Amy Kim


This critical analysis of the literature explores the construct of self from indigenous perspectives to increase cultural responsiveness in psychological theory, research, and practice. Mainstream psychology addresses various aspects of self, including self-esteem, authentic self, self-actualization, and true self (Elliott & Coker, 2008; Kernis, 2003; Kernis & Goldman, 2006; Maslow, 1964; Rogers, 1961), without defining self or what it means to be a human being. Theories of self are essentially theories of what it means to be a human being (Logan, 1986). Despite the breadth of interest, research, and theory in self, there is a pervasive omission of clear and specific definitions. This lack of clarification and consensus has resulted in gaps and confusion in the self literature (Spiro, 1993). Further complicating matters is the issue of how self is construed cross-culturally. Psychological science has attempted to understand how various aspects of self and culture intersect, but conclusions have been tentative at best because of insufficient understandings of self in culturally-diverse contexts. Self is construed differently within mainstream psychological science and within cultures. This dissertation aims to explore indigenous models of self to enhance and expand on current understandings of self in the cultural psychology literature. In light of alternate models of self, this dissertation questions the relevance and adequacy of mainstream psychological theories and practices when applied to people of non-western cultures. Recommendations are offered on how to be more culturally responsive to people who may not share mainstream views of self. In doing so, biases and assumptions in psychology will be highlighted to raise awareness about how pervasively the western cultural worldview has been privileged in the development of psychological theory and practice.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (PsyD) -- Psychology; Self; Self -- Social aspects; Group identity; Personality and culture

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Harrell, Shelly;