Cross-cultural psychology

Cross-cultural psychology

Cross-cultural psychology is the scientific study of human behavior and mental processes, including both their variability and invariance, under diverse cultural conditions.[1] Through expanding research methodologies to recognize cultural variance in behavior, language, and meaning it seeks to extend and develop psychology.[2] Since psychology as an academic discipline was developed largely in North America, some psychologists became concerned that constructs accepted as universal were not as invariant as previously assumed, especially since many attempts to replicate notable experiments in other cultures had varying success.[3][4] Since there are questions as to whether theories dealing with central themes, such as affect, cognition, conceptions of the self, and issues such as psychopathology, anxiety, and depression, may lack external validity when "exported" to other cultural contexts, cross-cultural psychology re-examines them using methodologies designed to factor in cultural differences so as to account for cultural variance.[5] Although some critics have pointed to methodological flaws in cross-cultural psychological research and claim that serious shortcomings in the theoretical and methodological bases used impede rather than help the scientific search for universal principles in psychology, cross-cultural psychologists are turning more to the study of how differences (variance) occur, rather than searching for universals in the style of physics or chemistry.[2][3]

In 1972 the International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology (IACCP) was established.[6] This branch of psychology has continued to expand as there has been an increasing popularity of incorporating culture and diversity into studies.

Cross-cultural psychology is differentiated from cultural psychology, which refers to the branch of psychology that holds that human behavior is significantly influenced by cultural differences, meaning that psychological phenomena can only be compared with each other across cultures to a very limited extent. In contrast, cross-cultural psychology includes a search for possible universals in behavior and mental processes. Cross-cultural psychology "can be thought of as a type research methodology, rather than an entirely separate field within psychology".[6][7]


  • Definitions and early work 1
  • Etic v. emic 2
  • Research and applications 3
    • Geert Hofstede and the dimensions of culture 3.1
    • Counseling and clinical psychology 3.2
    • Five-factor model of personality 3.3
    • Emotion judgments 3.4
    • Differences in subjective well-being 3.5
    • How different cultures resolve conflict 3.6
    • Gender-role differences 3.7
    • Child and adolescent development 3.8
  • Future developments 4
  • Further reading 5
    • Online publications 5.1
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Definitions and early work

Two definitions of the field include: "the scientific study of human behavior and its transmission, taking into account the ways in which behaviors are shaped and influenced by social and cultural forces"[8] and "the empirical study of members of various cultural groups who have had different experiences that lead to predictable and significant differences in behavior".[9] Culture, as a whole, may also be defined as "the shared way of life of a group of people."[8]

Early work in cross-cultural psychology was suggested in Lazarus and Steinthal's journal Zeitschrift fur Völkerpsychologie und Sprachwissenschaft [Journal of Folk Psychology and Language Science] which began to be published in 1860. More empirically oriented research was subsequently conducted by Williams H. R. Rivers (1864–1922) who attempted to measure the intelligence and sensory acuity of indigenous people residing in the Torres Straits area, located between Australia and New Guinea.[10]

Etic v. emic

Other fields of psychology focus on how personal relationships impact human behavior; however, they fail to take into account the significant power that culture may have on human behavior.[6] The Malinowskian dictum focuses on the idea that there is a necessity to understand culture of a society in its own terms instead of the common search of finding a universal law that applies to all human behavior.[11] Cross-culture psychologists have used the emic/etic distinction for some time.[12] The emic approach studies behavior from within the culture, and mostly is based on one culture; the etic approach studies behavior from outside the culture system, and is based on many cultures.[13] Currently, many psychologists conducting cross-cultural research use what is called a pseudoetic approach.[14] This pseudoetic approach is actually an emic based approach, developed in a Western culture and is in result, is designed to work as an etic approach.[14] Irvine and Carroll brought an intelligence test to another culture without checking whether the test was measuring what it was intended to measure. This can be considered pseudoetic work because various cultures have their own concepts for intelligence.[13]

Research and applications

Geert Hofstede and the dimensions of culture

Geert Hofstede revolutionized the field doing worldwide research on values for IBM in the 1970s. Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory is not only the springboard for one of the most active research traditions in cross-cultural psychology, it is also cited extensively in the management literature. His initial work found that cultures differ on four dimensions: power distance, uncertainty avoidance, masculinity-femininity, and individualism-collectivism.[15] Later, after The Chinese Culture Connection extended his research using indigenous Chinese materials, he added a fifth dimension - Long-term Orientation (originally called Confucian dynamism) - which is found in other cultures besides China.[16] Still later, after work with Michael Minkov using data from the World Values Survey, he added a sixth - Indulgence versus restraint.[17] [18]

