Marshall McLuhan is quoted as saying that ‘‘It’s a cinch fish didn’t discover water.” Just as clearly, psychologists didn‘t discover culture. Any context for human behavior that is so all-encompassing as culture is for the developing individual is likely to be ignored, or if noticed, to be taken for granted. And just as quickly as the fish out of water discovers its importance, so too has psychology recently had to contend with culture as an important foundation for the discipline. As national societies become increasingly diverse and international contacts become common, psychologists can no longer assume an acultural or a unicultural stance.
Problems of an Acultural Psychology
Until recently, most of psychology has been both culture-blind and culture-bound. The first claim can be supported by examining textbooks and journals for treatments and studies that take culture into account (Lonner, 1990). For example, most introductory textbooks have a chapter entitled “The Biological Basis of Behavior”: but there is no parallel chapter on “Cultural Foundations,” even in texts that emphasize culture as an important context (e.g., Westen, 1996).
The reduction of this culture-blind situation has required the systematic incorporation of cultural factors influencing, and being influenced by, individuals in the course of their development. This has produced a “cultural psychology,” similar to the earlier appearances of “social psychology” or “environmental psychology,” where these other surroundings have been established as significant frameworks within which to understand the development and display of individual human behavior.
The second claim (that psychology is culture bound) can be supported by examining the same texts and journals for their incorporation of authors, concepts, and data from the available worldwide cultural diversity. One can also conclude from all the examples that psychology is limited to a Western (European American) worldview, primarily rooted in universities (with their academic, rather than mundane, interests), and committed to a narrow scientific method (rather than incorporating other systems of knowing that are prevalent in many other cultures). The discipline can be characterized as Western Academic Scientific Psychology (WASP), which is locked into a small corner of the psychological world. The reduction of this culture-bound situation has produced a broadly comparative approach known as “cross-cultural psychology.”
Taken together, the recent introduction of the cultural and the comparative dimensions to the discipline has provided considerable evidence for how culture and human behavior are related. Substantial documentation of these relationships is now available in handbooks (Berry, Dasen, & Saraswathi, 1997: Berry, Poortinga, & Pandey, 1997: Berry, Segall, & Kagicibasi. 1997: Triandis et al., 1980), textbooks (e.g., Berry, 1992; Segall, Dasen, Berry, & Poortinga, 1999), a book of readings (e.g., Goldberger & Veroff, 1995); and journals (e.g., Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Culture G Psychology). A recent review of the development, implications, and applications of cross-cultural psychology is readily available (Segall, Lonner, & Berry, 1998). Interested readers should consult these sources for details about many topics discussed in the balance of this article.
Meanings of Culture
The concept of culture in anthropology was introduced by Tylor in 1871: “culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals laws, customs and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” Since that time, there have been hundreds of refinements and elaborations, most emphasizing it as a shared feature of human groups, created and transmitted by them to others (usually their descendants): in short, culture is a shared way of life among a group of people.
This original view of culture as an observable feature of social groups, existing prior to the arrival, and influencing the development, of individuals, was refocused by Clifford Geertz, who emphasized meanings and symbols that are communicated between people and across generations. The earlier view of culture as a relatively concrete context for individual development has now been supplemented by a more abstract or symbolic view, with an emphasis on interaction among individuals and groups (Jahoda, 1992).
The earlier conception of culture was contemporary with the development of the comparative study of culture and behavior, and hence is often associated with “cross-cultural’’ psychology. The more recent conception has become associated with the “cultural” perspective. However, formal definitions of the two branches only partially capture this difference in emphasis:
Cross-cultural psychology is the study of similarities and differences in individual psychological functioning in various cultural and ethnic groups: of the relationships between psychological variables and sociocultural, ecological, and biological variables: and of current changes in these variables. (Berry et al., 1992. p. 2)
Cultural psychology is, first of all, a designation for the comparative study of the way culture and psyche make each other up. Second, it is a label for a practical, empirical, and philosophical project designed to reassess the uniformitarian principle of psychic unity and aimed at the development of a credible theory of psychological pluralism. Third, it is a summons to reconsider the methods and procedures for studying mental states and psychological processes across languages and cultures. (Shweder & Sullivan, 1993, p. 498)
While distinguishable, these two definitions do not suggest that the “cultural and “cross-cultural” approaches are incompatible. Indeed, recent discussions have attempted to achieve unity or convergence between them (e.g., Poortinga, 1997).
At the present time, the field faces three conceptual issues.
