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Cultural Psychology

Cultural Psychology

Cultural

Chapter 37 Cultural Psychology S TEVEN J. H EINE We are members of a cultural species. That is, we depend critically on cultural learning in virtually all aspects of our lives. Whether we are trying to manage our resources, woo a mate, protect our family, enhance our status, or form a political alliance — goals that are pursued by people in all cultures — we do so in culturally grounded ways. That is, in all our actions we rely on ideas, values, feelings, strategies, and goals that have been shaped by our cultural experiences. Human activity is inextricably wrapped up in cultural meanings; on no occasions do we cast aside our cultural dressings to reveal the naked universal human mind. To be sure, much regularity exists across humans from all cultures with respect to many psychological phenomena; at the same time, there remain many pronounced differences (for a review, see Norenzayan & Heine, 2005). Yet the point is that all psychological phenomena, whether largely similar or different across cultures, remain entangled in cultural meanings. The challenge for comprehending the mind of a cultural species is that it requires a rich understanding of how the mind is constrained and afforded by cultural learning. The field of cultural psychology has emerged in response to this challenge. Cultural psychologists share the key assumption that not all psychological processes are so inflexibly hardwired into the brain that they appear in identical ways across cultural contexts. Rather, psychological processes are seen to arise from evolutionarily shaped biological potentials becoming attuned to the particular cultural meaning system within which the individual develops. At the same time, cultures can be understood to emerge through the processes by which humans interact with and seize meanings and resources from their cultures. In this way, culture and the mind can be said to be mutually constituted (Shweder, 1990). An effort to understand either one without considering the other is bound to reveal an incomplete picture. Although psychologists have been studying culture at least since Wilhelm Wundt published his 10 - volume tome Elements of Folk Psychology in 1921, the study of cultural psychology has had its most impactful influence on mainstream psychology over the past 20 years. Around 1990, several seminal papers and books emerged that articulated how cultural experiences were central to and inextricably linked with psychological processing (Bruner, 1990; Markus & Kitayama, 1991; Stigler, Shweder, & Herdt, 1990; Triandis, 1989). Since then, much empirical research has demonstrated the cultural foundation of many psychological phenomena that had hitherto been viewed largely as invariant across the species. This chapter reviews various ways in which culture shapes people ’ s thoughts and behaviors. The term “ culture ” is used in two contexts. First, culture refers to any kind of information that is acquired from members of one ’ s species through social learning that is capable of affecting an individual ’ s behaviors (Richerson & Boyd, 2005). Second, culture refers to groups of people who exist within a shared context, where they are exposed to similar institutions, engage in similar practices, and communicate with one another regularly. This chapter explores how culture is uniquely implicated in human nature; how researchers can study cultural effects on psychology; how people are enculturated as they develop; and how culture shapes people ’ s self - concepts, personalities, relationships, motivation, cognition and perception, language use, emotions, and moral reasoning. This chapter was funded by a grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (410 - 2008 - 0155). I am especially grateful to the extremely helpful feedback that I received from Emma Buchtel, Adam Cohen, Carl Falk, Takeshi Hamamura, Sheena Iyengar, Will Maddux, Yuri Miyamoto, Beth Morling, Dick Nisbett, Ara Norenzayan, Shige Oishi, Jeffrey Sanchez - Burks, Rick Shweder, and Jeanne Tsai. 1423 Handbook of Social Psychology, edited by Susan T. Fiske, Daniel T. Gilbert, and Gardner Lindzey. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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