Cultural psychology is the study of the role that culture plays in a person’s psychological and behavioral tendencies. The basic tenet is that people’s minds are deeply shaped by their cultural conditioning, and therefore there are no universal principles of psychology that will work for everyone.
Cultural psychologists believe that, because psychological theory and practice have been developed predominantly by well-to-do, White males, modern psychological psychotherapy has certain biases and blind spots that make it hard for minorities to relate to.
Cultural psychologists coined an acronym describing the outlook and perspective of modern psychology: WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic). Studies have determined that WEIRD psychotherapists rely heavily upon analytical reasoning strategies, separating objects from their contexts to explain and predict behavior. For example, WEIRD psychotherapists might attribute an instance of angry behavior to an angry personality rather than to a situation that provoked the anger in a patient.
Not only do minorities often shy away from WEIRD psychotherapy, but this therapy generally doesn’t work as well on them. Cultural psychology tries to rectify this problem by studying people of various cultures in order to develop better therapies for treating them. Cultural psychology studies the impact that cultural believes and behaviors have upon the cognitive development of specific members of the group.
Behavior and beliefs that are commonly accepted in certain cultures are considered bizarre in others. Cultural psychologists realize that standards of normality vary considerably in various cultures, and most people don’t want to surrender their cultures and beliefs. Cultural psychologists therefore don’t try to force cultural minorities to exchange their culture for the majority’s culture.
Cultural psychology is not to be confused with cross-cultural psychology, which searches for universal constants among people of different cultures, something that cultural psychology don’t really believe in.
Degrees in Cultural Psychology
Cultural Psychology is a new and fairly radical branch of social psychology, so there aren’t any bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in it. Getting a four-year bachelor’s in social psychology is recommended, or you can major in general psychology and load up on courses in social psychology, developmental psychology, clinical psychology, sociology and cultural anthropology. Here are some typical undergraduate courses:
- Abnormal Psychology
- Developmental Psychology
- Cultural Anthropology
- Human Growth and Development
- Applied Statistics
- Research Methods in Psychology
- Personality Theory
- Learning Theory
- Fundamentals of Testing and Assessment
- Interviewing and Counseling Techniques
- Professional and Ethical Issues in Psychology
- Gender Issues in Psychology
- Family Systems
- Conflict Management
- Management and Organizational Behavior
Most jobs in cultural psychology research require at least a master’s degree, if not a doctoral degree.
Few, if any, master’s degree programs are available in cultural psychology, though a few are available at the doctoral level. Master’s and Doctorates in social psychology are readily available if you can’t get into graduate programs in cultural psychology. Some universities will allow graduate students to design their own master’s degree programs in cultural psychology, as long as they are approved by the psychology department. Master’s degree programs take about two years, as do doctoral. So, in total, psychology degrees take about eight years after high school to complete, and some degrees require a one-year internship in some states.
Here is a sampling of graduate-level courses for cultural psychology:
- Cultural Community Psychology
- Qualitative Research Methods
- Culture and Development in Psychology
- International Cultural Studies
- Cross-cultural Management
- Intercultural Training and Intervention
- Psychology of Culture
- Politics of Indigenous Peoples
- Theory and Practice of Influence and Change
- Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology
- Indigenous Research Methods
- Sociology of Race Relations
- Advanced Topics in Social Psychology
- Learning, Cognition and Motivation
Cultural psychologists can work in fields related research, counseling, and policy making. Cultural psychology jobs are normally found in research centers funded by the government, non-profit organizations, corporations or universities. Most available work is in research, teaching or consulting. Many psychologists who work as researchers for a university also teach.
Figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that, as of 2012, the median annual wage for cultural psychologists was $88,400 and the mean hourly wage was $42.50. According to indeed.com the annual median salary for a cultural psychologist in 2012 was $73,000.