Despite its popularity, Hofstede's work has been seriously questioned by McSweeney (2002).[19] Furthermore, Berry et al. challenge the work of Hofstede, proposing alternative measures to assess individualism and collectivism. Indeed, the individualism-collectivism debate has itself proven to be problematic, with Sinha and Tripathi (1994) arguing that strong individualistic and collectivistic orientations may coexist in the same culture (they discuss India in this connection). (See Sinha and Tripathi).[20]

Counseling and clinical psychology

Cross-cultural clinical psychologists (e.g., Jefferson Fish[21][22][23]) and counseling psychologists (e.g., Paul Pedersen[24][25]) have applied principles of cross-cultural psychology to psychotherapy and counseling. Additionally, the book by Uwe P. Gielen, Juris G. Draguns, and Jefferson M. Fish titled "Principles of Multicultural Counseling and Therapy" contains numerous chapters on the application of culture in counseling. Joan D. Koss-Chioino, Louise Baca, and Luis A. Varrga are all listed in this book (in the chapter titled "Group Therapy with Mexican American and Mexican Adolescents: Focus on Culture) as working with Latinos in their way of therapy that is known to be "culturally sensitive". For example, in their therapy they create a "fourth life space" that allows children/adolescents to reflect on difficulties they may be facing.[22] Furthermore, in the book it was stated that various countries are now starting to incorporate multicultural interventions into their counseling practices. The countries listed included: Malaysia, Kuwait, China, Israel, Australia, and Serbia.[22] Lastly, in the chapter titled "Multiculturalism and School Counseling: Creating Relevant Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Programs" Hardin L. K. Coleman, and Jennifer J. Lindwall propose a way to incorporate cultural components into school counseling programs. Specifically, they emphasize the necessity of the counselor's having multicultural competence and the ability to apply this knowledge when working with others.[22]

Five-factor model of personality

Can the traits defined by American psychologists be generalized across people from different countries? Consequently, cross- cultural psychologists have often questioned how to compare traits across cultures. To examine this question, studies measuring personality factors using trait adjectives from various languages are known as lexical studies.[26] Over time these studies have concluded that Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness factors almost always appear, yet Neuroticism and Openness to Experience sometimes do not. Therefore, it is difficult to determine whether these traits are nonexistent in certain cultures or if it is specifically the set of adjectives used. In conclusion, it has been determined that the FFM is a universal structure and can be used within cross-cultural research and research studies in general. However, it is crucial to take note that other cultures may include even more significant traits or expand upon the traits included only in the FFM.[26]

Emotion judgments

Researchers have often wondered if people across various cultures interpret emotions in similar ways. In the field of cross-cultural psychology Paul Ekman has conducted research examining judgments in facial expression cross-culturally. One of his studies included participants from ten different cultures who were required to indicate emotions and the intensity of each emotion. In result, the study showed that there was agreement across cultures as to which emotion was the most intense and the second most intense.[27] These findings provide support to the view that some cross-cultural psychologists hold in which there are universal facial expressions of emotion. Nevertheless, it is also important to note that in the study there were differences in the way in which participants across cultures rated emotion intensity.[27]

While there are said to be universally recognized facial expressions, Yueqin Huang and his colleagues performed research that looked at how a culture may put different labels on certain expressions of emotions. Huang et al. (2001) in particularly examined Chinese perceptions in comparison to American perceptions of facial emotion expressions. They found that the Chinese participants are not as skilled as the American participants at perceiving the universal emotional expressions on people of a culture different than their own.[28] These findings show support for the notion that there is a cross-cultural difference present in emotional judgement. Huang et al. (2001) suggests that Asians may use different cues on the face to interpret the emotional expression. Also, because every culture has different values and norms, it is important to analyze those differences in order to gain a better understanding as to why certain emotions are interpreted differently or not at all. For example, as Huang et al. (2001) point out, it is common for ‘negative emotions’ not to be welcome in many Asian cultures. This important information may be critical in recognizing the cross-cultural difference between Asian and American judgements of the universal emotional expressions.[28]

