Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Culture in the History of Psychology in Canada

Academic journal article Canadian Psychology

Culture in the History of Psychology in Canada

Article excerpt

Culture as a theoretical construct and an empirical variable evolved steadily in the history of psychology in Canada. This historical account is offered to record important contributions made by Canadian psychologists to the understanding of culture, both within the Canadian context, and internationally. The distinctive demographic, historical, political, and social contexts of Canada are examined, which provided the direction and the focus for the psychological examination of culture. Research and theory on culture are mapped across time and topic in three principal domains: intercultural, culture comparative, and indigenous approaches. Additionally, the evolution of professional associations, academic activities, and pedagogy pertaining to culture are examined. It is concluded that Canadian psychologists have made a distinct and substantial contribution to the understanding of relationships between culture and behaviour, in Canada as well as in the global context.

Keywords: cross-cultural psychology, culture, history, intercultural psychology, multiculturalism

Historically, Canada has always been a culturally diverse region. At present, there are 6.2 million foreign-bom people (about 21% of the population) from 234 countries speaking 94 different languages (Statistics Canada, 2006a, 2006b). The 2010 World Migration Report has ranked Canada fifth in the world for the largest foreign-born population (World Migration Report, 2010). As this incoming migration pattern has unfolded, Canada's public policies on how best to settle the annual flow of about 225,000 immigrants and its mandate to accept refugees from troubled countries have profoundly affected the psychological experiences and daily lives of all Canadians. The original inhabitants of Canada (Aboriginal Peoples) have been most deeply and often negatively impacted by the massive migrations of Europeans who began arriving in significant numbers in the mid-18th century. Ongoing contact between Aboriginal and immigrant peoples has contributed greatly to Canada's political, cultural, and social development. With multiple cultural, ethnic, and religious groups calling Canada their home, it was inevitable that the diverse demographic features of Canada's cultural make-up, including the presence of Aboriginal Peoples, would become infused into our psychological repertoire. Beginning in the middle of the 20th century, Canadian psychologists came to examine the role of culture in psychology, responding to this continually evolving multicultural context.

The rise of culture within the larger frame of the history of psychology has been examined previously (Berry & Triandis, 2006; Kashima & Gelfand, 2012); however, this present examination of culture in the study and practice of psychology is focused specifically on the Canadian context. This historical account is derived from the conceptual view that the evolution of scholarly ideas and research pursuits reflect and parallel the historical, social, and political happenings of a certain time and region (Danziger, 1990; Leahey, 1987). We explore how Canada's history, demographic trends, and related political decisions are reflected in the direction and content of Canadian research in psychology involving culture, both as an empirical variable and as a theoretical construct. Following a brief description of the Canadian context, we aim to map three broad domains of psychological research: intercultural, culture comparative, and indigenous psychology. Additionally, we examine the formalization of the CPA Section on International and Cross-Cultural Psychology and provide a brief account of culture in the curriculum of psychology departments across Canadian universities. The scope of this account covers a period from the 1930s to the start of the millennium, recognising that further growth continues into contemporary times.

The Canadian Context

Aboriginal Peoples provide the original source of cultural diversity in Canada. …

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