paz (1959), Mexican Nobel laureate poet Wrote “The Labyrinth of Solitude” Mexicans are solitary, airtight, simulators, servile and “sons of nothing”. The Mexican inferiority complex is the product of literal and historical rape: Conquistador Hernan Cortes creates the first mestizo, Martin, out of the union with his indigenous mistress and translator, Marina, referred to by Mexicans as La Malinche (the traitor). I.e. the perception: the father of Mexico was a rapist and the mother was a traitor, hence Mexicans have a subconscious conflict between their indigenous and Spanish sides, producing an inferiority complex.
  • All cultures have psychological issues with love and power (extension of Freud); i.e. the individual struggles in life to balance his/her needs for affiliation with his/her needs for control (see Anecdotal stories) Mexican culture: oriented toward love, perhaps at the expense of misuse/failures of power (affiliation-hierarchy)… i.e. it’s collectivistic American culture: oriented toward (individual) power, perhaps at the expense of misuse/failures of love (power-equality)… i.e. it’s individualistic We can explain the mindset of “the United States of Mesonorthamerica” and that of Mexico in terms of their historical and political trajectories… Mexican mind corresponds to an interpersonal happening of history (the union between Cortes the conquistador and the indigenous Marina) American mind corresponds to a political happening of history (an individualistic subset of people abandoning England) (see table) Most of all, Mexicans must be understood on the basis of their most important belief, “the mother is the dearest person in existence”. (btw, have you seen Mother’s Day cards in Spanish geared toward Mexicans?) (see Mexican Family Notes)
  • Contemporary Mexican psychologists (e.g. Sanchez-Burks, et al., 2000): Mexicans can best be understood in terms of Simpatía, which is a highly valued relational style that “resembles the search for social harmony characteristic of many East Asian cultures but includes an emphasis on expressive displays of personal charm, graciousness, and hospitality”. “ A person who is Simpatíco(a) is one who proactively attempts to create a highly personable atmosphere as an end in itself, even in the workplace.” Sanchez-Burks, et al. have published psychological research on Simpatica in the context of cognitive frameworks and the influence those frameworks have on how people evaluate their workgroups and co-workers. Their work suggests Americans would do well to become more conscious and accepting of socioemotional concerns in interacting with Mexicans… i.e. Americans should mix business and pleasure a bit more
  • Significant factor in intergroup prejudice: relational style. Americans and Mexicans bring into work situations different assumptions about appropriate interaction patterns (e.g. the former consider a strong embrace inappropriate, the latter consider is quite normal). Main difference in interpersonal orientation between Americans and Mexicans: Americans have a “task” focus. Mexicans have a “task + socioemotional” focus. Americans’ implicit assumption: task and socioemotional concerns are on one dimension and involve a tradeoff. Mexicans’ implicit assumption: task and socioemotional concerns are on two dimensions, hence they can enhance one another and in turn efficiency. Mexicans do not share the American history of the early Calvinist, Protestant tradition of asceticism: “to use time in idle talk, in sociability…[while working] is evil because it detracts from the active performance of God’s will in a calling.” Examples of socioemotional orientation: personal charm, graciousness, hospitality, creating a personable atmosphere… taking time to greet, smiling, shaking hands, inquiring about weekend activities, partaking in mutual laughter, indulging in conversational diversions, accompanying one on his/her departure. (See Sanchez-Burks research notes)
