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Chapter 1

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Simone Walker

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 therapists, counselors. -The two goals of psychology—creating a body of knowledge and applying that knowledge—are closely related. -the value of psychological theory and research is often judged by its practical usefulness in society -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. Americans 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. One aspect of ecology that influences cultures and that has received much attention recently is climate. -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), and 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 to shut 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 the population. -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 attributes 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. People 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 companionship 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 cultures. -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 hierarchies, 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, and heritage. -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. -individuals 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 generations. -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
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