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

6 - The relationship between individual and culture


The relationship between individual and culture

Cross-cultural psychology has much to be satisfied with. The need to take cultural or ethnic differences into account when studying psychological processes has become widely recognised in mainstream psychology, papers on cross-cultural comparisons are regularly published in psychology books and journals, and courses on intercultural, multicultural, cross-cultural or cultural psychology have become part and parcel of many psychology curricula. With cross-cultural psychology reaching maturity and interest in cross-cultural issues growing, now may be a good time for a reorientation on the relationship between individual and culture (see Chapter 1).

In this chapter I argue that despite all the empirical and methodological advances in our field, our notion of how individuals and culture relate has remained somewhat underdeveloped. Much cross-cultural research seems to take the view of culture as a stable, general factor in the environment that automatically influences the psychological processes of individuals. The individual is seen to deal with culture either through adaptation to culture as context or through internalisation of cultural models and ideas. The view of individuals automatically adapting to or internalising a general cultural context is reinforced by the trend to define cultures in terms of psychological content, by which I mean positions on specific psychological variables such as emotions (shame-cultures and guilt-cultures), notions of the self (interdependent self and independent self) or values (collectivism and individualism).

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