Within and Across
The first issue is where to look for relationships between human behavior and the cultural context in which it was nourished. Quite early on it was evident that certain problems must be faced when studying human behavior across cultures.
The emic-etic distinction was prominent in these early writings. The consensus was that both perspectives were necessary to the developing field: local knowledge and interpretations (the emic approach) were essential, but more than that perspective was required to relate variations in cultural context to variations in behavior (the etic approach). These two approaches became elaborated. First came the notion of imposed etic which served as the starting point for comparative research, because it was obvious that all psychologists necessarily carry their own culturally based perspectives with them when studying other cultures: these perspectives were initial sources of bias (usually European American), to be confronted and reduced as work progressed in the other culture(s). Second came the emic exploration of psychological phenomena, and their understanding in local cultural terms: this provided the important culturally based meanings that were most probably missed when making the initial imposed etic approach to psychological phenomena in various cultures. Third came the notion of the derived etic which might possibly be discerned following extensive use of emic approaches in a number of cultures: it was expected that some similarities in psychological phenomena might be derived by the comparative examination of behavior in various cultures.
These three concepts, in turn, gave rise to three goals of cross-cultural psychology to transport and test our current psychological knowledge and perspectives by using them in other cultures (the imposed etic approach), to explore and discover new aspects of the phenomenon being studied in local cultural terms (emic); and to integrate what has been learned from these first two approaches in order to generate a more nearly universal psychology, one that has panhuman validity (the derived etic approach). The existence of universals in other disciplines (e.g., biology, linguistics, sociology, anthropology) provided some basis for the assumption that we would be able to work our way through to this third goal with some success.
Finally, these three goals have become identified with three theoretical orientations in cross-cultural psychology: absolutism, relativism, and universalism (Berry et al., 1992). The absolutist position is one that assumes that psychological phenomena are basically the same (qualitatively) in all cultures: “honesty” is “honesty,” and “depression” is “depression,” no matter where one observes them. From the absolutist perspective, culture is thought to play little or no role in either the meaning or display of human characteristics. Assessments of such characteristics are made using standard instruments (perhaps with linguistic translation) and interpretations are made easily, without taking into account alternative culturally based views. This orientation resembles the imposed etic approach.
In sharp contrast, the relativist approach assumes that all human behavior is culturally patterned. It seeks to avoid ethnocentrism by trying to understand people in their own terms. Explanations of human diversity are sought in the cultural context in which people have developed. Assessments are typically carried out employing the values and meanings that a cultural group gives to a phenomenon. Comparisons are judged to be conceptually and methodologically problematic and ethnocentric, and are thus virtually never made. This orientation resembles the emic approach.
A third perspective, universalism, lies somewhere between the first two positions and assumes that basic human characteristics are common to all members of the species (that is, they constitute a set of psychological givens in all human beings) and that culture influences the development and display of these characteristics (by playing different variations on these underlying themes. Assessments are based on the presumed underlying process, but measures are developed in culturally meaningful versions. Comparisons are made cautiously, employing a wide variety of methodological principles and safeguards, and interpretations of similarities and differences are attempted that take alternative culturally based meanings into account. The orientation resembles the derived etic approach.
Different approaches can be distinguished according to their orientation to this issue of within or across. Although few today advocate a strictly absolutist or imposed etic view, the relativist emic position has given rise to numerous approaches: ethnopsychology, societal psychology, indigenous psychology, and to some extent cultural psychology (Cole, 1996). And the derived etic view has given rise to a universalist psychology (Berry et al., 1992). A mutual compatibility between the emic and derived etic positions has been noted by many. For example, Berry et al. (1992, p. 384) have claimed that indigenous psychologies, though valuable in their own right, serve an equally important function as useful steps on the way to achieving a universal psychology, using a cross-indigenous approach.
To summarize this first issue, there has been widespread acceptance by most psychologists of the necessity for both the within and across approaches to understanding relationships between cultural context and human experience and behavior. In my view, it is not possible to be “cross-cultural” without first being “cultural”: but to be only “cultural” (or to pretend that it is possible to be so), seriously undermines the possibility of attaining the general principles to which all sciences aspire.
The second issue involves the recognition that cultures are not static, but change for a variety of reasons. One reason for this view is that when cultures come into contact with each other, acculturation occurs. This process involves changes in both group or collective phenomena (for example, language, politics, religion, work, schooling, and social relationship) and individual or psychological phenomena (for example, identity, beliefs, values, attitudes, abilities). A good deal of early cross-cultural psychological work took place by comparing people who were not in contact with each other: indeed, this was a methodological necessity for comparisons requiring independence of cases. However, some early work also took place in situations of intercultural encounters, often as a result of colonization, migration, or the continuation of culturally distinct communities living side by side in plural societies.
