Culture in Psychology

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Individualism is related to high self-monitoring and social adaptation in the USA culture. As Hsu posits, in order to live up to their core value of individualism self-reliance and independence , USA citizens are forced to be other directed because successful competition in America requires the individualist to be an extroverted and high self-monitoring person, able to establish relationships and to conform to the norms of many different groups Hsu quoted in Bock, , p.

Similarly, persons belonging to collectivistic cultures show at the same time a strong affiliation to the extended family and a rugged individualism in daily life - including strong competition, nepotism and the misuse of collective goods. The cultural coexistence of contradictions means that different values and behavioral styles are usually tolerated, lived side by side one with others, and not assimilated or integrated e. More important is the fact that subjects could be individualistic and logic rational in one social area e.

For instance, a majority of USA citizens believe in God and Paradise, and at the same time they act rationally in economical matters. Bastide posits that in Brazil cognition is westernized but not so emotions Bastide, Core cultural values are reflected in key collective texts and in collective behavior - cultural plots or scripts. Inkeless and Levinson concluded that there are four basic problems that all cultures have to deal with:. Using survey data from IBM employees in 53 nations and regions collected in the nineteen seventies he derived four dimensions along which dominant values in the different nations could be ordered.

Low power distance countries were Denmark and New Zealand. High Power Distance were Malaysia and Guatemala. Collectivistic countries were Guatemala, Indonesia and Taiwan. Masculine cultures stress stereotypical gender behavior, and dominant values are success, money, competition and assertiveness. Feminine cultures do not emphasize gender role differences, are not competitive and value cooperation and concern for the weak. Masculine countries were Japan, Austria and Mexico.

High uncertainty avoidance nations, like Greece and Portugal, are emotional, security seeking and intolerant. Nations with low uncertainty avoidance cultures, such as Jamaica and Denmark, are more relaxed, accept more risks and are more tolerant. Mastery of nature could be related to cultural masculinity, focusing on the past and the tradition to collectivism and focusing in the present and future to individualism.

A group of researchers investigated the dimension of values based on Chinese culture and found a pattern of values related to time perspective. They found a dimension that clustered together Confucian values and that opposes the virtue of taking a long term perspective versus focusing more on the present and the past. Reviewing research on values, scholars conclude that individualism-collectivism, power-distance and masculinity-femininity describes relatively culture-robust dimensions of value.

Cultural explanations are usually explanations that refers to values, norms and attitudes. Societal values could be defined as a conception, explicit or implicit, distinctive of, or characteristic of, a group, of that which is desirable and has an influence in the selection made from available modes, means and ends of action Kluckhohn, Norms are expectations and rules about how group members behave descriptive norms and how they should behave.

They are accepted rules of social behaviour. Attributes of a group that are considered to be both descriptive and prescriptive for the members of a culture e. Values stand above norms and norms are the mechanisms through which values are implemented. Attitudes are internalized forms of values and some attitudes are norms. For instance attitudes which favour a behavior as being morally compulsory for the person or others. When in a society there is not only one shared attitude towards an important social object or theme e.

A normative explanation implies that a social behavior in accord with a widely shared moral attitude occurs in spite the situation may offer different opportunities. On the other hand, a differential opportunity structure may explain why one group engages in a social behaviour while another does not. For example, a need norm is used more by collectivistic Indian than individualistic subjects Americans. To conclude from this finding that collectivism is higher in Indian subjects and this explains why they distribute rewards on the basis of what people need rather than merit is unwarranted.

Situational explanations such as the higher salience of scarce resources for Indian subjects is another alternative explanation Kagitcibasi, Normative explanations were abandoned in the past due to their tautological nature: if the expected behavior was observed, it was thought that subjects shared some values and norms, but if it not was observed, then scholars assumed that subjects did not share the values or that the norm was not activated.

A cultural explanation should be tested against other explanations and intervening variables should be studied. An argument that pits cultural values against institutional and situational constraint creates a false dichotomy and reduces culture to residual tradition Kelly, Cultural ideations are in part embodied in objects, scripts and relationships.

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In other words, culture is in part a set of regular situational contingencies or collective routines and practices. For instance, collectivistic cultures emphazise interdependence and modesty, not only in verbal statements about values, but in social customs: commemorations and social events celebrate the accomplishments of the whole group. Empirical research confirms that collectivistic i.

Japanese success situations are less conducive to self-enhancement than individualistic i.


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USA success situations. Collective negative situations are more conducive to self-criticism than individualistic situations. On the other hand, not all the typical situations found in a society are related to a core of themes and values.

