Professor Durganand Sinha (1922-1998)

Girishwar Misra, Delhi, India

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Professor Durganand Sinha, who died on 23rd March, 1998, was undoubtedly the most well known psychologist of the Indian continent and was internationally renowned for his contributions to the advancement of Cross-Cultural Psychology. He provided leadership to the development of psychology in India and has consistently voiced the concerns of developing societies at national and international platforms. Under his leadership, Allahabad University in India became a vibrant centre of psychological research and debate. He founded this Department and nurtured it as a centre for academic excellence. He identified talent and built an active group of scholars at Allahabad and created a centre for the study of social change and development. This Department has now become a Centre for Advanced Study in Psychology.

Struggling for a Culturally Appropriate Psychology

Trained in the British educational system, he, unlike others, struggled to develop what he used to call a culturally appropriate psychology. His professional career as a teacher, researcher and administrator shows a steady evolution. In his role as a key figure in the academic and professional world of Indian social science in general, and psychology in particular, he fought the case for a relevant and responsive psychology. In a career spanning over nearly half a century, Prof. Sinha wrote about and researched a wide range of issues and themes covering a broad spectrum of academic and societal interests. In his early career, Prof. Sinha was interested in the experimental studies of memory and other cognitive processes (Davis & Sinha, 1950a, b) in the tradition of Sir Frederick Bartlett. He also became interested in manifest anxiety and its correlates (Sinha, 1962). His anxiety test became a classic (Sinha, 1963). While working on these traditional themes, he was disturbed by the hegemony of Western theories and models, and therefore, engaged in exploring the possibilities to evolve a meaningful and productive interface of Euro-American psychology with the local cultural demands.

Incorporating Indian Tradition and Western Social Science

Prof. Sinha's vision of psychology was informed by the intellectual and social roots of Indian tradition as well as the developments in Western social sciences. He was critically open to both. This flexibility was articulated in his presidential address to the Section of Psychology and Educational Sciences of Indian Science Congress Association in 1965. There he argued for expanding the role of Indian psychologists in the context of social change. From that period onward, he continued to respond to the diverse challenges of social change experienced in Indian society. His analysis of motivational problems of villagers was an innovation in theory and methods of psychology. The illiterate villagers, having no exposure to modern influences, had a different mind set and were not ready to respond to the prevalent tools of psychology. Prof. Sinha had the intellectual courage to develop new ways of looking at the psychological processes and concepts appropriate for the villagers. His analysis was published in Indian Villages in Transition (1969).

Emphasizing a Problem Orientation

While relating psychology to social change, Prof. Sinha also became interested in the analysis of value orientation across generations. He published results of his empirical study in The Mughal Syndrome (1974) and in a book chapter (Sinha, 1979). The field experience during village studies was critical to the shaping of Prof. Sinha's concerns as a psychologist. The issue of indigenisation, development of problem oriented psychology and capability to handle macro level variables loomed large in his subsequent academic agenda. In his writings, Prof. Sinha consistently emphasized these themes. The emphasis on problem orientation led him to undertake the study of poverty and deprivation from the perspective of human development. Extending Bronfenbrenner's model, Prof. Sinha constructed the ecology of poverty and deprivation in India and organized an interdisciplinary seminar to analyze the conceptual and methodological issues as well as psychological aspects of poverty. Its proceedings, titled Deprivation: Its Social Roots and Psychological Consequences (Sinha, Tripathi & Mishra, 1982), became a landmark in this area. He was instrumental in drawing a number of young scholars to pursue this area of research. Prof. Sinha's analysis of studies in this area published in Review of Child Development Research (1982) integrated the different streams of research. He was continuously engaged in developing a psychological framework outlining antecedents, processes and outcomes of poverty and deprivation. In Brislin's (1990) Applied Cross-Cultural Psychology he proposed a model for intervention to grow out of poverty in developing and underdeveloped parts of the world.

Prof. Sinha's interest in Cross-Cultural Psychology had its roots in his concerns with relationships between Eastern and Western thought systems. He argued for understanding the linkages between the two and addressing the problems of psychology in India (Sinha, 1965). His concerns were expressed in empirical work which he undertook with Witkin, Jahoda, Berry and Deregowsky in the areas of psychological differentiation, perceptual development and cultural adaptation. His recent book in collaboration with Ramesh C. Mishra and John Berry, Ecology, Acculturation Psychological Adaptation, shows the application of eco-cultural model to the tribal setting of Bihar in India.