  • Risks of intercultural contact in workplace: negative intergroup, competition, turnover, absenteeism Attributed to: in-group favoritism, competition for scarce resources, aversion for out-groups Implications for contact between (Mainstream) Americans and (Mainstream) Mexicans in the context of work: -What may appear to be ethnic prejudice may in fact simply be relational style preference (not racist/ethnocentrist so much as “styl-ist”) -Because Americans are often over-focused on “the bottom line”, they often miss important socioemotional cues conveyed by Mexicans -For Americans focusing on the task is a way of establishing and maintaining a good relationship. Americans may perceive any deviation from a clear task focus as an indication of lack of commitment to the work and to a proper, businesslike relationship -One approach is to try to create a “culture-neutral” environment, where differences in social traditions are put aside and effort is focused on the common interest, namely the task. However, by nature this is ironically not “culture-neutral” to Mexican, since for Mexicans, affective, personal relationships are an inextricable component of doing business. They would perceive the culture-neutral attempt as a culture-specific approach, namely the American culture. -Americans should be trained to consider socioemotional factors along with task focused factors in work settings, then their tolerance of socioemotional behavior, and their acceptance by non-American coworkers should increase -Similarly, it could be explained to Mexicans (when appropriate) that they should not perceive failure or dislike when their interactions with Americans in the workplace seem to lack socioemotional concern -In Myers-Briggs terminology, Americans would be seen as too “T” relative to Mexicans who would be seen as too “F”. The solution would be to encourage the American to be more “T” about “F” – i.e., to build more “F” time into the schedule as a way of actually increasing efficiency “ Don’t just whistle while you work, shuck and jive”
  • Transcript of "2004 Psychology Of the Mexicans"

    1. 1. Psychology of the Mexicans Don Kilburg (2004) 10/03/09
    2. 2. Purpose <ul><li>To introduce you to some broad trends in Mexican Psychology </li></ul><ul><li>To give you some practical suggestions for understanding & interacting with Mexicans </li></ul>10/03/09
    3. 3. Topics of Discussion <ul><li>Attempts by Mexicans to identify a Mexican Mindset </li></ul><ul><li>D í az-Guerrero’s “Psychology of the Mexican” </li></ul><ul><li>A Contemporary Perspective: Simpat í a </li></ul>10/03/09
    4. 4. Attempts by Mexicans to Identify a Mexican Mindset <ul><li>Jose Vasconcelos (1925), writer </li></ul><ul><li>La Raza C ó smica </li></ul><ul><li>Samuel Ramos (1938), philosopher </li></ul><ul><ul><li>El Perfil del Hombre y La Cultura en M é xico </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Octavio Paz (1959), poet </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>El Laberinto de la Soledad </li></ul></ul></ul>10/03/09
    5. 5. D í az-Guerrero’s Psychology of the Mexican (1976) <ul><li>Love and Power </li></ul><ul><li>Mexican: Affiliation-Hierarchy </li></ul><ul><li>American: Power-Equality </li></ul><ul><li>“ the mother is the dearest person in existence” </li></ul>10/03/09
    6. 6. A Contemporary Perspective: Simpat í a <ul><li>Simpat í a : the search for social harmony coupled with expressive displays </li></ul><ul><li>Experimental evidence of relational styles </li></ul><ul><li>(Sanchez-Burks, et al., 2000) </li></ul><ul><li>Practical Suggestions: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Socioemotional consciousness raising </li></ul></ul>10/03/09
    7. 7. Cultural Styles, Relational Schemas, & Prejudice Against Outgroups <ul><li>Cognitive frameworks: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>American – Task </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Mexican – Task + Socioemotional </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Research Question: would subjects’ perception of workgroup performance vary as a fxn of workgroup style, workgroup ethnicity, and/or subjects’ ethnicities? </li></ul><ul><li>Lab Experiment: w/ video’d workgps. in tutoring session </li></ul><ul><li>Field Experiment: w/ student advisory committees </li></ul>10/03/09
    8. 8. Practical Suggestions <ul><li>Overseas assignment failure rate: 30-40% (Herring, 2003); Insufficient cultural preparation </li></ul><ul><li>Task and Socioemotional orientations not necessarily a trade-off </li></ul><ul><li>In MBT terminology, T  F and J  P </li></ul><ul><li>Consider the stereotypes for working models, but don’t cling to them </li></ul><ul><li>Culture Shock! Mexico : </li></ul><ul><li>One single lesson…Flexibility </li></ul>10/03/09
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