Cross-cultural psychology examines the similarities and differences of human behavior and thought patterns of people from cultures all over the world. Cross-cultural psychology believes that people are largely a product of their culture and stresses the importance of accounting for these differences when psychotherapists administer therapy to people of other cultures.
Because the application of psychological treatments have been shown to be less effective when applied to people of other races and cultures, cross-cultural psychology studies why these differences occur and searches for universal formulas to use for adjusting psychological methodologies to make them more effective for people of other cultures. Cross-cultural psychology should not be confused with cultural psychology, which doesn’t believe in these universal formulas.
Cross-cultural psychologists study how factors like child-rearing, education, games, humor, language, gender relations and family relations vary from culture-to-culture, and what effect these differences have on the development of personality, emotions, behavior and mental processes. They also study how cultures rate the polarities of freedom versus collectivism, conformity versus non-conformity, strict morality versus laxity, absolute truth versus relativity and hierarchical systems versus democratic ones, and how effectively these values get translated to the younger generation in each culture.
Cross-cultural psychologists stress the importance of allowing people from different cultures to maintain their cultures when moving to a new country, rather than expecting them to conform to the standards of their new country, as many practicing clinical and counseling psychologists expect patients to do. Some practicing psychologists have started applying cross-cultural ideas into their practices.
Degrees in Cross-Cultural Psychology
No degree programs in cross-cultural psychology are available at the bachelor’s degree level. Getting a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in social psychology is recommended, but majoring in general psychology with a concentration or minor in social psychology may also works fine.
Here are some typical undergraduate courses:
- Developmental Psychology
- Cultural Anthropology
- Human Factors
- Human Growth and Development
- Research Methods in Psychology
- Learning Theory
- Gender Issues in Psychology
- Family Systems
- Conflict Management
- Management and Organizational Behavior
- Personality Theory
- Fundamentals of Testing and Assessment
- Interviewing and Counseling Techniques
- Cultural Anthropology
Most jobs in cross-cultural research require at least a master’s degree, and the best jobs require a doctoral degree.
Master’s and doctorates in cross-cultural psychology are available. Master’s degree programs normally take two years, and doctorate programs another two years on top of that, plus usually a one-year internship. Programs are designed to examine the complex yet sometimes subtle ways in which biological and cultural factors exert influence upon the personality, emotions, self-perception and intelligence of people in a particular culture. Students study factors like child-rearing methods, artistic expression, personal relationships, types of healing, world-views and cultural values in particular cultures.
Here is a sampling of graduate-level courses for cultural psychology:
- Universal versus Culture Specific
- Cross-cultural Research
- Politics of Indigenous Peoples
- Theory and Practice of Influence and Change
- Culture Evolution Theory
- Culture and Behavior
- Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology
- Sociology of Race Relations
- Intelligence and Learning
- Learning, Cognition and Motivation
- Cultural Community Psychology
- Cross-cultural Management
- Intercultural Training and Intervention
- Culture and Development in Psychology
- International Cultural Studies
- Culture and Values
- The Concept of Abnormality
- Cultural Influences on Psychology
With the world turning into a global village, opportunities for jobs in cross-cultural psychology are increasing. Travel is now easier to remote areas where indigenous cultures still thrive, and people from these remote are traveling more to other lands, increasing contact with civilization.
Most cross-cultural psychologists work for a government, non-profit, university or corporate research.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median 2012 annual wage for “psychologists, other,” a category that includes cross-cultural psychologists, was $88,400. The mean hourly wage was $42.50.