Decolonizing Psychology

While addressing disciplinary developments in India, Prof. Sinha voiced his preference for a culturally appropriate psychology. He had witnessed the colonial education and society and as a student had opportunity to participate and to have first hand information about the way psychology was done in Cambridge. Therefore, he could realistically appraise the tensions, dilemmas and traps. His Psychology in a Third World Country: An Indian Experience (Sinha, 1986) provides a vivid reconstruction of the conceptual and methodological struggles of modern Indian psychology to develop its identity. It shows the problems of decolonization. During the same period he, along with Holtzman, looked at the linkages across countries in terms of academic exchange and collaboration and edited a special issue of the International Journal of Psychology in 1984. Many of his papers on non-Western perspectives clearly reflected this trend. The case of indigenisation which he argued for in his contribution to Indigenous Psychologies, edited by Kim and Berry (1993), and a chapter in the second edition of the Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology (Berry, Poortinga & Pandey, 1997) presents a new ground for developing an authentic psychology by arguing for paradigmatic indigenization from within.

Prof. Sinha was extending his vision of a culturally informed psychology through collaborative work and publications across the globe. Engaged in dialogue with colleagues from different cultural backgrounds he remained creative and to some extent proactive in his work. His collaboration with Henry S. R. Kao of the University of Hong Kong led to many publications including Asian Perspectives on Psychology, Social Values and Development: Asian Perspectives and Effective Organizations and Social Values and a volume in press, Indigenous Management. His interest and commitment to link psychological theory and practice in cultural context is amply illustrated in his work. In order to provide an academic forum for reflection and discourse for the psychologists in developing countries, Prof. Sinha founded Psychology and Developing Societies, a journal published by SAGE.

Building the Relational Model of Man-Environment Transaction

At a conceptual or paradigmatic level, Prof. Sinha was trying to build and extend the relational or symbiotic model of the man-environment transaction. He had applied this to the study of socialization (Sinha, 1980,1988), morality (Sinha, 1984c), health (Sinha, 1990, 1998) and self (Sinha & Naidu; 1994, Sinha & Tripathi, 1994). He was also concerned with methodological questions (Sinha, 1983) and developed many culturally appropriate measures, including Story Pictorial EFT (Sinha, 1984). More recently he became involved in analyzing the psychological dimensions of environmental degradation (Sinha, 1994) and collaborated with Kurt Pawlik in an international project on the problems of the human-environment interface. The developing countries have their own problems, particularly in the field of managing social change in the era of globalization. Realizing the significance of these issues, Prof. Sinha along with colleagues such as Diaz-Guerrero, Henry Kao, H. C. Kelman, Çigdem Kagitçibasi, Michel Duro Jayiye and V. G. Enriquez made special efforts to establish a division of national development at the International Association of Applied Psychology.

Searching for Alternatives to W.A.S.P.

Prof. Sinha had a very large circle of friends, students and admirers in India and abroad. His interactive mind was open to enjoyable experiences and sharing them with others. Thus in Prof. Sinha, one finds a scholar with multifaceted interests in action in the professional as well as disciplinary domains. Recognizing the limitations and problems of Western Academic Scientific Psychology (W.A.S.P.) he was constantly searching for an alternative. Prof. Sinha, by his initiative, vision, and commitment was able to gauge the changes which were necessary to meet societal challenges. He changed the priority of research by demonstrating and setting examples through the study of issues like rural leadership, student unrest, problems of first generation learners, familial pattern and psychological development, fears in children, change proneness in villagers and analysis of paintings by children. He changed the framework and climate of doing research by advocating a dialogue between the text and context, theory and practice and culture and psychology. Prof. Sinha's work will continue to inspire us in terms of ideas, methodological innovations and professional commitment.

Select Bibliography

Davis, D. R., & Sinha, D. (1950a). The effect of an experience upon the recall of another. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2, 43-52.

Davis, D. R., & Sinha, D. (1950b). The influence of an interpolated experience upon recognition. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2, 132-137.

Kao, H., Sinha, D., & Sek Hong, N. (Eds.) (1994). Effective organizations and social values. New Delhi: Sage.

Sinha, D. (1952). Behavior in catastrophic situation: A psychological study of reports and rumours. British Journal of Psychology, 43, 200-209.

Sinha, D. (1962). Cultural factors in the emergence of anxiety. Eastern Anthropologist, 15, 21-37.

Sinha, D (1963). Manifest Anxiety on an Indian sample. Journal of Psychology, 69, 261-265.

Sinha, D. (1965). Integration of modern psychology with Indian thought. In A. J. Sutchi & M.A. Vick (Eds.), Readings in humanistic psychology (pp. 265-279). New York: Free Press.

Sinha, D. (1966). Psychologist in the arena of social change. Presidential address to the Section of Psychology and Educational Sciences, 53rd Indian Science Congress, Chandigarh.

Sinha, D. (1969). Indian villages in transition: A motivational analysis. Delhi: Associated Publishing House.

Sinha, D. (1973). Psychology and the problems of the developing countries: A general overview. International Review of Applied Psychology, 22, 5-28.

Sinha, D. (1974). The Mughal syndrome. New Delhi: Tata McGraw Hill.

Sinha,D.(1977a).Some social disadvantages and development of certain perceptual skills. Indian Journal of Psychology, 52, 115-132.

Sinha, D. (1977b). Orientation and attitude of social psychologists in a developing country. International Review of Applied Psychology, 26, 1-10.

