Cross-cultural Psychology

29.04.2015 |

Episode #10 of the course “Major Schools of Thought in Psychology”

Cross-cultural psychology considers how cultural factors influence human behavior. This school was probably developed in the late 1960s, but it was made official with the development of the International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology’s establishment in 1972. Since that time, this branch of psychology has continued to grow in importance.

Culture refers to a number of human attributes, including attitudes, customs, values, and behaviors. It does not stop at race or religion; it also includes social class and geographic location. These ideas are transmitted from one generation to the next. While humans as a species share many traits and similar thoughts, how those thoughts are expressed is directly affected by their culture. Cross-cultural psychology considers universal behaviors and cultural behaviors to identify specific ways that culture affects how an individual acts. This also extends to how other aspects of human life are affected by culture, including social experiences, education, and family life, for example.

In one study, researchers found that people who saw different architectural shapes or designs on a daily basis developed different perceptions. People who live in the United States are exposed to lots of 90-degree angles, and they are susceptible to different types of optical illusions than those who live in rural African villages, where they rarely ever see similar geometric shapes.

There are two basic approaches to cross-cultural psychology. One considers how the cultures are similar (atic approach) while the other considers how the cultures are unique (emic approach). While other schools of thought in psychology may consider immediate family and general upbringing, this school of thought is the only one to extend that consideration to cultural norms and traditions.

Cross-cultural psychology focuses on a few specific topics: child development, language acquisition, emotions, personality, social behavior, family life, and social relationships. It is particularly useful for developing learning and teaching methods when the student and the teacher are not members of the same culture. With the increase in the concept of a “global society,” understanding how other cultures express emotions, for example, will likely be helpful in communicating and cooperating with other cultures around the world.


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