Over the years many cross-cultural psychologists have adopted the view that both these kinds of work are legitimate and important ways of understanding human behavior as it is influenced by the cultural context in which it occurs. One major difference between these two lines of influence is that psychological phenomena during contact may be more difficult to understand and interpret than those in noncontact situations because, in the contact setting, there are at least two sources of cultural influences: hence comparative studies may be even more important here in order to tease out the relative cultural contributions to psychological phenomena. A second major difference is that opportunities to create new cultural forms may be greater during the process of acculturation.
This interest in psychological phenomena resulting from culture contact has given rise to the suggestion that there could be an ethnic psychology or psychology of acculturation concerned primarily with group and psychological acculturation phenomena. Another field to emerge has been that of psychologie interculturelle, studied primarily by French researchers (Camilleri & Visonneau, 1996). As intercultural contacts increase, this area of psychology will almost certainly grow in importance.
Culture: Given or Created
The third and final issue stems from the change in the conceptions of culture. As we have seen, an early view was that culture was “out there” to be studied, observed, and described: culture was a shared way of life of a group of socially interacting people: and culture was transmitted from generation to generation by the processes of enculturation and socialization. That is, culture was viewed as a given that preceded in time the life of any individual member.
This view of culture has had a major influence on thinking in cross-cultural psychology. The main task was to understand how the established culture influenced the psychological development of individuals, and guided their day-to-day behaviors. However, along with more recent cognitive approaches in many branches of psychology, individuals have come to be viewed, not as mere pawns or victims of their cultures but as cognizers, appraisers, and interpreters of them (Boesch, 1991). Thus different individuals experience different aspects of their culture in different ways. One example of this more cognitive orientation is in the framework for analyses of cultural contexts (Berry et al., 1992) in which more subjective and individual “experiential” and “situational” contexts were distinguished from more objective and shared “ecological” and “cultural” contexts.
A sharp contrast to this perspective on the nature of culture is advanced by those adopting a “social construction” perspective. From this perspective culture is not something that is given but is being interpreted and created daily through interactions between individuals and their social surroundings. This view is one espoused by those identifying with cultural psychology.
This core idea, however, has been a part of the cross-cultural approach for some time. There are numerous examples of interactions between context and person (for example, in ecocultural frameworks) and of reaction to contact (as one form of adaptation associated with acculturation). This reciprocal relationship between person and culture, leading to the modification and creation of new cultural forms as a result of acculturation, has been of long-standing interest in the field.
With these theoretical and conceptual issues as a foundation, I turn to some methodological issues and propose some standards against which we can judge empirical research. The starting point is the distinction between the group and the individual level of analysis outlined earlier. The former provides the context for individual human development and action and is studied primarily through ethnographic methods (including key informant, observational, and archival data sources); the latter is considered to be the psychological outcome for particular individuals. The key methodological issue is how can we demonstrate valid linkages between these two levels?
In the past few decades, most cross-cultural researchers used the “Jack Horner” research strategy, characterized in this rhyme:
Little Jack Horner.
Sat in a corner,
Eating his Christmas pie,
He stuck in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said “What a good boy am I.”
In other words, this strategy consists of collecting convenient data, deriving some statistical outcomes, and declaring a favored interpretation. The two hallmarks of this strategy are the use of unguided search and of post hoc interpretation.
In recent years cross-cultural psychologists have moved more and more to a research strategy in which cultural groups that provide varying contexts for psychological development and human behavior are selected in advance (on the basis of known characteristics based on ethnographic descriptions and national indicators). Individual outcomes are then predicted, using some theory that links psychological phenomena to their cultural background. Independent conceptualization and measurement of phenomena at the group and individual levels are required in order to establish nontrivial links between cultural and psychological phenomena.
In order to establish valid linkages between context and outcome, prediction and verification need to be based upon appropriate sampling of the group and individual phenomena of interest. There are four kinds of populations from which samples can be drawn and two types of sampling (strategic and representative): each sampling strategy has a characteristic goal (to test and to generalize, respectively) (see Berry et al., 1992, chapter 9).