Sinha, D. (1979). The young and the old: Ambiguity of role models and values among Indian youth. In S. Kakar (Ed.) Identity and adulthood. (pp. 56-64). Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Sinha, D. (Ed.) (1980). Socialization of the Indian child. New Delhi: Concept.

Sinha, D. (1982a). Socio-cultural factors and the development of perceptual and cognitive skills. In W.W. Hartup (Ed.), Review of child development research (pp. 441-472). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Sinha,D.(1983a). Applied social psychology and the problems of national development. In F. Blackler (Ed.), Social psychology and developing countries (pp. 7-20). Chickester: Wiley.

Sinha, D. (1983b). Human assessment in the Indian context. In S. H. Irvine & J. W. Berry (Eds.), Human assessment and culture of factors (pp. 17-34). New York: Plenum.

Sinha, D. (1984a). Manual for story-pictorial EFT and Indo-African EFT. Varanasi: Rupa.

Sinha, D. (1984b). Psychology in the context of third world development. International Journal of Psychology, 19, 17-29.

Sinha, D. (1984c). Community as target: A new perspective to research on prosocial behaviour. In E. Staub, D. Bar-Tal, J. Karylowski, & J. Reykowski (Eds.). Development and maintenance of prosocial behavior (pp. 445-455). New York: Plenum Press.

Sinha, D. (1985). A plea for macro-psychology. In R. Diaz-Guerrero (Ed.). Cross-cultural and national studies in social psychology (pp. 277-283). Amsterdam: North-Holland.

Sinha, D. (1986). Psychology in a third world country: The Indian experience. New Delhi: Sage.

Sinha, D. (1988a). Basic Indian values and behavior dispositions in the context of national development: An appraisal. In D. Sinha & H. S. R. Kao (Eds.), Social values and development: Asian perspectives. (pp. 31-55). New Delhi: Sage.

Sinha, D. (1988b). The family scenario of a developing country and its implications for mental health: The case of India. In P. R. Dasan, J. W. Berry, & N. Sartorius (Eds.), Health and cross-cultural psychology: Toward applications (pp. 48-70). Newbury Park, Calif: Sage.

Sinha, D. (1990a). Concept of psychological well-being: Western and Indian perspectives. NIMHANS Journal, 8, 1-11.

Sinha, D. (1990b). Intervention for development out of poverty. In R. W. Brislin (Ed.), Applied cross-cultural psychology (pp. 77-97). Newbury Park: Sage.

Sinha, D. (1991). Rise in the population of the elderly, familial changes and their psychological implications of the scenarios of the developing countries. International Journal of Psychology, 26, 636-647.

Sinha, D. (1993). Indigenization of psychology in India and its relevance. In U. Kim & J.W. Berry (Eds.), Indigenous psychologies: Research and experience in cultural context (pp. 30-43). Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Sinha, D. (1996a). Culturally rooted psychology in India: Dangers and development. Interamerican Journal of Psychology, 30, 99-110.

Sinha, D. (1996b). Culture as the target and culture as the source: A review of cross-cultural psychology in Asia. Psychology and Developing Societies, 8, 83-105.

Sinha, D. (1997). Indigenizing psychology. In J. W. Berry, Y. H., Poortinga & J. Pandey (Eds.). Handbook of cross-cultural psychology (2nd ed.), Vol. I. Theory and Method (pp. 129-169). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Sinha, D. (1998a). Studying the psychology of the Indian people. In U.N. Dash & U. Jain (Eds.) Perspectives on psychology and social development (pp. 9-32). New Delhi: Concept.

Sinha, D. (1998b). Changing perspectives in social psychology in India: A journey towards indigenization. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 1, 17-31.

Sinha, D., & Shukla, P. (1974). Deprivation and development of skill for pictorial depth perception. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 5, 434-451.

Sinha, D., & Bharat, S. (1982). Three types of family structure and psychological differentiation: A study among the Jaunsar-Bawar society. International Journal of Psychology, 20, 693-708.

Sinha, D., Tripathi, R. C., & Misra, G. (Eds.) (1982). Deprivation: Its social roots and psychological consequences. New Delhi: Concept.

Sinha, D., & Kao, H. S. R. (Eds.) (1988). Social values and development: Asian perspectives. New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Sinha, D., & Naidu, R. K. (1994). Multilayered hierarchial structure of self and not-self: The Indian perspective. In A. M. Bouvy, F. J. R. van de Vijver, P. Boski & P. Schmitz (Eds.), Journey into cross-cultural psychology (pp. 41-49). Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Sinha, D., & Tripathi, R.C. (1994). Individualism in a collective culture: A case of coexistence of opposites. In U. Kim, H.C. Triandis, C. Kagitcibasi, S. Choi, & G. Yoon (Eds.), Individualism and collectivism: Theory, method and applications (pp.123-136). Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Sinha, D., & Kao, H.S.R. (Eds.) (1997). Asian perspectives on psychology. New Delhi: Sage Publications.


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