Differences in subjective well-being

The term "subjective well-being" is frequently used throughout psychology research and is made up of three main parts: 1) life satisfaction (a cognitive evaluation of one's overall life), 2) the presence of positive emotional experiences, and 3) the absence of negative emotional experiences.[29] Across cultures people may have differing opinions on the "ideal" level of subjective well-being. For example, Brazilians have shown in studies to find positive emotions very desirable while the Chinese did not rate as highly for the desire of positive emotions.[29] Consequently, when comparing subjective well-being cross-culturally it appears important to take into account how the individuals in one culture may rate one aspect differently from individuals from another culture, overall not providing a universal indicator as to how much subjective well-being they experience over a period of time.[29] One important topic is whether individuals from individualist or collectivist countries are happier and rate higher on subjective well-being. Diener, Diener, & Diener, 1995, noted that individualist cultural members are found to be happier than collectivist cultural members.[30] It is also important to note that happier nations may not always be the wealthier nations. While there are strong associations between income and subjective well-being, the "richer=happier" argument is still a topic of hot debate. One factor that may contribute to this debate is that nations that are economically stable may also contain various non-materialistic features such as a more stable democratic government, human rights, etc. that could overall contribute to a higher subjective well-being. Therefore, it has yet to be determined whether a higher subjective well-being is linked to material affluence or by other features that wealthy societies often possess.[29]

How different cultures resolve conflict

Grossmann et al. use evidence to show how cultures differ in the ways they approach social conflict and how culture continues to be an important factor in human development even into old age. Specifically, the paper examines aging-related differences in wise reasoning among the American and Japanese cultures. Participant responses revealed that wisdom (e.g., recognition of multiple perspectives, the limits of personal knowledge, and the importance of compromise) increased with age among Americans, but older age was not directly associated with wiser responses amongst the Japanese participants. Furthermore, younger and middle-aged Japanese participants illustrated higher scores than Americans for resolving group conflicts.[31] Grossmann et al. found that Americans emphasize individuality and solve conflict in a direct manner, while the Japanese place an emphasis on social cohesion and settle conflict more indirectly. The Japanese are motivated to maintain interpersonal harmony and avoid conflict, resolve conflict better, and are wiser earlier in their lives. Americans experience conflict gradually, which results in continuous learning about how to solve conflict and increased wisdom in their later years. The current study supported the concept that varying cultures use different methods to resolve conflict.[31]

Differences in conflict resolution across cultures can also be seen with the inclusion of a third party. These differences can be found when the third party becomes involved and provides a solution to the conflict.[32] Asian and American cultural practices play a role in the way each handles conflict. A technique used by Korean-Americans may reflect Confucian values[32] while the American technique will be consistent with their capitalistic views. Americans will have more structure in their processes which provides standards for similar situations in the future. Contrary to American ways, Korean-Americans will not have as much structure in resolving their conflicts, but more flexibility while solving a problem. For Korean-Americans, the correct way may not always be set but can usually be narrowed down to a couple possible solutions.

Gender-role differences

Williams and Best (1990) have looked at different societies in terms of prevailing gender stereotypes, gender-linked self-perceptions and gender roles. They both find universal similarities as well as differences between and within more than 30 nations.[33] The Handbook of Cross Cultural Psychology also contains a great review on the topic of Sex, Gender, and Culture. One of the main findings overall was that under the topic of sex and gender pan-cultural similarities were shown to be greater than cultural differences.[34] Furthermore, across cultures in social groups the way in which men and women relate to one another has shown to be similar.[34] Further calls have been made to examine theories of gender development as well as how culture influences behavior of both males and females.[34]

Child and adolescent development

Berry et al. refer to evidence that a number of different dimensions have been found in cross-cultural comparisons of childrearing practices, including differences on the dimensions of obedience training, responsibility training, nurturance training (the degree to which a sibling will care for other siblings or for older people), achievement training, self-reliance, and autonomy;[35][36] The Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology Volume 2 also contains an extensive chapter (The Cultural Structuring of Child Development by Charles M. Super and Sara Harkness) on cross-cultural influences on child development. In conclusion, it was stated that three recurring topics were shown to consistently come up during the review: "how best to conceptualize variability within and across cultural settings, to characterize activities of the child's mind, and to improve methodological research in culture and development."[37]

Future developments

The rise of cross-cultural psychology reflects a general process of globalization in the social sciences that seeks to purify specific areas of research which have western biases. In this way, cross-cultural psychology together with international psychology aims to make psychology less ethnocentric in character than it has been in the past. Cross-cultural psychology is now taught at numerous universities located around the world, both as a specific content area as well as a methodological approach designed to broaden the field of psychology.

