Chapter 1 notes: An introduction to Culture and Psychology (Print glossary and certain
diagrams) FIX LINE SPACING
-increasing diversifying of the world brings with it challenges such as misunderstanding, confusion,
and conflict. These 3 things makes intercultural relations and cultural diversity challenging.
-aim of this book: turn the challenge of cultural diversity into an opportunity.
-psychology: the science specifically concerned with the mental processes
and behavioral characteristics of people.
CULTURAL PSYCHOLOGY – PSYCHOLOGY WITH A CULTURAL PERSPECTIVE
The Goals of Psychology
-cultural psychology meets the challenge of cultural diversity.
-Psychology essentially has two main goals.
1)build a body of knowledge about people. Psychologists seek to understand behavior when it
happens, explain why it happens, and even predict it before it happens. Psychologists achieve this
by conducting research and creating theories of behavior.
2)Second goal of psychology involves taking that body of knowledge and applying it to intervene
in people’s lives, to make those lives better. Psychologists achieve this in many ways: as
-The two goals of psychology—creating a body of knowledge and applying that knowledge—are
-the value of psychological theory and research is often judged by its practical usefulness in
-Theories are often tested for their validity on the streets, and they often have to be revised
because of what happens on those streets.
Cultural Psychology and Cross-Cultural Research
-most theories in psychology are based on studies with American students. Because U.S.
only comprise less than 5% of the world population, some psychologists have argued that findings
from such research have a drawback (Arnett, 2008). Some have suggested that research based on
WEIRDOS—Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic cultures—is severely limited
because WEIRDOS aren’t representative of humans as a whole and that psychologists routinely
use them to make broad, and quite likely false, claims about what drives human behavior
-we believe that there is nothing inherently wrong with such research. The findings from American
samples may be replicated across multiple samples using different methods. And, we do believe
that there are a number of universal psychological processes that can certainly be tested on
WEIRDOS and that are likely applicable to non-WEIRDOS.
-Cultural Psychology asks “is what we know about human behavior true for all people, regardless
of gender, race, ethnicity, culture, class, or lifestyle?” by testing them in people of differing
cultural backgrounds, and uses cross-cultural research as the primary research method
-Cross-cultural research involves participants of more than one cultural background and then
compares findings obtained across those cultures. Cross-cultural research is a method that allows
psychologists to examine how knowledge about people and their behaviors from one culture may
or may not hold for people from other cultures
-Theories depend on research to confirm or dis-confirm them; research involves methods designed to collect data to test theories (or more precisely, hypotheses based on theories). Methods involve
many parameters, one of which includes decisions about the nature of the participants in the
study. Cross-cultural research involves the inclusion of people of different cultural backgrounds—a
specific type of change in one of the parameters of research methods.
-Cross-cultural research tests possible limitations in our knowledge, by examining whether
psychological theories and principles are universal (true for all people of all cultures) or culture-
specific (true for some people of some cultures), thus contributing to a cultural psychology.
-cross-cultural research is a method, it is not topic-specific. Cultural psychologists are interested in
a broad range of phenomena related to human behavior—from perception to language, child
rearing to psychopathology.
-difference between mainstream psychology and cultural psychology is: cultural
psychology is interested in understanding cultural influences on behavior, and the testing of
limitations to knowledge using cross-cultural research methods. (Clarify)
The Contribution of the Study of Culture on Psychological Truths
-The knowledge that is created in psychology should be accurate and descriptive of all people, not
only of people of a certain culture (or race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation).
-The field of psychology has an obligation to produce accurate knowledge that reflects and applies
to them. Cross-cultural research plays an important role in helping psychologists produce that
accurate knowledge for all because it tests whether what is true for some is also true for others.
-many psychologists see an evolution in psychology, with culture incorporated as a necessary and
important ingredient in mainstream psychology.
The Contribution of the Study of Culture in Our Own Lives
-Practicing cultural psychology is an exercise in critical thinking. Is what we know true for all
people regardless of their cultural backgrounds? This question and others are part of the cross-
cultural process. And this process is even more important than the content; it can be applied to all
areas of our lives,
especially in this multicultural world.
The Growth of Cultural Psychology and Cross-Cultural Research
- cross-cultural research has grown in the past decade or two. Much of this popularity is due to the
increased awareness of the importance of culture as an influencing factor on behavior in research,
and, unfortunately, to increased awareness of the frequency of intercultural conflicts within and
between countries, which have also led to much interest in cross-cultural research.
-As psychology has matured, many scientists have come to recognize that much, but not all, of the
research and theories once thought to be universal for all people is indeed culture-bound.
WHAT IS CULTURE?