Culture refers to the learned and socially acquired and valued traditions of behavior Harris, In more cognitivist and subjective approaches culture is conceived of as a mental programme Hofstede, A classical example is the traffic jam, a highly patterned and regular phenomenon that occurs despite the socialization or learning that drivers receive and contrary to their intention to keep on moving Harris, Culture can be conceived as a distill of past customs, manners and tradition. In other terms, culture is related to residues of the past in learning, attitudes, communications and interaction styles.

Enculturation and socialization are related to the transmission of procedural, communicative and symbolic knowledge from the past.

Integrating Culture Into Psychological Research

Subjects socialized in individualistic social situations that are conducive to self-enhancement will be more attuned and prone to reinforce self-esteem following a rewarding social situation. In sum, collectivistic situations were less reinforcing and collectivistic subjects were more attuned towards self-criticism.

Socio-cultural situation and psychological dispositional explanations were both simultaneously operative. In fact, a socio-cultural approach posits that the two explanations are not mutually exclusive. What differenciates collective memory from culture as learned traditions and customs, is the fact that collective memory is the explicit, even if informal, transmission of meaning and identities from the historical past of the group.

If we focus on processes, collective memory will be the cross-generational oral transmission of events which are important for the group Vansina in Ross, The contents of collective memory are the shared memories of societal-level events, especially extreme, intense events that have led to important institutional changes. Collective memory rests on events which have had an impact on collectivities and have driven them to modify their institutions, beliefs and values.

Connerton analyzes how even though the killing of French kings was not that strange in French history, the execution of Louis XVI during the French bourgeois revolution of had a very strong impact and is still very much remembered today.

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This is due to the fact that the other deaths did not alter the main aspects of French social life. Collective memory is also generation-related or cohort-dependent.


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Some authors, such as Mannheim, claim that different cohorts or generations in a nation share a specific version of the culture Conway, Inglehart also posits that cultural values are learned during these formative years. A cohort effect is due to children training practices, secondary socialization and social events that influence identity formation during young adulthood. Adolescents and young adults who are not committed to a way of life are thought to be particularly prone to social events and influence. Those women who had become more progressive or leftist during their years as young students at the liberal college remained so decades after leaving college Lippa, A longitudinal study confirms that the cultural level of individualism in the nineteen sixties affected the attitudes and shaped their personality and adulthood adjustment eg.

However, some evidence also suggests that current cultural climate, beyond cohort effect, has an influence on people. Ethnic identity in particular is related to the cultural characteristics of a group, that is norms, values, beliefs and patterns of behavior. Ethnic identity refers to different facets: a Self-categorization e.

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Empirical research shows the limitations of a simplistic approach to cultural identity, that equals an ethnic label with a set of cultural values and norms. First, most of the studies concerning USA minorities found no relationship between ethnic self-categorization and personal identity self-concept no relationship between collective esteem or attitude towards reference group and personal self-esteem. However, positive attitudes towards the ethnic group correlated positively with self-esteem Phinney, ; Frable, Second, some studies on USA migrants show that ethnic self-categorization and positive attitudes towards the ethnic group remains high across generations, whereas ethnic knowledge and cultural practices decrease.

Identification with a cultural or ethnic group could remain strong even when there is little cultural involvement. Third, minorities perceive cultural or ethnic identity as more important than white anglo-saxons.

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Finally, studies focused on norms, attitudes and values suggest that the ethnic label does not legitimize the assumption that cultural differences exist. For instance, a research that compares foreing-born and American born Chinese adolescents with Hong Kong Chinese and Euro-American adolescents, found that second generation Chinese migrants showed more similiarities than differences in individualism with Euro-Americans adolescents. In the same vein, ethnic identified latinos, bicultural or assimilated did not differ in the importance awarded to respect for authority and attitudes toward traditional sex roles.

This means that, on one hand, acculturation leveled second generation Chinese with respect to individualism, but that Hispanic migrants showing differences in self-categorization did not differ in cultural values Phinney, This evidence is coherent with the social identity approach that posits that contextual salience and threat activates social identity.

At the same time, evidence suggests that cultural identity is fluid and multidimensional and that differences in self-categorization could not be projected in differences on cultural values. As we have already mentioned, one approach in explaining differences in social behaviour between groups and nations is materialist-relationalist. Culture is conceived of as a consequence of an objective situation e.

A materialist-relationalist approach sees nations as patterns of behavior, cognition and emotion as responses to situation and social relationships. For instance, with reference to ethnic groups, a lower level of perceived deviant behavior and contentment in Chinese subjects living in American chinatown slums is explained by economic self-interest and social position, not by cultural characteristics. American chinatowns are largely dependent on tourist business - restaurants. The business leadership of the Chinese community is supported particularly by those with low skills and poor English who are especially dependent upon the restaurant trade for employment.

If chinatown had a reputation as a slum, the tourist trade would be driven away.

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