Considering the two suggested goals first, if the goal of a cross-cultural study is to test a particular hypothesized relationship between a cultural and psychological phenomenon, then a few strategically well-chosen cultural contexts may suffice. However, if the goal is to produce a generalization about a culture-behavior relationship (perhaps eventually with the status of a universal law), then a representative (and larger) sample would be required.
Considering the four populations from which samples can be drawn, cultural groups are typically the largest unit with which we are concerned, although broader cultural areas are also of some interest (southern Asia or eastern Europe, for example). In some cases, societies or nation-states are also of interest to a researcher. The crucial points here are to know and declare the goal of the study (to test or generalize) in advance and to select cultures in order to meet this goal.
Because most groups (whether societies, nations, or cultures) are heterogeneous, the selection of which communities within those groups to work with can be crucial. Once again they should be selected according to the goal of the study (to test or to generalize) and with all the earlier points in mind (that is, their qualities known in advance).
Individuals may also be a sampling problem in cross-cultural studies. Who can provide a valid test of a prediction and who can be the basis for a generalization may well vary from culture to culture. Variations in a person’s status as a carrier of the culture are known to exist according to a number of factors (for example, whether the person lives in slavery or freedom and is male or female, schooled or unschooled, oppressed or oppressor). These variations will necessarily render individuals differential exemplars of the hypothesized relationship between culture and behavior.
Finally, behaviors sampled should have a known relationship to the population of behaviors nurtured in individuals in the cultures selected. Any preselected set of behaviors may or may not match the developed array of behaviors (the repertoire) among individuals living in communities that are part of the cultures selected. There needs to be some match between the behaviors the researcher wishes to study and the behaviors actually present in the population.
With the stage set by the discussion of definitional, conceptual, and methodological issues, following is a review of selected domains of behavior in relation to culture. Since separate articles are included on gender, health, and intelligence these domains are not considered here. Instead, the focus is on six areas: human development: perception; cognition; language; values and acculturation.
It is a truism that culture necessarily is part of the developmental process: without engagement between the human organism and its environment, there can be no development: and as noted earlier, a substantial part of the environment of any group is “manmade” (that is, it is cultural). This fundamental fact is explored, and evidence for it is provided in numerous syntheses of the field (Berry, Dasen, & Saraswathi, 1997).
Often linked to studies of development has been an interest in the process of enculturation or socialization; in what ways can culture come to influence the developing child, and shape the emerging behaviors? One basic position is that this process of cultural transmission is an integrated part of the surrounding culture, and that both are adaptive to the broader ecological context.
An early question was whether human development is a standard one, a set of changes that are the same in all children, independent of culture. An impressive set of evidence has shown that the course of human development is very much influenced by cultural factors. As a result, the question changed to how culture interacts with developmental processes to yield the magnificent diversity that is found around the world.
To illustrate how this second question has been approached, the concept of developmental niche can be employed. This integrative framework is rooted in the views about linkages among ecology, culture, and socialization noted above. The developing child is part of an organized system that includes three interrelated components: the physical and social settings in which the child lives: the culturally regulated customs of child care and child rearing; and the psychology of the caretakers. These three components are thought to function to mediate the individual’s developmental experience within the culture. They operate together, usually in consonance with one another; they are embedded in the overall ecological setting of the group; and there is mutual adaptation between each component and the developing child, such that the individual and group influence each other.
Of particular recent interest has been the last of these three components: parental beliefs about their children (their potentialities, goals, achievements). These have become known as “parental ethnotheories,” since they are clearly rooted in other aspects of their culture. Parents’ views have been revealed for virtually every domain of behavior: intelligence, emotions, social relations, morality, as well as for developmental “milestones” for each behavior.
Thus, the initial interest in whether culture played any role in human development has itself developed into a number of complex questions, about how, in respect to which behaviors, and at what periods in the developmental course of a child life.
A similar issue stimulated the first studies of perception across cultures: was it really possible that people perceive the world differently, guided by their cultures; or did everyone perceive in the same way, and with the same resultant perceptions? The classic studies were carried out by Rivers at the end of the nineteenth century in Melanesia, and covered visual acuity, color vision, and illusion susceptibility. Of these areas, subsequent work explored how the perception of illusions might be similar or different across cultures (reviewed by Segall et al., 1999).
