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

4 - Social behavior

from Part I - Similarities and differences in behavior across cultures


This chapter deals with what has become the most popular research domain in cross-cultural psychology, namely that of social behavior. We start the chapter by discussing various ideas about the relationships between social context and social behavior that have been put forward in cross-cultural psychology and adjacent fields. This is to give you a taste of the breadth of the field and to put the next section in perspective. We then move to the topic of values, which is arguably the dominant topic in contemporary cross-cultural studies of social behavior. After this, we discuss studies on cultural differences in social cognition and behavior as well as their implications for universality or relativism of social psychological phenomena. The last section deals with different notions of culture as a social psychological construct. We end the chapter with a general discussion. In addition, on the Internet you can find a section on the important, but somewhat understudied area of cultural variation in gender differences in social behavior (Additional Topics, Chapter 4).

If you take at random a recent publication of a cross-cultural study, it is most likely to be about social perception, cognition or behavior. This has not always been the case. In the early days of cross-cultural psychology, studies in perception and cognition were much more frequent.

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Further reading
Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture's consequences (2nd edn.). Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.
A updated description of the classical study that initiated the many studies on cross-cultural differences in terms of values.
Kitayama, S., and Cohen, D. (eds.) (2007). Handbook of cultural psychology. New York: Guilford Press.
Various chapters in this handbook cover cross-cultural differences in social perception, cognition and behavior. The handbook also gives a good overview of the field of cultural psychology.
Smith, P. B., Bond, M. H., and Kağitçibaşi, C. (2006). Understanding social psychology across cultures: Living and working in a changing world. London: Sage.
A good introduction to the cross-cultural psychology of social cognition and behavior.
Triandis, H. C. (1995). Individualism and collectivism. Boulder, Colo.: Westview.
A classic and comprehensive treatment of the constructs of individualism and collectivism.