-Culture:Culture can be used to describe activities or behaviors, refer to the heritage or tradition
of a group, describe rules and norms, describe learning or problem solving, define the organization
of a group, or refer to the origins of a group
-Culture can refer to general characteristics; food and clothing; housing and technology; economy
and transportation; individual and family activities; community and government; welfare, religion,
and science; and sex and the life cycle.
-Thus, we use the concept of culture to describe and explain a broad range of activities, behaviors,
events, and structures in our lives.
-the concept of culture may have different meanings in other cultures. If you refer to culture in Japan, for instance, a Japanese person may think first of flower arranging or a tea ceremony rather
than the aspects of culture Americans normally associate with the word. In Paris, culture might
refer to art, history, or food.
Where Does Culture Come From?
-3 sources of the origins of culture: ecology, resources, and people
Factors that influence the creation of culture:
Ecologies: climate, population density, arable land.
Resources: food, water, money
People: group living, basic human needs and motives, universal psychological toolkit.
Ecology:the kinds of places in which groups of people live has a major impact on how they live.
aspect of ecology that influences cultures and that has received much attention recently is
-Groups that live near the equator, in hot, humid, tropical areas, will exhibit a lifestyle that is very
different from that of groups living in temperate or arctic zones, with seasonal changes and
extremely cold weather.
-it’s the deviation from temperate climate that appears to influence cultures
-Harsher climates also create greater risks of food shortage and food spoilage, stricter diets, more
health problems (infectious and parasitic diseases tend to be more frequent in hotter climates),
so forth. Demanding climates require special clothing, housing, and working arrangements, special
organizations for the production, transportation, trade, and storage of food, special care and cure
facilities, and so forth. People in hotter climates tend to organize their daily activities more around
shelter, shade, and temperature changes that occur during the day. e.g. Part of Spanish culture is
down shops and offices in the midafternoon, during the hottest time of the day, and reopen later.
-Another ecological factor that influences culture is population density. This is the ratio of the
number of people that live in a specific area to the size of the area that can grow food and sustain
-population density: it is the number of people in relation to the amount of arable land in that
area—that is the amount of land on which food can grow to sustain the people in that area.
-is the ecology bounded by ocean, creating an island mentality, like Japan, the United Kingdom?
Resources:A land void of natural resources may encourage teamwork and community spirit
among its members and interrelationships with other groups that have abundant resources in
order to survive. These needs and relationships will foster certain psychological characteristics and
that complement teamwork, community spirit, and interdependence.
-Perhaps the major type of resource that influences cultures today is money.
-Abundant money can help to buffer the consequences of a lack of resources and harsh climates,
which in turn have interesting psychological consequences. People and groups with more money
can afford to be less in sync with others because cooperation is not as essential for survival.
-the combination of climate, population density, and resources are likely some of the most
important factors that contribute to a culture.
-Harsh climates and scarce resources tend to push cultures toward valuing the idea of hospitality
and helping one’s family and neighbors. -People who live in places with high population density and low resources need to cooperate
in order to survive.
Group Living:humans are social animals, and have always lived in groups. In fact, we learned
many hundreds of thousands of years ago that living in groups was better than living alone. A man
or woman alone has trouble surviving the attacks of animals, feeding themselves and taking care
of their children, and meeting all of the other tasks of living. We all also sometimes want the
of others. Groups are also more efficient because they allow us to divide labor.
The advantage, of course, is that division of labor allows for accomplishing more tasks, so that
survival rates increase. But there’s a downside also; the disadvantage for living in groups is that
there is potential for social conflict and chaos. If the members of the groups are uncoordinated and
just do their own thing without consideration of others, conflict and disorganization will occur.
Needs and Motives:humans have basic needs that are ultimately related to reproductive
success. These include physical needs—the need to eat, drink, sleep, deal with waste, and
reproduce if they are to
survive. And they include safety and security needs—the need for hygiene, shelter, and warmth
(remember the discussion above about climate). These needs are universal to all people of all
-Survival is related to the degree to which people can adapt to their environments.
-Over history, people must have solved a host of distinct social problems in order to adapt and
thus achieve reproductive success. These social problems include negotiating complex status
forming successful work and social groups, attracting mates.etc.
-Thus, all individuals and groups have a universal problem of how to adapt to their environments in
order to address these needs and motives, and must create solutions to these universal problems.
Each culture creates it's own solutions.
Universal Psychological Toolkits: REFER TO FIGURE 1.3 Pg. 13
-Human cultures co-evolved with the cognitive capacities that evolved with the human mind and
brain. Fortunately, nature and evolution endowed humans with a universal psychological toolkit
with which to address these needs. This toolkit includes several tools—or more specifically,
aptitudes and cognitive abilities—that help people adapt to their environments to address their
basic needs and social motives. For example, language is one of the tools in our toolkit.
