Key Difference – Emic vs Etic
Between Emic and Etic perspectives, a number of differences can be identified although most people tend to confuse the meanings of the two. First, let us comprehend each perspective. Emic and etic perspectives are used in many disciplines such as anthropology, ethnography, etc. By using these perspectives the manner in which the researcher approaches the research field changes. Hence, this can even have an impact on the findings. Emic Perspective can be defined as the perspective in which the researcher gains the insider’s point of view. On the other hand, in the Etic perspective the researcher looks at the research field objectively from a distance. The key difference between the two stems from the subjective and objective understanding of the social phenomenon. Through this article let us elaborate on this further.
What is Emic?
First let us pay attention to the emic perspective. Emic perspective can be understood as the perspective in which the researcher gains the insider’s point of view. Let us examine this further. When the researcher is conducting research on a particular topic, he enters the field. Once he has entered the research field, he attempts to comprehend the social phenomenon from the research subjects’ point of view.
Let us look at an example. In a particular society, there are special rituals conducted by the people. If the researcher is approaching the field with an emic perspective, he attempts to comprehend the subjective meanings that people give to these practices. He refrains from engaging in an objective study but tries to make sense of the rituals through the eyes of the research participants.
A key feature in emic perspective is that the researcher gives prominence to the data themselves rather than to the theoretical understanding of the conceptual frameworks. This, however, can be very difficult to attempt as all researchers have preconceived ideas and biases. Now, let us move on to the etic perspective.
What is Etic?
Etic perspective is very different from the emic perspective and can even be considered as two contrary perspectives. In the Etic perspective, the researcher looks at the research field objectively from a distance. This does not denote that he physically maintains a distance, but highlights that the researcher gives prominence to the theoretical frameworks and concepts and allows these to guide him, rather than be guided by the subjective meanings of the research participants.
Let us comprehend this through an example. A researcher who attempts to apply theories and concepts that already exist in a discipline to comprehend a particular research field is using an etic perspective, as he fails to capture the subjective meaning.
The etic perspective presents an objective outlook of the research field. The researcher does not immerse within the context to a point where he lives the experience of the research participant. Etic perspective, unlike the emic perspective, fails to present the insider’s point of view although it is used extensively in research. This is the main difference between the emic and etic perspective. This difference can be summarized as follows.
What is the Difference Between Emic and Etic?
Definitions of Emic and Etic:
Emic: Emic Perspective can be defined as the perspective in which the researcher gains the insider’s point of view.
Etic: In the Etic perspective, the researcher looks at the research field objectively from a distance.
Characteristics of Emic and Etic:
Point of view:
Emic: The researcher uses an insider’s point of view.
Etic: The researcher uses an outsider’s point of view.
Emic: Emic perspective stresses the subjective nature.
Etic: Etic perspective stresses the subjective nature.
Emic: Emic perspective relies on the subjective meaning that the participant gives in understanding a phenomenon.
Etic: Etic perspective relies on theories and concepts in understanding a phenomenon.
Image Courtesy: 1. “Wmalinowski triobriand isles 1918” by Unknown (maybe Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz, 1885-1939) [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons 2. Open Book Policy (5914469915) By Alex Proimos from Sydney, Australia (Open Book Policy Uploaded by russavia) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons