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Friday, November 4, 2016

Why Should We All Be Cultural Psychologists? Lessons From the Study of Social Cognition.

Qi Wang
Perspectives on Psychological Science September 2016 vol. 11 no. 5 583-596


I call the attention of psychologists to the pivotal role of cultural psychology in extending and enriching research programs. I argue that it is not enough to simply acknowledge the importance of culture and urge psychologists to practice cultural psychology in their research. I deconstruct five assumptions about cultural psychology that seriously undermine its contribution to the building of a true psychological science, including that cultural psychology (a) is only about finding group differences, (b) does not appertain to group similarities, (c) concerns only group-level analysis, (d) is irrelevant to basic psychological processes, and (e) is used only to confirm the generalizability of theories. I discuss how cultural psychology can provide unique insights into psychological processes and further equip researchers with additional tools to understand human behavior. Drawing lessons from the 20 years of cultural research that my colleagues and I have done on the development of social cognition, including autobiographical memory, future thinking, self, and emotion knowledge, I demonstrate that incorporating cultural psychology into research programs is not only necessary but also feasible.

Here is an excerpt:

Although those who truly believe that culture does not matter may be rare in the face of mounting theoretical insights and empirical findings to the contrary, there are those who choose not to care about culture because of the fear to venture into the unknown or the desire to maintain status quo. The hope rests on the researchers like my colleague in the second story, who are curious about culture and yet unsure of how to make it matter for their research. They sense the urgency when facing an increasingly diverse world around them and when working with an increasingly diverse participant pool. For those researchers, the important question is how to incorporate culture into research so that they are not continuing to ignore the cultural backgrounds of their participants--taking an attitude of "don't ask, don't tell"--or to control for the variation in analysis as if it imposes "noise."

The article is here.