Folk conceptions of virtue among Cambodian American Buddhists and Christians: A hermeneutic analysis


Rosemead School of Psychology

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Buddhism and Christianity present to their adherents distinctive and shared understandings of virtue, which are interpreted and lived out by their participants. This embodied, contextual understanding of the virtues is consistent with recent hermeneutic emphases within the literature (see, e.g., McCullough & Snyder, 2000; Sandage & Hill, 2001) and is best explored using qualitative methodology (Sandage, Cook, Hill, Strawn, & Reimer, 2008). The current study examined the folk understandings of the everyday virtues among 12 Cambodian American Buddhist immigrants and 12 Cambodian American Christian immigrants, all of whom had been identified as virtuous exemplars by their peers. A comparison sample of 12 Euro-American Christians identified as virtuous exemplars from the same community were also interviewed as a further rigor-enhancing strategy. Participants were administered the Bicultural Involvement Questionnaire—Revised and the Schwartz Value Scale. Thick descriptions of the virtues were derived from qualitative and quantitative data analyses, and trustworthiness was established by member checking, researcher reflexivity, and concurrent triangulation. Themes emerged from the data: duty and responsibility as distinctive motivations for virtue, the interrelatedness of the virtues, and the domains of their influence (societal in collectivist perspectives, narrower in individualist perspectives), as well as possible constraints on their practice (balance and moderation). Warmth-based virtues were generally described in religious terms, whereas conscientiousness-based virtues, described in religious terms by Cambodian American Buddhists, were described as cultural by Cambodian American Christians and more highly valued by Cambodian American Buddhists than Euro-American Christians.


Hermeneutics--Religious aspects--Buddhism;

Publication Title

Psychology of Religion and Spirituality





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DOI of Published Version

10.1037/a0018754 .