Cultural Consonance

Definition


Cultural consonance is a model developed by William Dressler and colleagues to assess the approximation of an individual’s behavior compared to the guiding awareness of his or her culture. It is derived from a cognitive theory of culture, in which culture is defined according to Goodenough[1] as, “that which one needs to know in order to function adequately in a given society.”
More specifically, cultural consonance is defined as the degree to which individuals approximate in their own (personal) belief or behaviors, patterns encoded in shared cultural models. Cultural consonance begins with the premise that culture is both learned and shared. [2] Additionally, the construct can be viewed as two distinct concepts: 1) a cognitive theory of culture that explicitly describes the larger environment individuals utilize as a function of shared meaning and 2) a clear set of research procedures used for determining the level of sharing within a particular cultural domain as well as connecting one’s beliefs and behaviors with a shared meaning.[3]

Relevant Characteristics


Cultural consonance is used as a predictor of health, measured by biological and psychological outcomes. Initial studies using cultural consonance focused on domains pertaining to lifestyle and social support. In such cases, lifestyle was defined as the accumulation of material goods and the adoption of related practices. Likewise, social support was referred to as “the help and assistance that individuals can anticipate and receive in times of felt need.”[4] These elements proved significant when looking at sociocultural stress and consequently laid the foundation for the cultural consonance concept.[5]

This construct of cultural consonance is derived from estimates provided by cultural consensus analysis. Introduced in 1986 by Romney, Weller, and Batchelder as a systematic ethnographic technique to be used among a set of key informants within a set social group, cultural consensus analyses are used to test whether or not a sample possesses a shared domain of interest in a cultural model.[6] Accordingly, cultural consonance assesses the level in which the individuals consistently behave within the specified cultural models.[7]
This method is considered extremely flexible in that “a person’s consonance can be measured within virtually any cultural domain”.[8] Additionally, it provides a sensitive approach to doing ethnography as well as offers a theoretically fresh way of assessing domains of culture and traditional outcome measurements of human biology.

Cultural consonance has been used in major studies in Brazil and the Southeastern United States, where various outcomes were examined, including blood pressure, depressive symptoms, body composition, and dietary habits. In studies where cultural consonance was used, there was demonstrated efficacy in measuring lifestyle and social support as relevant cultural domains. A study consisting of a sample of 600 African Americans in West Central Alabama showed that blood pressure had a statistically significant association to the culturally appropriate measures.[9] An interaction between cultural consonance in lifestyle and social support showed that for all respondents, higher lifestyle cultural consonance was associated with lower blood pressure.[10] In a similar study done in Brazil, with a sample of 208 participants, the authors examined the interaction between skin color and socioeconomic status (SES) and its association to blood pressure. It was found that darker skinned Brazilians with lower lifestyle cultural consonance reported higher blood pressure levels compared to darker skinned Brazilians with higher cultural consonance.[11] Most recently, a study done examining predictors of depression, gene interactions, and cultural consonance, following a Brazilian adult population (n=144) for a 2 year period. Results showed cultural consonance in family life to be prospectively correlated with symptoms of depression. There was also a significant interaction between genotype and cultural consonance in family life.[12]

"Method Made Easy"


1. Conduct cultural domain analysis
  • Explore domains with free lists
  • Pile and sort data
  • Analyze data using multidimensional scaling and cluster analysis

2. Conduct cultural consensus analysis
  • Determine consensus of cultural domains through observation of eigenvalue ratios and average cultural competence coefficients (examined using correlation matrices).

3. Find cultural consonance
  • Use results from cultural consensus analysis to develop measures of cultural consonance.[13]


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Establishing Cultural Domains and Measuring Cultural Consonance



Advantages


Cultural consonance helps anthropologists deal with the methodological issue of culture being both a shared and individual construct; hence, we are able to assess both sides of how individuals live out their lives in a space of meaning that is constructed of something shared. The use of consonance is beneficial, particularly as a predictor of health, because it aids anthropologists in showing how culture impacts people’s lives in a measureable way. It allows researchers to quantify how individuals' personal beliefs and behaviors can have profound implications on their health and well-being.[14] Additionally, cultural consonance demonstrates efficacy in measuring lifestyle and social support as relevant cultural domains in their association to biological health outcomes, such as blood pressure.[15]


Limitations


Cultural consonance is not a stand-alone method. It is the third part of a three step process (cultural domain analysis, cultural consensus analysis, and cultural consonance). Measurements of cultural consonance are derived from cultural consensus analysis. Cultural competence scores or cultural competence coefficients which are the results of the consensus analysis are then used to determine the cultural consonance.

Cultural consonance presupposes that individuals learn within environments of shared meanings, in which the construct examines how individuals understand and put meanings into practice in their own behavior. It is believed that cultural consonance shapes one’s sense of how the world works or is supposed to work. Individuals that adhere to this model have high cultural consonance. At the same time, there are individuals whose world entails experiences where things do not work out as expected. These individuals have a lower cultural consonance; hence, there is a gap between experience and expectation when studying cultural domains. Although everyone may know the models, everyone may not be able to enact the models in their lives. This is what Dressler calls “a sense of incoherence”, which is a likely contributor to disease risk.[16]

Another limitation existing in the exploration of cultural consonance is the effects of intracultural diversity in cultural models. This is where there are two or more cultural models of a single cultural domain in a single social group. In the case of intracultural diversity, the influence from different cultural models has an effect on the cultural consonance associated with health outcomes. For example, in the case of reproductive cancer in women of Southern California, only alternate and partially compatible cultural models were found. In examining consonance with other models, researchers found only one associated with positive health. This research is an example of intracultural diversity, and it suggests that culture definitely matters in terms of health.[17]


Analysis


Specific factor analysis models are used on subject-by-question matrices that represent answers to questions on a specific topic. From the analysis, researchers are able to evaluate agreement among individuals, identify the number of questions that received culturally correct answers, and estimate the level of knowledge among respondents.[18] If the analysis shows that the model is shared by the group, an answer key with culturally appropriate responses is calculated and used for the comparison of individual’s behavior. This has proven to show significant health risk associations in previous health outcomes research.[19] Individual competence scores are generated by comparing individual answers to the cultural consensus answer key. The competence scores provide a measure of how an individual understands knowledge compared to the group’s knowledge.


Method in Context


In a study in Ribeira˜o Preto, Sáo Paulo, William Dressler and colleagues used cultural consonance to examine blood pressure levels between light and dark skinned Afro-Brazilians. Additionally, they examined the interaction between skin color and socioeconomic status (SES) in relation to blood pressure. The study was done with a sample of 208 participants. Consensus analysis was done to determine levels of agreement. Survey data were linked and measurements of adherence were calculated to define lifestyle. This measurement was referred to as the cultural consonance or the cultural consonance of lifestyle and was evaluated in terms of cultural dimension of SES.

The results of the study yielded darker skinned Brazilians with lower cultural consonance had higher measurements of systolic blood pressure than darker skinned Brazilians with higher cultural consonance. This was significant at p <.01. There were no significant differences among light skinned Brazilians. Rationales of genetic interactions or SES predisposition were given as causes for these results. The authors also contend that racial stratification in Brazil calls for the consideration of social and cultural mediation as a plausible cause for the data results.[20]



Online Resources


Article on Birmingham cultural consonance in examiner.com: http://www.examiner.com/science-news-in-birmingham/ua-researchers-study-genetic-basis-for-mood-brazil

Introduction to cultural domains - by Steve Borgatti

Consensus analysis - by Steve Borgatti

Annals of Family Medicine – Online Supplementary Material (Cultural Consensus Analysis): http://www.annfammed.org/cgi/data/4/4/334/DC1/1

Complete website on cultural consensus with a handout: http://www.analytictech.com/ba762/2008/modules/consensus.htm

Research proposalto the National Science Foundation for work using cultural consonance in Brazil

Further Readings


Dressler William W, Camila D. Borges, Mauro C. Balieiro, and José Ernesto dos Santos.
2005 Measuring Cultural Consonance: Examples with Special Reference to Measurement Theory in Anthropology. Field Methods 17:331-355.

Reyes-Garcia Victoria, Clarence C. Gravlee, Thomas W. McDade, Tomás Huanca, William R. Leonard, Susan Tanner, and TAPS Bolivian Research Team.
2010 Cultural Consonance and Body Morphology: Estimates with Longitudinal Data from an Amazonian Society. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 143:167-174.

Reyes-Garcia Victoria, Clarence C. Gravlee, Thomas W. McDade, Tomás Huanca, William R. Leonard, and Susan Tanner.
2010 Cultural Consonance and Psychological Well-Being. Estimates with Longitudinal Data from an Amazonian society. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry
34(1):186-203.

Weller, Susan C.
2007 Cultural Consensus Theory: Applications and Frequently Asked Questions. Field Methods 19:339-368.


