Culture is a combination of behavior and cognition processes shared by a certain population and usually differs with those of other populations. Culture is influenced by ecological, biological and social factors (Matsumoto, 2001). Social factors include history, religion, and density of population, affluence, technology and political views. Biological factors include the temperament and personality of the population. Ecological factors include the geographical features of an area, natural resources and climate. Culture is evident in a variety of groups which are; country, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity and disability (Matsumoto, 2001).
Culture and psychology are interrelated. Psychology influences culture and culture influences psychology. Culture consists of both subjective (psychological) and subjective elements. It influences our thoughts and behaviors. Culture influences behavior through enculturation. Enculturation happens through institutions, family and community. Enculturation affects the psychological processes by determining the worldviews, norms, attitudes, behaviors, beliefs and opinions an individual develops (Matsumoto, 2001). The systems through which culture affects behavior and a thought process is interrelated and dynamic. Despite culture being important in influencing behavior other factors such as context and personality are also important.
Psychologists such as Hofstede’s and Schwartz have come up with cultural dimensions that affect the thinking processes and behaviors of individuals of certain cultures. Hofstede’s cultural dimensions include; power distance, individualism and collectivism, short or long term orientation, masculinity or femininity and uncertainty avoidance (Matsumoto, 2001).
Culture influences both the process (the perception of oneself as either an individual on their own or as a relationship between others) and content (how one thinks about oneself). Individualism and collectivism influences a person’s self-concept, cognitive style and nature of relationship with other people (Matsumoto, 2001). Individualism is whereby people in a culture are expected to work on their own whereas collectivism emphasizes team work. North Americans tend to be low in collectivism and higher in individualism whereas the Chinese and Japanese are high in collectivism and lower in individualism. People who live in individualistic cultures tend to have thinking processes that are directed to the self that is they are independent whereas people from collectivist cultures are less independent and interact a lot with other people when doing their work. They believe in working together for the good of the society.
Culture influences categorization, attention and perception, learning and causal reasoning (Matsumoto, 2001). The three different cultures explored are Africans, Asians and Western culture. Research has demonstrated that East Asians who live in a collectivist society that promotes contextual understanding of circumstances and promote harmony have a more holistic way of thinking. They pay attention to context, analyze the whole scene and look at the relationship between items. On the other hand, Western culture promotes individualism. The Western people pay attention to particular objects and are more analytical. The western culture emphasizes formal logic and personal autonomy.
Categorization also differs in African culture, Western cultures and Asian ones (Matsumoto, 2001). Asians are more likely to group items in terms of their relationships for example, a cow and grass would go together while Westerners are more likely to categorize items in terms of their suitability in a certain category for example, a cow and chicken go together since they are both animals. Africans are more likely to classify objects in terms of their color for example, in the case of vehicles , an African will classify a mustang and a Bugatti together since they are of the same color, an Asian will classify the Mustang with a the driver while the American will classify the Mustang and Bugatti together because they are cars.
Culture and Psychology are interrelated and one cannot function without affecting the other. Numerous studies have been carried out to investigate the relationship between the two and most of these studies have shown proof of a relationship between culture and psychology. One of the reasons one experiences culture shock when they move to a new area is because of the difference in behavior and mental processes of the individuals in the culture he or she has moved to. Psychology and culture continue to influence one another and this interrelationship will continue for as long as people belong to different cultures.
Matsumoto, D. R. (2001). The handbook of culture and psychology. New York: Oxford