-Cultural Psychology-

Cultural and indigenous psychologists focus on developing working psychologies for independent cultures (Shweder, 2000, p. 210). These psychologists focus on the mentality, rationality, and pragmatics of a specific group of people (Shweder, 2000, p. 207; Shweder & Sullivan, 1993, p. 500; Allwood & Berry, 2006, p. 251). This differs from cross-cultural psychology in that cross-cultural psychology’s overall goal is to form a universal psychology based on the human mind (Shweder, 2000, p. 207). That being said, cultural psychologists do not deny the shared cognitive foundation of our species. As summarized by Shweder (2002), cultural psychology supports “universalism without the uniformity” (p. 210; Shweder & Sullivan, 1993, p. 517). To make the difference between mind and mentality clear I will once again quote Shweder (2002): “A mentality is that cognized and activated subset of mind that has become the property of, and has been invested in, by some designated person or people” (p. 211).

During our last seminar we discussed the ‘mutual yuck’ (G. Navara, Trent University, personal communication, January 20, 2015). The term ‘mutual yuck’ refers to the rationalizations we form in response to the behaviour of someone from a different cultural background (Shweder, 2000, p. 216). The behavior we are witnessing does not fit in with our own cultural beliefs. These rationalizations are ethnocentric. Professor Navara defined ethnocentrism as “using your own cultural group as a marker for what is normal/appropriate” (Trent University, personal communication, January 20, 2015). Cultural psychology aims to purge the belief that different is akin to inferior (Shweder, 2000, p. 218). As discussed in seminar, it is important to embrace cultural relativism and assess behavior within the appropriate context (G. Navara, Trent University, personal communication, January 20, 2015).

What I had not quite grasped before completing this week’s readings was that my own psychology, Western psychology, is an indigenous psychology (Shweder, 2000, p. 208; Allwood & Berry, 2006, p. 250, 260). In the journal article written by Allwood and Berry (2006) Western psychology was referred to as a “ready-made intellectual package” (p. 252). I had blindly been operating under a latent assumption that Western psychology was the ‘dominant’ psychology. Furthermore, I had not even considered the potential for Canadians to develop an indigenous psychology with features distinct from those of the USA (Allwood & Berry, 2006, p. 260).

By the time I had finished reading the assigned journal articles it was very clear to me that Western psychology should not be a globally dominant psychology.  Allwood and Berry (2006) collected information from fifteen prominent figures in indigenous psychology. It was unanimously agreed upon that Western psychology alone cannot rectify the social issues that present themselves in different cultural contexts (Allwood & Berry, 2006, p. 263). The research methods used to conduct these studies do not necessarily provide an accurate depiction of results collected from within alternative cultures (Allwood & Berry, 2006, 264).


It was frequently suggested within Allwood and Berry (2006) that qualitative research may be the key to accelerating indigenous psychologies, and that they in turn have potential to supplement the growth of cross-cultural psychology (p. 264-265).

During seminar we were asked to identify our cultural group and explain how it has influenced us. I was surprised to realize that prior to that point I had not given much consideration as to which cultural group(s) I identified with.  Professor Navara suggested that people often fail to give their own cultural group(s) much thought until they are faced with diversity (G. Navara, Trent University, personal communication, January 20, 2015). He reflected that “culture is the water that we swim in as fish. The environment that we breathe in and live” (G. Navara, Trent University, personal communication, January 20, 2015).

Puffer_Fish_DSC01257As a class we discussed several cultural issues; for example, the ‘Happy Holidays’ vs. ‘Merry Christmas’ debate, eating taboo foods in foreign countries (i.e. dog in America/Canada, beef in India), and whether a Sikh boy should be able to carry a (blunt) symbolic dagger in a country that does not typically allow citizens to carry weapons (G. Navara, Trent University, personal communication, January 20, 2015). I found it interesting to hear that Caucasians will soon be the minority. For those of you who are interested in hearing more the following article makes predictions based on the 2010 U.S. census:


I am sure that most of us who have been raised in a multicultural society are accustom to hearing the importance of cultural relativism and equality. That being said, the solution for social issues in a multicultural society is not always black and white. Should a ubiquitous compromise of ‘Happy Holidays’ be mandated, or should each group be allowed to respectfully state the greeting of their choice? Should restrictions be put on the consumption of dog meat? Solely on the way in which the dog was treated prior to death? If any restrictions are made should they then be consistently applied to all animals out of courtesy for the vegan culture?