The major study of this issue (Segall, Campbell, & Herskovits, 1966) employed a standard set of illusion stimuli distributed to colleagues in seventeen different parts of the world. They hypothesized that since perception is functional (allowing people to perceive in ways that are adaptive), individuals are likely to learn to interpret visual cues differently in different visual ecologies. To illustrate, people whose culture has produced a “carpentered environment” (one in which straight lines, right angles, and planes predominate) will learn that their visual world has a high probability of being made up of such features, and will hence “see” visual displays in terms of these probabilities. When presented with visual illusions, people continue to use these learned probabilities and to “see” the illusions in these terms. In the case of the well-known Muller-Lyer illusion (the “arrowhead” illusion, in which the lengths of two lines are to be compared) people who live in carpentered environments tend to interpret the acute and obtuse angles of the “arrowheads” as right angles, producing high susceptibility to this illusion. In contrast, those who have not lived in a carpentered environment could not have learned this interpretation, and will be less susceptible to this illusion. The finding of Segall et al. (1966) to a large extent supported their hypothesis: groups did vary across this dimension of carpenteredness, with those most susceptible being from Western urban settings.
In general, cultural influences on perception are typically found when there is some plausible theoretical link between experiences in a particular culture, and a specific perceptual phenomenon (such as illusions). However, for many basic perceptual functions (such as visual or auditory acuity) there is little evidence for variations across cultures.
Much of the attention in the area of cognition has been focused on human abilities, especially on the notion of intelligence. However, there is substantial information on other abilities, and on other aspects of cognition (such as cognitive development and cognitive processes). The basic question is whether there are fundamental similarities or differences in the cognitive life of people living in different cultures.
For it is now clear that cognitive abilities, like many other behaviors, show variation across cultural groups. Such variation is usually related to what people need to do well in order to live in particular ecological and cultural circumstances. This functional view avoids the political baggage that constrains the discussion of intelligence, since there is not just one entity which can be large or small (“smart” or “stupid”), but many abilities that are organized in the service of successful daily living.
For example, spatial ability is now known to be adaptive for, and highly developed among, nomadic hunting and gathering peoples. Visual disembedding and analysis are also essential for hunting, and are similarly well developed. These abilities are patterned into a cognitive style that works well for these populations, but is not particularly useful for agriculturalists, who develop other patterns of cognitive abilities that are useful to them (such as conservation of quantity or number).
With respect to cognitive processes and development, the universalist perspective has prevailed: evidence strongly suggests that all basic cognitive processes are present in all human populations, but that during the course of development in different cultures, they are directed toward differential outcomes. For example, all research to date has shown that people everywhere engage in categorization, and can sort objects in their world into categories. But the underlying principles used, the explanations provided, and the elements placed in each category vary by culture. Similarly, memory processes are present in every culture, but the strategies used in storing and recall vary, particularly between literate and nonliterate peoples.
With nonliterate populations, a recent interest has been in their “everyday cognition” (Berry, Dasen, & Saraswathi, 1997). This development has grown from the realization that much of the world’s population has not been formally schooled, and cannot read or write. Yet they carry out complex cognitive tasks needed to engage in daily communication and problem solving. How do they do such mundane activities as remembering, reasoning, and arithmetic calculations without the tools provided by schooling? Evidence clearly reveals that many are proficient at such tasks, and that they develop (and share) their own strategies. For example market children can readily count, calculate the amount owed, and make change: but when they are taken out of their daily context, and put in a formal school setting, they are much less able to do “mathematics.”
Intimately related to cognition is language: and as an integral part of a group’s culture, language can serve as a vehicle for understanding links between culture and cognition. Since all cultures have a language, and virtually all members of a culture learn their language, we are dealing with both a cultural and a psychological universal. Moreover, most people in the world learn two or more languages, providing an opportunity to examine the psychological correlates of bilingualism or multilingualism, and in particular to dispose of the notion that there is some disadvantage or handicap associated with knowing more than one language.
Early work on language acquisition was more concerned with similarities than with differences across cultures, largely influenced by the views of Chomsky. More recent work, while accepting the existence of some underlying linguistic universals, has been concerned with variations across cultures. Since language is socialized, and (as we have seen) socialization practices vary across cultures, variation is to be expected, and indeed has been found. For example, cultural and environmental factors influence the sequence and range of vocabulary acquisition. And the “communicative style” (expressive or referential) may also be culturally linked, depending on the group’s emphasis on whether social relations or environmental interactions are given the greater importance during socialization.
The knowledge and use of two (or more) languages does more than “double up” one’s language activity. The cultural setting of multiple language use is also more complex than earlier believed: In some situations, growing up multilingual is normal and natural, in others it is threatening and undermines the vitality of the group: while in others, it may be a vehicle for exploring the world beyond one’s borders. This psychological and situational complexity has led to a burgeoning of research with multiple-language users, attempting to understand the personal consequences.
