Cross-Cultural Psychology
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Cross-Cultural Psychology

Critical Thinking and Contemporary Applications, Seventh Edition

Eric B. Shiraev, David A. Levy

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eBook - ePub

Cross-Cultural Psychology

Critical Thinking and Contemporary Applications, Seventh Edition

Eric B. Shiraev, David A. Levy

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About This Book

Written in a conversational style that transforms complex ideas into accessible ones, this international best-selling textbook provides an interdisciplinary review of the theories and research in cross?cultural psychology. The text's unique critical thinking framework, including Critical Thinking boxes, helps students develop analytical skills. Exercises interspersed throughout promote active learning and encourage class discussion. Case in Point sections review controversial issues and opinions about behavior in different cultural contexts. Cross?Cultural Sensitivity boxes underscore the importance of empathy in communication. Numerous applications prepare students for working in various multicultural contexts such as teaching, counseling, health care, and social work.

New to the 7th Edition:

  • over 190 recent references, particularly on studies of non-Western regions such as the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, as well as the United States and Europe.

  • broader discussion of gender roles and health behaviors across cultures.

  • new discussions related to the psychological fallout of both globalization and anti-globalization tendencies.

  • greater attention shifted from general psychological theories to specific challenges of cross-cultural psychology.

  • new or revised chapter openings that draw upon current events.

  • more examples related to the experiences of international students in the United States and indigenous people.

  • updated figures, tables, and graphs that are also available for download for instructors to utilize in their online teaching.

  • new research on global trends, nationalism, gender, race, religious beliefs, parenting styles, sexual orientation, ethnic identity and stereotypes, immigration, intelligence, substance abuse, states of consciousness, DSM-5, cultural customs, evolutionary psychology, treatment of psychological disorders, and acculturation.

  • online resources for instructors and students.

The dynamic author team brings a diverse set of experiences in writing this text that provides cross-cultural perspectives on topics such as sensation, perception, consciousness, intelligence, human development, emotion, motivation, social perception, personality, psychological disorders, and various applied topics.

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Most psychologists work in research laboratories, teach in academic halls and classrooms, offer counseling in comfortable offices, or present papers at international conferences. Others measure children’s learning skills or design ergonomically efficient dashboards for space travel. Yet others travel to troubled places… Two psychologists, Fred and Rita, left their offices and together rushed immediately to Thailand as soon as they saw reports about a devastating natural disaster. In Thailand, they saw the consequences of the tsunami right before their eyes. Both of them are seasoned professionals and had seen a lot in their careers, but what they witnessed was more than heartbreaking. The deadly impact of the flooding was instant and catastrophic. The human suffering as a result of the disaster seemed limitless and never-ending.
Hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, and other natural disasters could affect all of us, regardless of our nationality or ethnic affiliation. These calamities wreak destruction and havoc on our lives, inflicting an immediate, acute, as well as a long-lasting, negative psychological impact. With this in mind, how can professionals help people address and overcome their emotional suffering most effectively? Fred Bemak has tried to tackle this question for years. As a university professor, he developed several therapeutic methods of psychological intervention to help victims of large-scale disasters. These methods were theoretically sound and apparently worked well in the laboratory, but their effectiveness in the “real world” is more complex. Is such therapy helpful to the poor, the very young, and the very old – the categories of people that are usually hit hardest by disasters? What about migrant Latino communities in the United States, Aboriginal peoples in Australia, and Native American Indian reservations? Do these methods work in Africa, Pakistan, and Southeast Asia? Bemak founded Counselors Without Borders, a non-governmental, non-profit organization focused on studying and alleviating suffering around the world, and has worked with his wife Rita Chung for over 20 years to study and implement various forms of psychological assistance for the victims of natural disasters. Yet can research methods and psychological interventions developed in one part of the world be effectively applied in other cultures? We know that sociocultural factors impact the way people act, think, and feel and that the same psychological study may yield different results in different groups. What remains unanswered is how substantial these differences are. If these differences are somewhat negligible, then regardless of where we are born and raised, we can assume that human behavior and psychological experience should be based on similar, universal mechanisms. If, on the other hand, these differences are significant, then as scholars or researchers we need to pay closer attention to differences that distinguish people from dissimilar cultural backgrounds. Psychology, as a field, cannot draw definitive conclusions regarding these different perspectives yet. There are myriad issues that remain unresolved with regard to psychology as a field worldwide. Just a few of these issues are outlined below.
Most importantly, for many years psychological research lacked diversity. Research published in the United States for many years has focused too narrowly on Americans, who comprise less than 5 percent of the world’s population. A detailed analysis of peer-reviewed publications in leading academic journals in psychology until the end of the first decade of this century showed that more than 90 percent of research samples came from a small group of countries representing only 12 percent of the world’s population (Henrich et al., 2010). Further, until recently, undergraduate college students composed almost two-thirds of research samples from the United States and more than three-quarters of samples in studies conducted in other countries. Summarized succinctly, the state of psychological research for many years did not adequately represent the global population (Arnett, 2008). For more than 100 years, white males, mostly of European descent, dominated psychological education and research. For a long time and throughout the world, males dominated in terms of the number of publications in psychology (Lonner, 2019).
Further, English remains the most acknowledged international language of science including psychology. Scores of prominent journals appear in English, and international conferences use English as their official language. Consequently, researchers with limited proficiency in English have diminished opportunity to promote their research and enrich global psychological diversity. In addition to being limited by the use of English, diversity in psychological research is restricted by the historical development of the most prominent psychological research in a relatively small selection of countries: the United States, Canada, France, Germany, and a very short list of other European nations. Scientists from these countries have made the most influential contributions to psychology. However, there are no less noteworthy and outstanding contributions from many other parts of the world – including China, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Russia, South Africa, Turkey, Iran, and Mexico, to name a few – which go unacknowledged by a majority of professional psychologists (Shiraev, 2015).
Cross-cultural psychology as a discipline attempts to resolve these issues by identifying and exploring people’s similarities and differences, with the ultimate goal of avoiding bias, and of uniting people worldwide through mutual understanding, curiosity, and appreciation.


