The field of cross-cultural psychology can be briefly described as the study of the relationships between cultural context and human behavior. The latter includes both overt behavior (observable actions and responses) and covert behavior (thoughts, beliefs, meanings). As we shall discuss later in more detail, there are rather different interpretations even of this broad description, associated with different schools of scientific research. Most researchers studying behavior across cultures argue that differences in overt and covert behavior should be seen as culturally shaped reflections of common psychological functions and processes. In other words, they are postulating a “psychic unity” of the human species (e.g., Jahoda, 1992). This is the position adopted by the authors of this text. Other researchers, often belonging to a school referred to as cultural psychology, emphasize that psychological functioning is essentially different across cultural regions of the world. For example, Kitayama, Duffy and Uchida (2007, p. 139) argue that different “modes of being” are found in various cultures. Sometimes the two approaches are even presented as two distinct fields of science.
In this book we use the label “cross-cultural psychology” as the overarching name for the field. More specific terms, such as cultural psychology, culture-comparative psychology and indigenous psychology will be used when it is necessary to distinguish orientations within this broader field. The common designation is justified by the shared assumption that culture is an important contributor to the development and display of human behavior.