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This Element describes noteworthy developments in cross-cultural psychology of the past half century. It stresses the author's involvement with the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology and the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology. It presents events in a decade-by-decade format, allowing brief discussion of high points in each decade, such as significant conferences and books, and commentaries on selected scholars. Topics include summaries of IACCP conferences, Online Readings in Psychology and Culture, IACCP Archives, and assessment of introductory psychology texts and their cultural content. Key aspects of culture-centered methodology in psychology and the teaching of culture-oriented psychology conclude the presentation.
It is the function of science to discover the existence of a general reign of order in nature and to find the causes governing this order.
Dmitri Mendeleyev (1834–1907)
There are two types of people: Those who sort people into categories and those who don't.
The first of the above quotes is by one of the most famous and esteemed scientists in history and could well be adopted as a slogan for much of psychology. The second may be as true as it is humorous. It seems to have been Mendeleyev's fate to discover a ‘reign of order’, which he did with his development of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. The famous chemist's mission seems especially relevant for cross-cultural psychologists. One could argue that a major reason why cross-cultural, or culture-comparative, psychology exists is to find a semblance of order among the panoply of constructs, ideas and perspectives – something akin to discovering a Rosetta Stone (or Stones) – that could help guide cross-cultural psychologists as they ply their trade in this important perspective of psychological science. This is especially true in the area of personality and social psychology, where the measurement of individual differences, or variations in ‘person variables’, prevail (Mischel, 1977).
Cross-cultural psychological research has become increasingly influential. Çiğdem Kağıtçıbaşı's numerous contributions examining the human families and the explananda that can be used in that key area of understanding the rhythms and tempo of everyday life throughout the world has been exemplary. This is but one example of a multi-faceted career that we celebrate. Just as important is her friendship that we covet.
The International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology held its inaugural conference in 1972, at the University of Hong Kong. Jerome Bruner was chosen, honorifically and by acclamation, as its first president. He immediately yielded the position to Gustav Jahoda, who thus became the Association's first full-term president. Invited to discuss the presentations and reports he heard during the conference, Bruner characteristically made a number of pithy observations. Of the several comments he made – about thirty-five years ago, when many believe that “organized” cross-cultural psychology was born (see Segall et al. 1998) – one is particularly relevant for this chapter:
There has been one magnificent failure in cross-cultural studies and that is in the area of personality and culture. This is a splendid failure and good men and true have tried it. It is all premised on the idea that one can develop a cross-cultural index, pick out traits of the society and obtain some good chi squares that will tell about the kind of relationship between personality and culture. This has failed for the reason that if you were asked to quote the main finding from a period of twenty-five years of research that has studied the relationship between culture and personality, you would not only be tongue-tied but what you would say would eventually not be the same.