Did you have a chance to choose your birthplace? This apparently naïve question nevertheless deals with a very important fact of our lives: before reaching adulthood, most of us do not choose a place to live, a race to identify with, a language to speak, or a religion to follow. Growing up in cities, towns, and villages – whether it is near a snowy Ann Arbor or in a humid Nairobi – people learn how to understand events around them according to the wishes of their parents, societal requirements, and traditions of their ancestors. The way in which people learn to relate to the world through feelings and ideas affects what these individuals do. Their actions, in turn, have a bearing on their thoughts, needs, and emotions.
Conditions in which people live vary from place to place. Human norms of behavior and experiences – formed and developed in various environments – may also fluctuate from group to group. These kinds of differences (and, of course, similarities) are studied by cross-cultural psychology (Gudykunst & Bond, 1997). Cross-cultural psychology is the critical and comparative study of cultural effects on human psychology. Please notice two important elements of this definition. First, this is a comparative field. Any study in cross-cultural psychology draws its conclusions from at least two samples that represent at least two groups of people. Second, because cross-cultural psychology inherently involves comparisons, and the act of comparison requires a particular set of critical skills, the study of cross-cultural psychology is inseparable from critical thinking.
Cross-cultural psychology examines psychological diversity and the underlying reasons for such diversity. In particular, cross-cultural psychology studies – again, from a comparative perspective – the links between cultural norms and behavior and the ways in which particular human activities are influenced by different, sometimes dissimilar, social and cultural forces (Lonner, 2019; Segall et al., 1990). For example, consider the question suggested by the opening vignette to this chapter: do disaster survivors experience similar symptomatology across cultures (see Bemak & Chung, 2008; Chung & Bemak, 2012)? If they do, can a psychologist use an intervention aimed at treating posttraumatic symptoms in the United States in other cultural environments such as Sudan or Iran?
Cross-cultural psychology attempts not only to distinguish differences between groups, but also to describe psychological phenomena that tend to be common to all people and groups (Berry et al., 1992; Lonner, 1980). What kind of phenomena? For example, cross-cultural psychology attempts to identify commonalties with regard to the structure of human personality: relatively stable patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting (see Figure 1.1). Such universal traits that can be described across cultures include neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness (Costa & McCrae, 1997; Schmitt et al., 2007).
Figure 1.1Cultural Psychology versus Cross-Cultural Psychology
How is cross-cultural psychology different from cultural psychology? First and foremost, cultural psychology seeks to discover meaningful links between a culture and the psychology of individuals living in that culture (which is defined below). The primary belief of cultural psychology is that human behavior is meaningful only when viewed in the sociocultural context in which it occurs (Segall et al., 1999). For instance, a cultural psychologist may be interested in describing how Buddhism, as a religion, affects the behavior and attitudes of married couples in Thailand. Or a research scientist can be interested in investigating how fundamental principles of Islam are incorporated into an individual’s consciousness and personality traits (Monroe & Kreidie, 1997). Cultural psychology advocates the idea that behavior and experience are essentially the products of an interaction between a culture and the individual.



For the purpose of this book, we define culture as a set of attitudes, behaviors, and symbols shared by a large group of people and usually communicated from one generation to the next. Attitudes include beliefs (opinions of political, ideological, religious, and other issues), values (deep-seated principles referring to moral behavior, life in general, happiness, etc.), and general knowledge (empirical and theoretical, scientific and not). Behaviors include a wide variety of norms, roles, customs, traditions, habits, practices, and fashions. Symbols represent things or ideas, the meaning of which is bestowed on them by people themselves. A symbol can have the form of a material object, a color, a sound, a slogan, a building, or anything else. People attach specific meaning to specific symbols and pass them to the next generation, thus producing cultural symbols. For example, a piece of land may mean little for a group of people living a few miles away. The same land, nevertheless, may be a symbol of unity and glory for the people living on the land (Brislin, 2000).
Cultures can be described as having both explicit and implicit characteristics. Explicit characteristics are the set of observable acts regularly found in this culture. These are overt customs, observable practices, and typical behavioral responses,...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Cross-Cultural Psychology
APA 6 Citation
Shiraev, E., & Levy, D. (2020). Cross-Cultural Psychology (7th ed.). Taylor and Francis. Retrieved from (Original work published 2020)
Chicago Citation
Shiraev, Eric, and David Levy. (2020) 2020. Cross-Cultural Psychology. 7th ed. Taylor and Francis.
Harvard Citation
Shiraev, E. and Levy, D. (2020) Cross-Cultural Psychology. 7th edn. Taylor and Francis. Available at: (Accessed: 15 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Shiraev, Eric, and David Levy. Cross-Cultural Psychology. 7th ed. Taylor and Francis, 2020. Web. 15 Oct. 2022.