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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

1 - Introduction


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.

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Further reading
Berry, J. W., Poortinga, Y. H., Pandey, J., Dasen, P. R., Saraswathi, T. S., Segall, M. H., and Kağitçibaşi, C. (eds.) (1997). Handbook of cross-cultural psychology (2nd edn., Vols. I–III). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
The three-volume handbook consists of thirty-one chapters, which together represent much of cross-cultural psychology. This source is now freely available on Google:
Volume I:
Volume II:
Volume III: (all last accessed November 16, 2010)
Online readings in psychology and culture (
This wide-ranging collection of contributions is to be found at the website of the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology.
Cole, M. (1996). Cultural psychology: A once and future discipline. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
This is a sophisticated text written from a culturalist perspective. Cole attempts to integrate biological, sociohistorical and psychological perspectives on behavior.
Creswell, J. W. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd edn.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.
This is an accessible text starting from a mainly qualitative orientation, but with an open eye for quantitative methods. As the title may already suggest, the author favors mixed methods.
Kitayama, S., and Cohen, D. (eds.) (2007). Handbook of cultural psychology. New York: Guildford Press.
As the title indicates, this volume with thirty-six chapters takes the perspective of cultural psychology. The major strength is that it brings together the highlights as well as many lesser-known topics of cultural psychology as it exists in the USA today.
Rao, K. R., Paranjpe, A., and Dalal, A. (eds.) (2008). Handbook of Indian psychology. New Delhi: Cambridge University Press.
This overview is informative in showing how there are common themes of discussion that Indian researchers share with colleagues elsewhere, as well as locally salient concepts and issues.
Vijver, F. J. R., and Leung, K. (1997). Methods and data analysis for cross-cultural research. Newbury Park, Calif.: Sage.
This is currently the classic text on methodological pitfalls in culture-comparative research.