Further reading

  • Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology (JCCP)
  • Robert T. Carter (Editor) (2005) Handbook of Racial-cultural Psychology and Counselling. Vols. 1–2 New Jersey:John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-65625-9 (set).
    • Volume 1: Theory and Research ISBN 0-471-38628-6
    • Volume 2: Training and Practice. ISBN 0-471-38629-4
  • Pandey, J., Sinha, D., & Bhawal, D. P. S. Asian contributions to cross-cultural psychology. London: Sage.
  • Shiraev, E., & Levy, D. (2006). Cross-cultural psychology: Critical thinking and contemporary applications (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  • Singh, R. & Dutta, S (2010) "Race" and Culture: Tools, Techniques and Trainings. A Manual for Professionals. London: Karnac Systemic Thinking and Practice Series.

Major Reviews of literature in Cross-Cultural Psychology[38] 1. five chapters in the Lindzey and Aronson Handbook of Social Psychology (Whiting 1968 on the methodology of one kind of cross-cultural research, Tajfek 1969 on perception, DeVos and Hippler 1969 on cultural psychology, Inkeles and Levinson 1969 on national character, and Etzioni 1969 on international relations 2. Child (1968) reviewed the culture and personality area in the Borgatta and Lambert Handbook of Personality Theory and Research 3. Honigmann's (1967) book on personality and culture

Online publications

The following publications on the subject have been made available online on Google Book Search in their entirety or with substantial preview:

  • Berry, John W; Poortinga, Ype H; Segall, Marshall H; Dasen, Pierre R (2002), Cross-cultural psychology: Research and applications (2nd ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,  
  • Berry, John W; Poortinga, Ype H; Pandey, Janak (Editors) (1997), Handbook of Cross-cultural Psychology, Vol 1: Theory and method (2nd ed.), Boston: Allyn and Bacon,  
  • Berry, John W; Dasen, Pierre R; Saraswathi, T.S. (Editors) (1997), Handbook of Cross-cultural Psychology, Vol 2: Basic processes and human development (2nd ed.), Boston: Allyn and Bacon,  
  • Berry, John W; Segall, Marshall H; Kagitcibasi, Cigdem(Editors) (1997), Handbook of Cross-cultural Psychology, Vol 3: Social behavior and applications (2nd ed.), Boston: Allyn and Bacon,  

Continued list of culture readings online:

See also


  1. ^ Ho, D. Y. F., & Wu, M. (2001). Introduction to cross-cultural psychology. In L. L. Adler & U. P. Gielen (Eds.), Cross-cultural topics in psychology (pp. 3–13). Westport, CT: Praeger.
  2. ^ a b Gielen, U. P., & Roopnarine, J. L. (Eds.).(2004). Childhood and adolescence: Cross-cultural perspectives and applications. Westport: CT: Praeger.
  3. ^ a b Smith, Peter B., Michael Harris Bond, and Cigdem Kagitcibasi. Understanding Social Psychology Across Cultures. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, 2006
  4. ^ Smith, Peter B., and Michael Harris Bond. Social Psychology Across Cultures. 2nd ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 1999
  5. ^ Vijver, Fons van de, and Kwok Leung. Methods and Data Analysis for Cross-Cultural Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1997
  6. ^ a b c Cherry, Kendra. "What is Cross Cultural Psychology". Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  7. ^ Lonner, W. J. (2000). "On the Growth and Continuing Importance of Cross Cultural Psychology". 4 (3). pp. 22–26. 
  8. ^ a b Berry, J. W., Poortinga, Y. H., Segall, M. H., & Dasen, P. R. (1992). Cross-cultural psychology: Research and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  9. ^ Brislin, Lonner, & Thorndike, 1973 as cited in Berry, J. W., Poortinga, Y. H., Segall, M. H., & Dasen, P. R. (1992). Cross-cultural psychology: Research and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  10. ^ Jahoda, G. (1993). Crossroads between culture and mind. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  11. ^ Triandis, Harry; Roy S. Malpass and Andrew R. Davidson (1971). "Biennial Review of Anthropology" 7. pp. 1–84. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 
  12. ^ Berry, John (1969). "On cross-culture comparability". International Journal of Psychology 4. 
  13. ^ a b Berry, John (1980). Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology: Vol. 2. Methodology. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. p. 11. 
  14. ^ a b Triandis, H. C.; Marin, G. (1983). "Etic Plus Emic Versus Pseudoetic: A Test of a Basic Assumption of Contemporary Cross-Cultural Psychology". Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology 14 (4): 489–500.  
  15. ^ Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture's consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  16. ^ The Chinese Culture Connection. (1987). Chinese values and the search for culture-free dimensions of culture. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 18, 143-164
  17. ^ Minkov, Michael (2007). What makes us different and similar: A new interpretation of the World Values Survey and other cross-cultural data. Sofia, Bulgaria: Klasika y Stil Publishing House. ISBN 978-954-327-023-1
  18. ^ Hofstede, Geert, Hofstede, Gert Jan, and Minkov, Michael. (2010). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. Revised and expanded 3rd Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill.
  19. ^ McSweeney (2002). Hofstede's model of national cultural differences and their consequences: A triumph of faith – a failure of analysis. Human Relations, 55(1), 89–118.
  20. ^ Kim, U., Triandis, H. C., Choi, S. C.,Kağitçibaşi, Ç., & Yoon, G. (Eds.)(1994). Individualism and collectivism: Theory, method, and applications. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  21. ^ Fish, J. M. (1996). Culture and therapy: An integrative approach. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.
  22. ^ a b c d Gielen, U. P., Draguns, J. G., & Fish, J. M. (Eds.) (2008). Principles of multicultural counseling and therapy. New York City, NY: Routledge.
  23. ^ Fish, J. M. (2011). The concept of race and psychotherapy. New York: Springer Science + Business Media.
  24. ^ Pedersen, P., Draguns J.G., Lonner W., & Trimble J. (2002) Counseling across cultures: Fifth edition, Thousand Oaks, CA, SAGE,
  25. ^ Pedersen, P. (1999) Hidden messages in culture-centered counseling: A Triad Training Model, Thousand Oaks, Ca.: SAGE.
  26. ^ a b McCrae, R. R. "Cross-cultural research on the five-factor model of personality". In W. J. Lonner, D. L. Dinnel, S. A. Hayes, & D. N. Sattler (Eds.) Online Readings in Psychology and Culture (Unit 6, Chapter 1). Center for Cross-Cultural Research, Western Washington University Bellingham, Washington USA. Retrieved 29 November 2012. 
  27. ^ a b Ekman, Paul; Wallace V. Friesen, Maureen O' Sullivan, Anthony Chan, Irene Diacoyanni-Tarlatzis, Karl Heider, Rainer Krause, William Ayhan LeCompte, Tom Pitcairn, Pio E. Ricci-Bitti, Klaus Scherer, Masatoshi Tomita, Athanase Tzavaras (13 March 1987). "Universals and Cultural Differences in the Judgements of Facial Expressions of Emotion". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 53 (4): 712–717.  
  28. ^ a b Huang, Yueqin; Tang, Siu; Helmeste, Daiga; Shioiri, Toshiki; Someya, Toshiyuki (2001). "Differential judgement of static facial expressions of emotions in three cultures". Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 55 (5): 479–483.  
  29. ^ a b c d Suh, E.M & Oishi, S. "Subjective well-being across cultures". In W. J. Lonner, D. L. Dinnel, S., Online Readings in Psychology and Culture A. Hayes, & D. N. Sattler. Retrieved 30 November 2012. 
  30. ^ Diener, E.; M. Diener; C. Diener (1995). "Factors predicting subjective well-being of nations". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 69: 851–864.  
  31. ^ a b Grossmann, I.; Karasawa, M.; Izumi, S.; Na, J.; Varnum, M. E. W.; Kitayama, S.; Nisbett, R. E. (2012). "Aging and Wisdom: Culture Matters". Psychological Science 23 (10): 1059–1066.  
  32. ^ a b Lieche, Diane (1992). "Comparison of the american mediation process with A Korean-American harmony restoration process". Conflict Resolution Quarterly 9 (4): 323–339.  
  33. ^ Williams, J. E., & Best, D. L. (1990). Sex and psyche: Gender and self viewed cross-culturally. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
  34. ^ a b c Best, D.; J. Williams (1997). "Social Behavior and Applications; Sex, Gender, and Culture". Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology 3: 163–212. 
  35. ^ Berry, J. W., Poortinga, Y. H., & Pandey, J. (Eds.).(1997). Handbook of cross-cultural psychology (2nd ed., Vols. 1–3). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  36. ^ Berry, J. W., Poortinga, Y. H., Segall, M. H., & Dasen, P. R. (1992). Cross-cultural psychology: Research and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  37. ^ Super, Charles M.; Sara Harkness (1997). "Basic Processes and Human Development: The Cultural Structuring of Child Development". The Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology 2: 1–39. 
  38. ^ Triandis, Harry C.; Roy S. Malpass and Andrew R. Davidson (1971). "Biennial Review of Anthropology" 7. pp. 1–84. Retrieved 19 November 2012. 

Cole, M. (1996). Cross-cultural psychology: A once and future discipline. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Laungani, P. (2007). Understanding cross-cultural psychology: Eastern and Western perspectives. London: Sage.

External links

  • Learning materials related to Cross-cultural psychology at Wikiversity