Cross-cultural psychology is a combination of both cultural and cross-cultural psychology; nevertheless, the two terms have a significant difference. Cultural psychology focuses on the cultural dynamics, whereas cross-cultural psychology is concerned with a culture’s static aspects. In this case, the main agenda is cross-cultural psychology, as it focuses on the effects culture has on studying human behavior.
This study looks at how human behavior is influenced by cultural factors. A culture involves the various characteristics that a certain group of people depicts. These attributes may include the peoples’ behaviors, attitudes, values and customs that pass on from one generation to another. The main aim of cross-cultural psychology is to study both the unique and universal behaviors of a culture (Ratner, 2008). This is done to identify the various ways in which culture affects a person's social life, behavior, family life and education.
Cross-cultural psychology has two main approaches: etic and emic models. The emic paradigm studies the differences between cultures, whereas the etic one focuses on the similarities between cultures. In order to have first hand information on these approaches, research has to be done. There are two methods used in cross-cultural research: method validation and indigenous cultural studies (Kitayama, 2007).
Method validation studies are carried out to examine whether a measure of psychological construct is originally generated in a single culture and is psychometrically equivalent in another culture. This study examines the balance in applicability, validity and reliability between two cultures. Indigenous cultural studies are rich in descriptions of complex theoretical models that explain and predict cultural differences.
Indigenous cultural studies have their roots in anthropology because similar to cross-cultural psychology, it is the study of the behavior, origin, social, physical and cultural development of humans. When cross-cultural research deviates from its initial scientific approach, it stops depending on the methodology, and relies on the practitioners (Ratner, 2008). In simpler terms, cross-cultural psychology can be considered to use a scientific methodology, but not all practitioners are systematic scientists. Failure by some researchers to adopt a scientific approach to their studies may compromise the reliability of their findings. This is mainly because such studies are highly prone to subjectivity and bias.
Cross-cultural psychology has a broad range of topics. Some of them include family and social relationship, child development, personality, social behavior, emotions and language acquisition. Persons who are interested in personality and social psychology can find cross-cultural psychology helpful because they will learn the impact culture has on individual personality and social behavior. Learning about cultural differences, and how they affect student learning, motivation and achievement can help educators, teachers and curriculum designers, creates multicultural education lessons. Students can also benefit from this by learning how a child’s upbringing is influenced by different cultures (Kitayama, 2007). This is because several studies have established that the environment a child lives in during his or her formative years affects the young one’s perspective towards life, other people and his/herself.
Similar to other studies reliant on cultural elements, the ones in psychology have their imperfections and limits. As discussed above, there are threats to the validity of any cross-cultural study. There are threats to the theoretical frameworks, measurement, analyzing the data, methods of data collection and the interpretation findings. Regardless of the efficiency of a comparison of cultures, there is the problem of linking the differences to meaningful aspects of each norm. Cross-cultural psychology helps scholars, scientists and the public understand human diversity, which is an essential foundation for renewed professional and personal interrelationships.
Kitayama, S. (2007). Handbook of cultural psychology. London: Guilford Press.
Ratner, C. (2008). Cultural psychology, cross-cultural psychology, and indigenous psychology. New York: Nova Science Publishers.