Recently there has been talk in the media of a young aboriginal girl who chose alternative treatment for her leukemia. Please be advised that the writer of this article took an extremely ethnocentric point of view.


Hunter, Logan, Goulet, and Barton (2006) conducted a study in which they explored the healing potential of tradition holistic aboriginal methods (p. 13). They used qualitative methods for research collection and analysis (interviews, observation, etc.) (Hunter et al., 2006, p. 13). Hunter et al. (2006) found traditional aboriginal healing methods to fortify the cultural foundation of the individual, to bring balance into their life, and to strengthen their relationships with others (p. 21).  Healing may have a different definition within Aboriginal cultures, but that definition is no less relevant than the one imposed by Western medicine. The healing methods chosen by Makayla and her family are no less worthy of our respect.

I spent several days in the intensive care unit of a hospital last year and have a very distinct memory from that time. A man was wheeled into the foyer and the nurse who had been attending to me walked up to him and loudly announced to his attendants that they could leave him by the door because he wouldn’t be around long enough to bother making a bed. She returned to me and elaborated that he was a Jehovah’s Witness and would not be receiving blood (followed by an exaggerated rolling of her eyes). The man remained in that doorway until his passing. As a Jehovah’s Witness the patient would most likely have been shunned by other religious followers if he had accepted a blood transfusion. It was not necessary for the nurse to agree with the patient’s choice, but it was necessary for her to adopt a culturally relativistic viewpoint and treat him with respect.


Allwood, C. M., & Berry, J. W. (2006). Origins and development of indigenous psychologies: An international analysis. International Journal of Psychology, 41(4), 243-268.

DiManno, R. (2015, January 20). Law, faith, and tradition- none of them saved Makayla. Retrieved from http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/01/20/law-faith-and-tradition-none-of-them-saved-makayla-dimanno.html

Hunter, L. M., Logan, J., Goulet, J. & Barton, S. (2006). Aboriginal healing: Regaining Balance and Culture. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 17(1), 13-22. doi: 10.1177/1043659605278937

Membis, L. (2010, July 2). What will America look like in 2050? Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/07/02/joel.kotkin.census/

Shweder, R. A. (2000). The psychology of practice and the practice of the three psychologies. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 3(3), 207-222.

Shweder, R. A., & Sullivan, M. A. (1993). Cultural psychology: Who needs it? Annual Review of Psychology, 44, 497-523.

Super (2014, February 5). Please climb that tree! Johny Learns to Blog [Online Image]. Retrieved from http://pranav.amrute.me/business/education-tests/

Tetraodantidae (2015, January 5). In Wikipedia [Online Image]. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetraodontidae#

4 thoughts on “-Cultural Psychology-

  1. Great blog post!
    I think you made some great points about cultural relativism and ethnocentrism as discussed this week in class. I also want to point out that I had the same realization that western psychology was not the dominant psychology – I felt a bit ethnocentric when I found this out, I hadn’t even considered other indigenous psychologies, just the one I had been taught. I thought your mutual yuck experience is a great one to discuss, looking at both sides of the story – I can sympathize with the nurse with regards to having to watch someone refuse care that could save their lives, this would be very difficult; however, her comment was unnecessary in this situation, instead she should have accepted that although she doesn’t agree or support his decision, it is part of his religious culture. I find these issues difficult to talk about as you can quickly get into biomedical and moral ethics issues; however, I think that this example is an excellent (and very common) mutual yuck situation.


