Worldview studies

Ross Woods, 2021

A worldview study is a description of an ethnic group's view or understanding of the world and is actually a kind of ethnographic study. Now to get more complicated—there are different understandings of what a worldview is.


Cosmology is the traditional idea of worldview in philosphy and theology, and it is still very important. It is to some extent a mapping of a culture's view of the spiritual and physical world. Many cultures havespecific roles for ancestors, gods, spirits, world of the dead, and nature. They also have particular views of humankind, the human problem, and their proposed solution to the human problem.

Breadth of life experience

Communities are usually defined by what lies within their experience and especially by the familiar. This is most important when we realize what is familiar and normal for them, and what is completely outside their experience. You find their horizons and find out what is inside them and outside them.

For example, your worldview would have a specific shape if you had lived your whole life in a small village and never been outside or read of it. Your reactions to outsiders might appear quite odd to well-travelled people but would be very logical to you.

If you have contact with things outside your normal experience (e.g. meet foreigners), you develop concepts of them according to your horizons. For example, if you know nothing at all of people outside your rural village, it is quite logical that strangers might have magic or turn into little green men at nightfall. If you have only ever been exposed to one viewpoint or set of assumptions, you might find other viewpoints and assumptions to be very difficult to understand, and probably quite illogical. They clash with your accepted understanding of reality.

Hierarchy of values

When facing particular issues, it can be very helpful to define the more and less valued aspects and find out which are valued highly and which are valued lower. It is an excellent problem solving strategy when, for example, intercultural workers depend on something being highly valued, and locals misunderstand. However, it isn't normally possible to describe whole cultures in terms of values hierarchies.It works better to identify hierarchies relating to particular issues.

Conception of society

Different ethnic groups conceive of their society in different ways. For example:


Mindset is the particular set of underlying attitudes and behaviour resulting from the totality of life experience. For example, a researcher wanted to know what factors affected decision-making in a particular traditional ethnic group. He found and described the pattern that was the norm in the communities of that ethnic group.