Cross-Cultural Topics in Psychology

Cross-Cultural Topics in Psychology

Cross-Cultural Topics in Psychology

Cross-Cultural Topics in Psychology

Synopsis

This edited collection brings together scholars from the United States and abroad to provide an introduction to selected topics in cross-cultural psychology, the scientific study of human behaviour and mental processes under diverse cultural conditions.

Excerpt

Ronald Taft

Scholars of human behavior have for a long time been curious to learn to what degree members of outgroups (i.e., other cultures) have the same characteristics as their own people. In the past, with typical ethnocentric arrogance scholars made the underlying assumption that the outgroups would be different in most respects and, by implication, peculiar if not inferior. The traditional emphasis in cross-cultural study used to be on the differences between the scholar's own culture ("civilization") and that of other people ("barbarians"); but today, as a result of repugnance to the myths of racial superiority, scholars have learned to be less judgmental than in the past. Perhaps we now lean too far on the relativistic side in that we avoid making judgments about the psychologically relevant and important question: Do some cultures and cultural institutions provide better than others for the welfare and mental health needs of individuals? This is an aspect of crosscultural psychology that would warrant more attention, but this would require treading much delicate ground.

Modern cross-cultural psychologists often place as much emphasis on the similarities in the behavior of people in different cultures as they do on differences. The search for similarities arises to a large extent from a belief in the underlying unity of the human race in the midst of the diversities that manifest themselves on the surface. Implicit in the study of similarities is the assumption that universals in human behavior are waiting to be discovered once we have developed psychological concepts appropriate for making generalizations across different cultures. Studies of the same phenomena across cultures can serve to establish which psychological principles are broad in their application and which are rather specific to a particular culture. Crosscultural replications of studies initially based on only one culture provide . . .

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