This page dives deeper into Cultural Psychology, and why it’s so important to take cultural experiences into consideration.
What is Cultural Psychology?
Cultural Psychology refers to a field within Psychology which strives to understand the influence of culture on human behaviour and cognition. Culture can shape the way you see the world, the way you think and the way you behave (Snibbe, 2003).
In other words: how does your culture impact the way you exist?
What does it study?
Culture can affect everything - from the major group differences we see between people from different backgrounds, to the more subtle and basic cognitive processes.
Wang (2016)'s research review outlines how culture can affect: what you process in situations, how you recollect information, and how you judge emotions. It can even guide the way you learn how to empathise with others. Whilst identifying cultural differences between groups is valuable, it is important to probe deeper. What are the underlying cultural nuances which are driving these cultural differences? We cannot just study culture to meet an additional tick box in psychological research - we need to truly understand the complexity that culture offers to human behaviour and cognition.
It’s not just about looking at group differences; similarities matter too. Through uncovering similarities, we can question the influences of nature and nurture. For instance, if similarities exist between two different cultures - is it due to shared cultural experiences, or a biological mechanism at play?
Also, cultural research can allow us to probe further into individual differences within cultures. What kind of processes in human behaviour occur, regardless of your culture? Within a culture, several individual variations exist. If we can understand cultural differences first, we can then pursue multi-level analysis to delve deeper into understanding human behaviour.
How does it relate to intersectionality?
Intersectionality refers to how various identities (ex: culture, gender, race) shape the experiences of an individual. We are multidimensional beings, belonging to several categories which influence the way we live our lives (Crenshaw, 1991) .
Without understanding culture, you are not analysing the whole person. The intersection of multiple identities is what gives rise to human behaviour and cognition. As Psychology works towards building theories that can be generalised to a wider population. This cannot be effectively done if we do not incorporate intersectional awareness into research, and truly understand the underlying impact that culture has on us as individuals.
Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, Identity politics, and Violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241–1299.
Snibbe, A. C. (2003). Cultural Psychology: Studying More Than the “Exotic Other.” APS Observer, 16. https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/cultural-psychology-studying-more-than-the-exotic-other).
Wang, Q. (2016). Why Should We All Be Cultural Psychologists? Lessons From the Study of Social Cognition. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 11(5), 583–596. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691616645552