Culture and Basic Psychological Processes
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Lesson 3: Cultural psychology simultaneously involves multiple levels of analysis, in which it uncovers underlying individual-level mechanisms that give rise to group differences and highlights the active role of individuals in shaping their cultural experiences. Lesson 4: Cultural psychology is relevant to basic psychological processes and can provide critical information about experiential correlates underlying the processes. Yet simply acknowledging the importance of culture and cultural psychology is not enough. In our increasingly multicultural world, it is a pressing, necessary and pragmatic task for us all to actively incorporate cultural psychology into our research programs.
For seasoned researchers and students in training alike, there are some important steps to take:. When we set aside any presumptions, we can better see that cultural psychology represents a unique theoretical perspective equipped with unique methods. It provides us with additional tools to understand human behavior and psychological processes. It helps us recognize, reduce, and eliminate biases, uncover new mechanisms and develop new theories, and understand human cognition and behavior as a constructive process that takes place in the interaction between a person and her residing environment.
And when we set aside any presumptions, we can come to strategically evaluate and plan the integration of cultural psychology into our research programs. I am grateful to Robert Sternberg, Moin Syed, and anonymous reviewers for helpful critiques and suggestions on earlier versions of this article.
Department of Agriculture to the author.
I argue that it is not enough to simply acknowledge the importance of culture and urge psychologists to practice cultural psychology in their research. I deconstruct five assumptions about cultural psychology that seriously undermine its contribution to the building of a true psychological science, including that cultural psychology a is only about finding group differences, b does not appertain to group similarities, c concerns only group-level analysis, d is irrelevant to basic psychological processes, and e is used only to confirm the generalizability of theories.
Drawing lessons from the 20 years of cultural research that my colleagues and I have done on the development of social cognition, including autobiographical memory, future thinking, self, and emotion knowledge, I demonstrate that incorporating cultural psychology into research programs is not only necessary but also feasible. The snippet could not be located in the article text.
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Perspect Psychol Sci. Author manuscript; available in PMC Sep 1. PMID: Qi Wang. Qi Wang, Cornell University;. Copyright notice. The publisher's final edited version of this article is available at Perspect Psychol Sci. See other articles in PMC that cite the published article.
H. R. Markus, S. Kitayama & R. J. Heiman, Culture and basic psychological processes - PhilPapers
Abstract I call the attention of psychologists to the pivotal role of cultural psychology in extending and enriching research programs. Keywords: culture, cultural psychology, cultural psychologist, social cognition, assumptions, biases. Assumption 1: Cultural psychology is only about finding group differences. Assumption 2: Cultural psychology does not care about group similarities. Assumption 3: Cultural psychology only concerns group-level analysis.
Assumption 4: Cultural psychology is irrelevant to basic psychological processes. Assumption 5: Cultural psychology is only to confirm the generalizability of theories. Assumption 1: Cultural psychology is only about finding group differences What is cultural psychology about? Assumption 2: Cultural psychology does not care about group similarities This assumption may be held by not only non-cultural psychologists but even by researchers who conduct studies across cultures.
Assumption 3: Cultural psychology only concerns group-level analysis The next common belief about cultural psychology is that it only approaches a topic at the level of the group and does not care about individual differences.
Assumption 4: Cultural psychology is irrelevant to basic psychological processes As my stories at the beginning showed, even some seasoned researchers still hold the assumption that culture should not matter for basic psychological processes. Assumption 5: Cultural psychology is only to confirm the generalizability of theories Cultural psychology is indispensable in confirming the generalizability of theories.
For seasoned researchers and students in training alike, there are some important steps to take: Keep an open mind. No matter whether we are studying basic neural-cognitive processes or complex social behaviors, stay open to the idea that these processes and behaviors may be subject to cultural influences. Do our homework.
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Familiarize ourselves with existing cultural theories and empirical data relevant to the psychological process or construct of our interest. There are many excellent accessible resources e. Embrace our multicultural samples. Multicultural, multiethnic samples have become increasingly common in our typical Psych participant pools. Welcome them with open arms. Encourage and actively recruit participants from non-Western cultures in our research and ensure sufficient sample sizes.
Take culture into account. Remain sensitive and attuned to group variations that may unexpectedly emerge in our multicultural samples. Do not discard them but stay intellectually curious. Follow up on the earlier observations with high-powered studies. Conduct hypothesis-based research. Using our knowledge in cultural psychology, develop hypothesis-based research to systematically investigate, confirm, and further explain the observed group variations.
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Do not settle. Do not stop at just finding differences between cultural groups.
If we suspect that certain cultural variables may play a role, find or develop appropriate measures for these variables and include them in the research design. Consider nature X nurture. Reflect on cultural differences and similarities in earlier observations.
Examine the interaction between culturally variant and invariant factors in shaping human cognition and behavior. Be a cultural methodologist. Take advantage of the unique methodological tools of cultural psychology. Examine the psychological construct of our interest at both group and individual levels and understand the dynamic relations across different levels of analysis. Study culture within the person. Understand culture as not only shared norms, values, and practices within a group, but also internalized norms, values, and practices within an individual.
Build theories. Test our theories in diverse cultural groups. Continue our pursuit even when the generalizability is not confirmed, so as to enrich our research programs and guide them to previously unthought-of new directions. Acknowledgments I am grateful to Robert Sternberg, Moin Syed, and anonymous reviewers for helpful critiques and suggestions on earlier versions of this article.
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