Chapter 15. Culture

Chapter 15 Introduction

Jorden A. Cummings

What comes to mind when you think of culture? It might be certain styles of dress, cuisine, or design. Ideas about differences in mannerisms, behaviours, or social acceptability might come to mind. Or, it might be aspects of your own culture that are meaningful to you. Our culture is a source of meaning for understanding the world. It is shared amongst the members of that culture and passed on to future generations. Our culture tells us messages about who we are, what role we should play in society, and what is acceptable. Many of the things we take for granted as “just how things should be” are due to our culture, such as our views of punishment, love, how we express our emotions, and our morality. Culture is often invisible and it can be hard to define, even for researchers.

In this chapter, we will discuss research methods that are used, primarily by social psychologists, to study culture, cultural psychology, and cross-cultural psychology. We will also review the differences between those three ideas. We’ll talk about how we should define culture and what characteristics identify culture, ways in which we view culture, how culture influences us as individuals, and how we learn our culture. Much of the research on psychology about culture has compared individualist to collectivist cultures. We will also review how to define each of those and spend some time discussing some of the research findings about the two.

One of the most studied areas of culture is how cultural ideas and practices shape our emotions. Again, much of the research has compared individualist to collectivist societies. We will review the history of cross-cultural studies on emotion, talk about why culture and emotion matter, and learn about some of the current findings and future directions in this area of research.


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