What exactly is culture? Culture refers to similar characteristics and traits (i.e. attitudes, personalities, thought processes, opinions, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors) found within a group of people. These characteristics and traits are usually passed from generation to generation. Although many of these characteristics and traits overlap between cultures, there are some significant differences. For instance, all people, regardless of their cultures, experience happiness, sadness, and anger. Those emotions are universal, however, the way that those emotions are expressed vary from culture-to-culture.
So, what is the difference between cultural and cross-cultural psychology?Cultural psychology studies the connection between the mind and body, while cross-cultural psychology examines how specific cultures influence behaviors. In other words, cultural psychology focuses on the mind and behaviors, in a general sense, while cross-cultural psychology examines the differences in thought processes and behaviors between specific cultures. Are you still confused? If so, you are probably not alone. Fortunately, this article will help “clear up” the ambiguity, so that you can determine if one of these branches is right for you.
Cultural psychologists explore the general relationship between thought processes, behaviors, and cultures. These psychologists investigate how cultural influences affect the mind, and how the mind helps create cultural influences. According to cultural psychologists, it is a cyclic process, in which the mind contributes to cultural behaviors, traditions, beliefs, and those influences affect the mind. Cultural psychology is the study of identity, child development, emotions, social behavior/interactions, friendships/romantic relationships, and family dynamics. Cultural psychologists believe that psychological disorders and behavioral tendencies originate, and are influenced by cultural factors.
The most significant difference between cultural psychology and cross-cultural psychology is the specificity of detail in both branches of psychology. In other words, cultural psychology takes a more general approach to culture, the mind, and the body. Cultural psychologists study patterns in behaviors, and how culture, in general, influences those behaviors, while cross-cultural psychologists study the patterns (i.e. similarities and differences) amongst various cultural groups, and how those patterns affect behaviors.
What is cross-cultural psychology? Well, cross-cultural psychology is a branch of psychology that also examines cultural influences that affect thought processes and behavior. However, this branch of psychology explores patterns between various cultures. It is more specific in nature then cultural psychology. Cross-cultural psychology was first introduced during the 1970s, but remains a force in modern psychology. The main function of a cross-cultural psychologist is to determine how various cultures affect human behaviors. These psychologists examine universal and “unique” characteristics and traits, in an effort to identify patterns amongst cultural groups. The goal is to identify how culture impacts thought processes, behaviors, goals, social experiences, educational and career aspirations, self-esteem/self-confidence, and relationships. Cross-cultural psychologists are most concerned with how culture impacts individual personalities and social behaviors.
In a sense, cross-cultural psychology is a more in-depth analysis of cultural patterns and behaviors, than cultural psychology. For example, a cultural psychologist examines how culture, in general, causes some people to be submissive, while it encourages others to be more aggressive. A cross-cultural psychologist takes a deeper look into the phenomena by investigating how traditional Asian women, in general, are more submissive than modern American women. The cross-cultural psychologist researches the patterns (i.e. similarities and differences) between the two cultures (i.e. personalities, behaviors, thought processes, beliefs, feelings, opinions, traditions, etc.) in an effort to better understand the human race.
Moreover, these psychologists invest large amounts of time and effort into learning cultural and societal norms, so that they can better communicate with different cultural groups. The hope is that learning about various cultures will help the human race better understand each other.
There is no difference between the educational levels, and job prospects between these two branches of psychology. It can take up to 13.5 years to become a cultural and cross-cultural psychologist (bachelor (4), master (2.5) and doctorate (up to 7)). Some colleges and universities offer cultural/cross-cultural psychology programs at the graduate and doctoral level, but some do not. In those cases, those who are interested in becoming a cultural or a cross-cultural psychologist earn degrees in marriage and family therapy, family psychology, clinical psychology, social psychology, or health/medical psychology. With a bachelor and/or master degree, an individual may find employment at schools, social service agencies, businesses, research laboratories, and non-profit organizations. A doctorate in cultural psychology, along with a license/certification in the field, on the other hand, may allow an individual to seek employment as a cultural researcher, cultural psychology practitioner, or psychology instructor. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2014), cultural/cross-cultural psychology jobs are expected to increase by approximately 11% by the year 2022.