Article

Cultural Psychology

Dov Cohen

in Psychology

ISBN: 9780199828340
Published online November 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0020
Cultural Psychology

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Cultural psychology is the study of how people shape and are shaped by their cultures. Topics of study in this field include similarities and differences between cultures in terms of norms, values, attitudes, scripts, patterns of behavior, cultural products (such as laws, myths, symbols, or material artifacts), social structure, practices and rituals, institutions, and ecologies. Important cultural psychological research has been done by a variety of social scientists, including anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, and researchers from across the discipline of psychology. Much of the contemporary work in the field is being done by developmental psychologists, some prominent (but nonmainstream) anthropologists, and social psychologists, with a very heavy contribution from this last group. Cultural psychology differs from mainstream social psychology in its explicit consideration of culture and in its comparative approach, sampling from two or more cultural populations. There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of “culture” in general or of what constitutes a cultural group in particular. In a famous article from the early 1950s, two anthropologists compiled over 150 definitions of culture, and the matter is no more settled today. Instead of concentrating on such abstract questions, however, cultural psychologists have focused on what they take to be interesting cultural phenomena and on the processes by which people become encultured. One distinction that can be applied to researchers who study culture is between those who study the “etic” aspects of culture, which are thought to be universal, and those who study the “emic” aspects of culture, which are particular to certain cultures. Proponents of both types of work often make comparisons across cultures, but those who emphasize the emic aspects of culture tend to reject the idea that there are just a few basic dimensions—such as how individualistic versus collectivistic a culture is or how hierarchical versus egalitarian a culture is—upon which all cultures can be measured and classified. Those emphasizing the etic aspects of culture often collect data from many cultures and thus use methods (such as surveys and questionnaires) in which data can be collected en masse, whereas those who emphasize the emic aspects of culture often collect data from far fewer cultures (often just two) and frequently use methods (such as experiments or qualitative methodologies) that are not well-suited to mass data collection. The distinction between these two types of research should not be overblown, however; many researchers do both kinds of work and they borrow from each other’s research freely. The bibliography below contains work of both sorts. The list compiled below is intended to provide resources appropriate for various audiences—professional researchers, graduate students, undergraduates, and the educated lay public.

Article.  15065 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Developmental Psychology ; Health Psychology ; History and Systems in Psychology ; Educational Psychology ; Social Psychology

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