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References


  1. ^ Goodenough, W.H.
    1996Culture. In Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology. D. Levinson and M. Ember, ed. New York: Henry Holt,pp. 291-299.
  2. ^ Dressler William W, Mauro C. Balieiro, Rosane P. Ribeiro, and José Ernesto dos Santos.
    2007a A Prospective Study of Cultural Consonance and Depressive Symptoms in Urban Brazil.
    Social Science and Medicine 65: 2058-2069.
    Dressler, William W.
    2007b Cultural Consonance. In Textbook of Cultural Psychiatry. Dinesh Bhugra and
    Kameldeep Bhui, eds. Pp. 179- 190. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ Dressler, William W.
    2007b Cultural Consonance. In Textbook of Cultural Psychiatry. Dinesh Bhugra and
    Kameldeep Bhui, eds. Pp. 179- 190. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ Dressler William W, Mauro C. Balieiro, Rosane P. Ribeiro, and José Ernesto dos Santos.
    2007a A Prospective Study of Cultural Consonance and Depressive Symptoms in Urban Brazil.
    Social Science and Medicine 65: 2058-2069.
  5. ^ Dressler, William W.
    2007b Cultural Consonance. In Textbook of Cultural Psychiatry. Dinesh Bhugra and
    Kameldeep Bhui, eds. Pp. 179- 190. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^ Dressler William W and James R. Bindon.
    2000 The Health Consequences of Cultural Consonance: Cultural Dimensions of Lifestyle, Social Support, and Arterial Blood Pressure in and
    African American Community. American Anthropologist 102(2):244-260.
  7. ^ Bindon, James.
    2007 Biocultural Linkages - Cultural Consensus, Cultural Consonance, and
    Human Biological Research. Collegium Antropologicum 31(1):3-10.
  8. ^ Dressler William W, Mauro C. Balieiro, Rosane P. Ribeiro, and José Ernesto dos Santos.
    2007a A Prospective Study of Cultural Consonance and Depressive Symptoms in Urban Brazil.
    Social Science and Medicine 65: 2058-2069.
  9. ^ Bindon, James.
    2007 Biocultural Linkages - Cultural Consensus, Cultural Consonance, and
    Human Biological Research. Collegium Antropologicum 31(1):3-10.
  10. ^ Dressler William W and James R. Bindon.
    2000 The Health Consequences of Cultural Consonance: Cultural Dimensions of Lifestyle, Social Support, and Arterial Blood Pressure in and
    African American Community. American Anthropologist 102(2):244-260.
  11. ^ Dressler WilliamW, Mauro C. Balieiro, José Ernesto dos Santos.
    1999 Culture, Skin Color, and Arterial Blood Pressure in Brazil. American Journal of Human Biology 11:49-59.
  12. ^ Dressler, William W, Mauro C. Balieiro, Rosane P. Ribeiro, and José Ernesto dos Santos.
    2009 Cultural Consonance, a 5HT2A Receptor Polymorphism, and Depressive Symptoms: A Longitudinal Study of Gene X Culture Interaction in Urban Brazil.
    American Journal of Human Biology 21: 91-97.
  13. ^ Bindon, James
          • 2007 Biocultural Linkages - Cultural Consensus, Cultural Consonance, and /span>Human Biological Research. Collegium Antropologicum 31(1):3-10
  14. ^ Dressler, William W.
    2007 Cultural Consonance. In Textbook of Cultural Psychiatry. Dinesh Bhugra and
    Kameldeep Bhui, eds. Pp. 179- 190. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  15. ^ Bindon, James.
    2007 Biocultural Linkages - Cultural Consensus, Cultural Consonance, and
    Human Biological Research. Collegium Antropologicum 31(1):3-10.
  16. ^ Dressler, William W.
    2007b Cultural Consonance. In Textbook of Cultural Psychiatry. Dinesh Bhugra and
    Kameldeep Bhui, eds. Pp. 179- 190. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  17. ^ Dressler, William W.
    2007 Cultural Consonance. In Textbook of Cultural Psychiatry. Dinesh Bhugra and
    Kameldeep Bhui, eds. Pp. 179- 190. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Chavez, L.R., J.M. McMullin, S.I. Mishra, and F.A. Hubbell
    2001 Beliefs Matter: Cultural Beliefs and the Use of Cervical Cancer-Screening Tests.
    American Anthropologist 103:1114-1129.
  18. ^ Romney, A. Kimball, Susan C. Weller, and William H. Batchelder.
    1986 Cultural as Consensus: A Theory of Culture and Informant Accuracy. American
    Anthropologist 88(2):313-338.
    Borgatti Steve P.
    1996 Anthropac 4.0 Reference Manual. Analytic Technologies: Natick.
  19. ^ Dressler William W and James R. Bindon.
    2000 The Health Consequences of Cultural Consonance: Cultural Dimensions of Lifestyle, Social Support, and Arterial Blood Pressure in and African American
    Community. American Anthropologist 102(2):244-260.
    Dressler William W, Mauro C. Balieiro, and José Ernesto dos Santos.
    2002 Cultural Consonance and Psychological Distress. Paidéia: Cadernos de Psicologia e Educação 12: 5-18.
  20. ^ Dressler WilliamW, with Mauro C. Balieiro, José Ernesto dos Santos.
    1999 Culture, Skin Color, and Arterial Blood Pressure in Brazil. American Journal of Human Biology 11:49-59.