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Chapter 4

PSYC 335 Chapter 4: PSYC 335 chap 4: The Role of Culture in Developing Strength & Well-being

Course Code
PSYC 335
Dean A Tripp

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PSYC 335:
Culture & Psychology
-Dr. Satcher → surgeon general of the US, served from 1998 to 2002
-summary of culture contains 2 imp messages
1. Culture counts in the consideration of the etiology (the cause of something, such as
an illness), effects, treatment of educational & psyc problems
2. Psycs need to incorporate cultural issues into their conceptualizations of psyc probs
& treatments
-the need to acknowledge cultural influences also applies to our efforts to understand
educational successes, psyc strengths, & the nature of the good life & this need is unmet
according to the critics of positive psyc
Critics state that most strength-focused scholarship fails to address cultural
influences in research plans, service delivery, & program evaluations
Call for more discussion on how culture counts in positive psyc research & practice
-culture must be viewed in a broad sense as including facets such as a race, ethnicity,
gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, religion, disability, & nation of origin
Each facet may have diff meaning, relevance, & salience in the lives of unique
individuals & all may affect what’s decided to be a positive behaviour or trait w/i a
particular cultural context
-Psyc as a whole has focused so much on weaknesses & thus pathologizes those who don't
adhere to western norms via deficit models, ppl of colour, women, secual minorities, etc
causing double jeapordy
Double Jeopardy: Branded as pathological in comparison to the majority group &
w/i a system that only acknowledges weaknesses & leaves no room for a balanced
description of behaviour
Must accept that healthy functioning & positive traits are subjective & influenced
heavily by cultural worldview
Understanding Culture: A Matter of Perspective
-Psyc in 20th C grappled w the topic of individual diffs & many individual diffs pertained to
-over the last 100 yrs, psyc moved from identifying diffs associated w culture to the
identification & appreciation of individual uniqueness
-Later 1880s & early 1900s → psych referred to race & culture as determinants of pos &
negative personal characteristics & behaviours
Research paradigms, influenced by the sociopolitical forces of the time, produced
findings that were generally consistent w the belief that the dominant race or culture
was superior to all other minority groups w/i the U.S
The Genetically/Culturally Deficient Perspective on Human Diversity: approach
to highlighting the inferiority of certain racial/cultural groups
Psycs w this perspective hypothesized that biological diffs explained
perceived gaps in intellectual capabilities bw racial groups
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Thought ppl who possessed “inferior intelligence” couldn't benefit from growth
opportunities & did not contribute to the advancement of society
Pseudoscience was used to demonstrate the presumed genetic basis of
intelligence & emphasize the “finding” (not real) of intellectual superiority of
europeans/european americans
ex Craniometry: The study of the relationship bw skull characteristics &
intelligence → defs not real science whatsoever
Eugenics: the study of methods of reducing “genetic inferiority” by selective breeding
-Mid 20th C. → most psycs abandoned the belief that race predetermined cognitive
capacities & life outcomes & focus shifted from race to culture/culture deficiencies
The Cultural Deficit Approach: to understanding diffs among ppl → psycs identified
a host of environmental, nutritional, linguistic, & interpersonal factors that supposedly
explained the stunted physical & psyc b growth of members of selected groups
Hypothesized that ppl were lacking in certain psyc resources bc they had
limited exposure to the prevailing values & customs of the day
Researchers focused on carefully explaining the juxtaposition of cultures
viewed as marginal compared to mainstream (middle class, suburban,
socially conservative) & deviations from the normative culture were
considered defiant & cause for concern
Applied a bias, negative, & oversimplified framework for appraising the
cognitive capacities of racial/ethnic minority group members
-Decades of arguing over race/cultural superiority
The Culturally Different Perspective: recognizes the potential of each culture to
engender unique strengths
Uniqueness & strengths of all cultures are recognized
-Recently, researchers/practitioners have begun to consider Culturally Pluralistic &
Culturally Relativistic explanations of diversities inherent in positive & negative human
The Culturally Pluralistic Perspective: recognizing distinct cultural entities &
adopting some values of the majority group
The culturally Relativistic: Interpreting behaviours w/i the context of the culture
Both broadly accepted now but some debate as to whether positive psyc is culture
free or culturally embedded
-Huge debate about cultural influences in psyc research/practice in general
-3 recurring issues seem to involve:
1. The effects of professionals’ cultural values on their research & practices
2. The universality of human strengths
3. The universality of the pursuit of happiness
Culturally Embedded Positive Psyc Research & Practice
-The culturally embedded perspective on positive psyc:
→ associated w ongoing efforts to contextualize all research & practice efforts esp culture-
sensitive recommendations for research, practice, & policy making to encourage
professionals to develop specific competencies to help account for cultural influences on
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