Toward a Conception of
Culture Suitable for a Social
Psychology of Culture
University of Kansas
Hazel Rose Markus
The chapters in this volume mark an important shift in the study of culture and psychology. Instead of psychological phenomena investigated in different “cultures, ” psychologists are increasingly taking the phenomenon of culture, itself, as a suitable topic focus of study. With this change in focus comes an obligation to devote greater theoretical attention to the concept of culture than has been typical in social psychology. After the excellent beginning provided by contributions to this volume, it may be helpful to pause and reconsider what we think culture is before embarking too far on a project to articulate its psychological foundations. We take this as our task for the conclusion chapter.
Psychologists have often been reluctant to define culture explicitly (Jahoda, 1984; Segall, 1984). On one hand, this reluctance reflects the difficulty of the exercise. As the editors of this volume note in their introduction chapter, culture gets used in many different ways by many different people, and it is probably impossible to find a definition upon which most people would agree.
On the other hand, the reluctance to define culture reflects a perspective that this book is trying to transcend. Studies in social psychology usually do not consider culture directly, as a psychological phenomenon in its own