First, with respect to cognitive outcomes, early research showed poor academic achievement of bilinguals, compared to monolinguals. However, such children were often socially disadvantage, and the studies did not control for the potential effects of immigration, status or mother tongue. More recent controlled studies have reversed this earlier picture, and it is now known that bilingualism accords an advantage in flexible thinking, creativity, and intellectual attainment. Moreover, bilinguals have superior “metalinguistic awareness,” such as understanding ambiguity, and sensitivity to intonation and to rules governing language use.
Second, social consequences of bilingualism are also now well documented. Integrative attitudes (the desire to know about and participate in the other culture), and often greater social awareness and acceptance of “the other” are established consequences. Thus, far from being a handicap, bilingualism is now seen as an advantage, both cognitively and socially, when the cultural context is taken into account.
Intuitively, the values that people hold are intimately linked to the dominant themes of one’s culture. While values were an early interest among anthropologists, the psychological study of values in relation to national cultures really began with the work of Hofstede (1980). This area has assumed major importance, particularly the value dimension of individualism/ collectivism (Berry, Segall, & Kagitcibasi, 1997), which was one of the four basic dimensions identified by Hofstede.
In his so-nation study, Hofstede isolated (in addition to individualism/collectivism), power distance (the extent to which there is inequality or “pecking order” in social systems): uncertainty avoidance (lack of tolerance of ambiguity and need for formal rules): and masculinity (an emphasis on goal attainment and assertiveness over interpersonal relations and nurturance). However, it is the first dimension that has dominated the study of values. It is defined as a concern for oneself as opposed to concern for the collectivity to which one belongs, as valuing “loose” social relations as opposed to more tightly knit ones. The list of meanings suggested for these two terms continues to expand, so that the value dimension is in danger of losing its core meaning, or at least losing a consensus about its meaning.
Paralleling this expansion in meaning is a widening network of factors, both cultural and psychological, that are empirically related to an individual’s and country’s position on the individualism-collectivism dimension. At the individual level, many psychological attributes of individualism are claimed: emotional detachment from one’s ingroup, the primacy of personal goals, use of confrontation, self-reliance, independence, and experience of loneliness. For collectivism attributes claimed are acceptance of hierarchy and search for harmony in one’s ingroup, acceptance that one’s behavior should be regulated by ingroup norms, self is defined in terms of the group, acceptance of obedience and duty, sacrifice for one’s ingroup, and need for social support and interdependence. Skepticism and criticism about how one dimension can cover so much psychological territory has appeared recently, even while more and more research is carried out, almost as a fashionable wave.
At the cultural or national level, individualism/collectivism is claimed to be related to economic development, social complexity and stratification, population density, cultural homogeneity, little occupational role differentiation, and so on. It is apparent that there is no end to this list.
Perhaps the most active area of research in the field is the study of how individuals and groups relate to study of how individuals and groups relate to each other following contact, and their long term mutual accommodations. As noted previously, the cultures of the two groups involved can influence the psychological adaptations made.
With respect to the larger or dominant society, the national policies, and expectations by the general population, can lead the members of the non dominant group to adapt in various ways: societies that encourage assimilation may induce nondominant groups to change their behaviors (language, dress) and their identities in order to merge with the dominant society. However, reaction to such pressures toward cultural loss may lead to behaviors that seek separation, in which cultural maintenance away from the dominant society is the main strategy. In contrast, a national policy of segregation may lead to ghettoization, and when combined with cultural loss, to marginalization. In this latter case, many social and psychological problems are frequently observed. A generally preferred option is that of integration in which members of the nondominant group seek to maintain important features of their culture and identity, while participating fully in the larger society: this option obviously requires the dominant group to accept the right of others to live in culturally diverse ways, and not to discriminate against them because of it.
Not only are there variations in these strategies across dominant and nondominant groups in contact, there are also large individual differences in these acculturation strategies. These occur within groups, within communities and even within families, often creating a source of conflict. Moreover, individuals are known to explore how they prefer to relate to members of their own and other groups, leading to the dynamic, culture-creating dimension noted earlier.
It is no longer possible to think of behavior as “culture free”; there is now substantial evidence that the culture of a group and the behavior of its members are intimately entwined. The sampling of theoretical, methodological, and empirical evidence for this claim that has been provided in this article should dismiss once and for all the view that individuals are independent of culture, or that psychology can remain acultural.
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