-Another tool in our toolkit involves the ability to believe that other people are intentional agents—
that is, that they have wishes, desires, and intentions to act and behave.
-Morality, a uniquely human product, is probably rooted in this unique human cognitive ability and
is probably why we don’t just take off
our clothes in the middle of the street, have sex in the middle of the park in broad
daylight, or just bop on the nose those with whom we disagree. Other animals,
however, seem to not care as much.
-one of the major
functions of language is to allow for us to communicate a shared intentionality
(Tomasello & Herrmann, 2010). The fact that we can read each other’s facial
expressions of emotion, and that this is a universal ability (see Chapter 8), also
contributes to our ability to create shared intentions. Shared intentionality may be
at the heart of social coordination, which allows for the creation of human culture. (clarify) -Another important ability that humans have that animals do not is the ability
to continually build upon improvements. This the ratchet effect. Like a ratchet, an improvement
never goes backward; it only goes forward and continues to improve on
itself. The ratchet effect does not occur in other animals.
-Our cognitive skills also include memory, and because we have memory, we
can create histories, and because we can create histories, we have traditions, customs,
-emotions are rapid, information processing systems that have
evolved to aid humans in reacting to events that require immediate action and
that have important consequences to one’s welfare with minimal cognitive processing.
-Finally, people come equipped with personality traits. Humans around the world appear to share a
core set of traits that
give them predispositions in order to adapt to their environments, solve social problems,
and address their basic needs.
-It could be that Uncertainty Avoidant cultures produce more neurotic
individuals; but it is also possible that more neurotic individuals exist in
these areas in the first place.
differ in how much of these toolkits they have, or how they use them, but we all
have pretty much the same toolkits.
IN SUM: people have needs that must be met in order to survive. They come to the
world equipped with a universal psychological toolkit that gives them the tools
to address those needs. But, they also live in groups, and the groups exist in different
ecologies, with different resources. Thus, groups of people need to adapt
their behaviors to their ecologies in order to maximize the use of their available
resources in order to meet their needs; the abilities and aptitudes in their psychological
toolkits give them the tools to adapt. These adaptations produce behaviors,
ways of living, ways of thinking, and ways of being. These ways become
the contents of a group’s culture.
A Definition of Culture
The Function of Culture: REFER TO FIGURE 1.4 pg. 14.
-Living in groups requires social coordination. To achieve social order and coordination, and avoid
chaos, we create rules of
life, or systems of living, or ways of being. This is culture. Culture provides guidelines
or roadmaps on what to do, how to think, and what to feel. Those guidelines
are passed along from one generation to the next, so that future generations don’t
have to keep reinventing the wheel.
A Definition of Culture:
“a unique meaning and information system, shared by a group and transmitted
across generations, that allows the group to meet basic needs of survival, pursue
happiness and well-being, and derive meaning from life.”
-human cultures exist first to enable us to meet basic needs of survival.
Human cultures help us to meet others, to procreate and produce offspring,
to put food on the table, to provide shelter from the elements, and to care for our
daily biological essential needs.
-But human culture is so much more than that. It allows for complex social networks
and relationships. It allows us to enhance the meaning of normal, daily activities. It allows us to pursue happiness. It allows us to be creative in music,
art, and drama. It allows us to seek recreation and to engage in sports, to go to the moon, and
unfortunately engage in wars.
-Human culture does all this by creating and maintaining complex social systems,
institutionalizing and improving cultural practices, creating beliefs about the
world, and communicating the meaning system to other humans and subsequent
-It is the product of the evolution of the human mind, increased brain
size, and complex cognitive abilities, in response to the specific ecologies in which
groups live and the resources available to them to live.
-People live in groups, and
groups create cultures to help us meet our needs. Culture is a
solution to the problem of individuals’ adaptations to their contexts to address
their social motives and biological needs. As adaptational responses to the environment,
cultures help to select behaviors, attitudes, values, and opinions that may optimize the tapping of
resources to meet survival needs.
Is Culture a Uniquely Human Product?
-human cultures are different from animal cultures.
-There are three characteristics of human social and cultural life that differentiates
it from those of animals: complexity, differentiation, and institutionalization.
-e.g.We make tools to make tools. We
automate the process of making tools and mass distribute tools around the world
for mass consumption. (institutionalization)
-Because humans have complex social cognition, language,
shared intentionality, and ratcheting, human social and cultural life is much more
complex than that of other animals. (complexity)
-Increased diversity, in fact, greatly aids in survival, and humans appear to be doing
a good job at surviving. (differentiation)
The Difference Between “Society” and “Culture”
Society is “a system of interrelationships
among people.” It refers to the fact that relationships among individuals exist, and
in human societies, individuals have multiple relatio