Guesses on the Future of Cultural Psychology: Past, Present, and Past

Aaro Toomela

in The Oxford Handbook of Culture and Psychology

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780195396430
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

 Guesses on the Future of Cultural Psychology: Past, Present, and Past

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In psychology today, three scientific approaches—three cultures—can be distinguished, each of them based on different epistemology: roots of the process-oriented science can be traced back to the Heraclitian philosophy; cause-effect science agrees with the Cartesian-Humean philosophy; and structural-systemic science, which in many respects is built on Aristotelian worldview. Science is an activity that aims at increasing knowledge and understanding of the world. In this chapter it is suggested that the three scientific approaches comprise a hierarchy in terms of explanatory power; process-oriented science represents scientifically the least effective way to understand the world and structural-systemic science is the most powerful. Cultural psychology of today is analyzed in the framework of the distinguished epistemologies and corresponding methodologies. It is shown that the process-oriented cultural psychology is represented, among others, by studies based on modern qualitative methodology; also several ideas from activity theory and indigenous cultural psychology belong here together with the principle of cultural relativism. Cause-effect science is represented by cross-cultural psychology, and partly by activity theory and indigenous cultural psychology, which are examples of mixed approaches. Finally, the structural-systemic approach was taken by almost abandoned today Vygotskian cultural-historical psychology elaborated by Luria. The near future of cultural psychology, I predict, will remain dominated by cause-effect science together with the process-oriented approach, which will strengthen its position a little. Nonscientific reasons why the most sophisticated structural-systemic approach will stay in the periphery of science are discussed. It is concluded that the future of cultural psychology, if it is to prosper as a science, lies in the past, not in the present.

Keywords: epistemology; culture of science; cultural psychology; hierarchy of scientific approaches

Article.  26701 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Social Psychology

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