Cross-Cultural Psychology

What is cross-cultural psychology?? To understand cross-cultural psychology, it is important that we have in-depth understanding of what culture and psychology means.  Culture is the term used to describe a wide range of activities, behaviors, events and structures in society. Psychology, on the other hand, encompasses the study of behavior and mind embracing all aspects of human experience. Now, having understood the two terms the next step is to try and understand how they affect people. To achieve this, we need to ask ourselves several relevant questions such as: How does culture affect human behavior? Is psychology relevant in developing countries? How do child-rearing practices vary across different cultures? Do multi-cultural work groups perform well in organizations? Is crossing cultures stressful? These questions are relevant in our analysis.

Therefore, cross-cultural psychology is the scientific study of human behavior and mental processes, including both their variability and invariance, under diverse cultural conditions. It expands research methodologies to recognize cultural variance in behavior, language, and meaning it seeks to extend and develop psychology. Cross-cultural psychology looks at how culture affects human behaviors. Cultural psychology refers to the study of psychological and behavioral tendencies are rooted in and embodied in culture. It is based the belief that culture and mind are inseparable and mutually constitutive which means that their culture shapes most of the people, and they also shape the culture.

For instance, a cultural psychologist will study how culture, in general, causes some individuals to be submissive in life, while it encourages to be more aggressive in what they do. A cross-cultural psychologist will undertake an in-depth analysis of how traditional Asian women appear to be more submissive than modern American women. The cross-cultural psychologist will research on patterns/trends (similarities and differences) between the two cultures so as to understand the reason behind the variation in behavior.


Relationship between cultural and cross-cultural psychology

Although many of these characteristics and traits overlap between cultures, there are some significant differences. For instance, all people, regardless of their cultures, experience happiness, sadness, and anger. Those emotions are universal, however, the way that those emotions are expressed vary from culture-to-culture. Cultural psychology and cross-cultural psychology are the major psychological approaches to studying the relationship between culture and psychology. There are differences as well as similarities between these two branches of psychology.

Cultural psychology studies the connection between the mind and body of a person. That means its major focus is on the mind and human behaviors. This branch of psychology examines how cultural influences affect the mind, and how the mind helps create these cultural influences. Psychologists believe that it is a cyclic process where the mind contributes to cultural behaviors, traditions, beliefs, and these factors influence the mind as well.

            Cross-cultural psychology, on the other hand, investigates the differences in thought processes and behaviors between two given cultures. This branch of psychology is more specific than cultural psychology. In fact, the major difference between cross-cultural and cultural psychology is the specificity in the two branches of psychology. While cultural psychology is more general in its approach, cross-cultural psychology dwells on the fine detail between cultures. Its big emphasis is on the patterns on various cultural groups and how they affect the behavior of people in a community.


Methodology Associated with Cross-Cultural Psychology

Cross-cultural psychology may be considered as a type of research, rather than as an entirely separated field within psychology. Cross-cultural studies are often controversial because there exist different perspectives about what really constitutes culture and how it should be measured. Culture is usually conceptualized as value-based and fairly stable. Cultural context includes economic, legal, educational, parenting among other related systems. Most researchers use Hofstede’s values-based dimensions of national cultures model despite it being criticized as general and outdated. This is because of lack of other viable alternatives.

The first step in examining cross-cultural psychology is collecting the data that will be used in the study. The cohort to be investigated is identified. This is done through a method known as sampling representation and generalization which involves employing participants from two cultures in a country like the United States of America. The participants might not fully represent their culture but it is relatively convenient. One should consider recruiting people through the internet so as to get a better sample representative sample. Situation sampling referes to a mechanism in which a number of representative social situations evoking a certain psychological response (e.g., the feeling of success) are sampled and then presented to participants from different cultures.

Relevant information is gathered from the participants. This could be psychological, social, demographic or even health information. Researchers use various instruments of data collection which could range from interviews, questionnaires or observations. Care should be taken to ensure that the right tools are used to construct credible validity. The same instruments of measuring information should be used in the different cultures to facilitate making comparisons. The researcher will then take information gathered from one culture and interpret the responses. He/she will do the same for the other culture. The two cultures are then compared and inferences made. Methods of comparison used may vary depending on the context. The most common types include statistical analysis, tabulation, use of graphs and charts among others.

            Cross-cultural psychology is imperative because it provides an explanation of the behaviors of people in different cultures. Ethnicity and racism result from the difference in opinions between communities. These differences are the consequence of dissimilarities in culture. Various leaders in the world have divergent views which are most likely shaped by the culture they grew up in. Having said that, it is clear that culture influences almost all aspects of a human being. Therefore, the study of cross-cultural psychology is vital in because it builds a deep understanding of the behavior of people and communities.

Enculturation is defined as the process through which an individual learns the traditional contents of a culture and assimilates its practices, beliefs and values. It is both a conscious and an unconscious conditioning process whereby man achieves competence in the culture, internalizes it culture and becomes thoroughly enculturated. The learning process may be through observations, experience or instructions. When a person has been encultured, he/she changes their behavior, attitudes, reasoning, beliefs and other aspects of a human being. The society does whatever is of necessity in helping any one of its members in learning and incorporating appropriate behavior in any social setting.







John, B. (1992). Cross-cultural psychology: research and applications. Cambridge University Press Lonner, J. (2000). On the Growth and Continuing Importance of Cross-Cultural Psychology. Eye on Psi Chi.Matsumoto, D.  (2000). Culture and psychology (2nd Ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

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