  2. I really enjoyed your post Heidi! I thought you summarized the readings well that we had to read this past week.

    To answer some of your questions—in regards to the “Happy Holidays” debate we had in class, I find this issue to be very controversial. Although I enjoyed hearing the views in class, I personally always use the term “Happy Holidays” around the holiday season. I think part of this is due to the fact that I am in the concurrent education program and have had placements in elementary schools throughout my first 3 years at university. A lot of the classrooms I was a part of were multicultural. I think it is important as a teacher candidate not to refer to one specific, personal holiday that is celebrated, such as Christmas in my case, as it can come across as dominating and stressing the importance of only one holiday. Canada is always referred to as a welcoming country, open to all people and cultures in which they are a part of and come from. I think if the majority of people were to argue that phrases such as “Merry Christmas” be plastered all over is essentially contradicting the notion of us being multicultural, and rather there is one major culture in which all other minority cultures are dominated by. Perhaps if it is to be posted and plastered around then we should allow without argument that other holiday slogans, such as Eid Mubarak, be allowed to be posted around as well without dismay. Or if this is not the case, we should not refer to ourselves as openly multicultural, as it does not appear to be supportive for those from differing cultural backgrounds to maintain a cultural identity to their culture of origin that may not be a Canadian one.

    This issue in addition to the others you posted, such as eating dog meat, are all very controversial and are difficult to determine, as it addresses the issue of whether a cultural belief or law is of more importance and which should prevail. I think in some cases it goes back to the ideas of collectivism or individualism. If one person’s cultural belief, such as eating dog meat, prevails then it appears to support the individual, however if the collective beliefs that eating a dog is wrong prevails, is that then supporting a collectivist culture, even though in the example we were given it appeared to be an individual from a collectivist culture breaking the norms of those in an individualistic culture?


  3. Great post Heidi! I really liked your stream of questions about culture relativism or ethnocentrism. First, with the ‘Happy Holidays’ phenomena, I can see both sides but I believe that each group should respect the other culture and their practices. Prof Narvara mentioned in class that ‘we’ (Caucasians) are not the first people in Canada and therefore any traditions we brought here is also different than the First Nation traditions. To say that the Caucasians should have the right to celebrate their traditions and other cultures need to conform to them seems like a very old view of the ‘power white people’. I believe that we should respect each other’s traditions by saying happy holidays in order to not exclude anyone in the community, especially in a county such as Canada that values being multicultural. In your questions of applying restriction of the consumption of animals due to vegans, I believe clearly shows when you have to draw the line. Everyone is a part of another culture and has their own ‘norms’ and things that disgust them, but unless we great an umbrella culture that requires a melting pot for everyone, we all will never agree on certain customs. In that being said, I do think it is important to be culturally aware and respect other people’s beliefs even if they do not reflect your own.


  4. Hey Heidi first of all I love that cartoon I actually saw it for the first time a few years ago and saved it to my computer I liked it so much.

    Thank you for sharing your experience of your time spent in the hospital. I definitely found it quite sad and cannot imagine how upsetting that must have been for you to see and for the man to experience. Similarly, as Mariah commented, I can sympathise with the nurse that it may be difficult to watch someone die who has the potential to be saved with treatment however, I also agree that the comments the nurse made were incredibly ignorant. As Canadians, we are theoretically all supposed to embrace multiculturalism and Canadian values that portray Canadians as accepting and tolerant, and we quite proudly distinguish ourselves from Americans in this respect. However, as I have learned more, and travelled to different parts of the world more, I have unfortunately come to realise that this is not the case, and that Canadians unfortunately don’t always practice what they preach. While there is no way to know for sure, I am fairly certain, that if you were to ask that specific nurse about multiculturalism and other religious practices in Canada, she would most likely respond in a way that is consistent with what we consider to be Canadian values about multiculturalism. In other words, she would be supportive of the concept that people from other countries can embrace “Canadian” culture while also incorporating their culture from their countries of origin. However, in this case, and I believe quite often in our society, there is a discrepancy between the beliefs that people express and their actions.



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