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Arkansas State University

What Is Cultural Psychology?

The word “culture” conjures up images of food, music, festivals and other traditions, but culture is much more than the outward trappings of various countries or ethnic groups. Culture includes ideas and concepts that inform the thought processes of individuals within a society. These cultural norms shape human behavior just as the individuals within that society shape their culture. It’s a complex interaction, and the field of cultural psychology seeks to understand how culture shapes human psychology.

Anthropologists, linguists, philosophers and psychologists all study the interdisciplinary field of cultural psychology. The aim of their research is to better understand how cultural practices, institutions and other aspects of culture shape human thought. As a discipline within psychology, cultural psychology is not as rigid in its approach to finding new theories. Cultural psychologists tend to see their theories as culturally variable, meaning there is less emphasis on finding universal theories.

If you are interested in learning more about cultural psychology, Arkansas State University’s Bachelor of Arts in Psychology online program includes a seven-week course on cultural psychology. A-State is ranked #25 among “Top Public Schools, Regional Universities (South)” by U.S. News & World Report.

Applications of Cultural Psychology

Students who have a firm grasp of cultural psychology gain insight into important topics, such as politics, education, healthcare and business. Cultural psychologists play an important role in shaping public policy, government spending, business insights and more.

Politics: Within politics, cultural psychologists bring public awareness to underserved populations. Whether through publishing articles and books or working through academic departments, community agencies or other groups, cultural psychologists develop and test hypotheses with the goal of bringing about changes in public perception of societal problems.

Addressing poverty continues to be a lingering problem for many government agencies and nonprofit administrators. A cultural psychologist might examine the root causes of poverty before recommending new policies (such as providing essential services) for marginalized populations.

Cultural psychology also lends insight into areas of tension within a country. For instance, understanding the motivations of immigrants who cross the United States border, legally or illegally, is important for politicians who shape border policies. Asylum seekers come from countries across the globe, with languages as diverse as the people themselves. Having personnel who can translate the wide range of languages and dialects of asylum seekers allows immigration agencies to better understand the needs and perspectives of these potential refugees.

Healthcare: A cultural psychologist may highlight the importance of physicians from the same racial background as the communities they serve, for example. This could be particularly important in underserved communities where trust is often built on established social networks. Culture plays a large role in almost every aspect of healthcare, and having an expert in cultural psychology can benefit the whole system.

Business: Businesses can benefit from cultural psychology by knowing what steps they can take to increase workplace diversity. Individuals with a background in cultural psychology can recommend programs and policies that address cultural sensitivity among employees when issues arise.

Education: There is no one-size-fits-all solution for public education. Ideally, a public education program should consider the cultural implications of the various ethnic groups, religious views and cultural norms of its students, and cultural psychologists are well prepared to develop education programs that address these issues.

The demand for clinical psychologists with a background in cultural psychology is also growing. To work in a hospital setting, a graduate degree and certification are typically required. Psychologists also work in clinics and other health agencies.

Gain Insights into Cultural Psychology With an Online BA in Psychology

Arkansas State University’s online B.A. in Psychology program explores how culture impacts human behavior, attitudes and mental health. Each course in the B.A. program is offered online at the affordable rate of $269 per credit hour. Once completed, the skills learned through A-State’s nationally recognized degree program can be used in a wide range of rewarding career options.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s online B.A. in Psychology program.


Association for Psychological Science: Studying More than the ‘Exotic Other’

Exploring Your Mind: What Is Cultural Psychology?

Careers in Psychology: Cultural Psychology Careers

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