(Cross) Cultural Psychology

Cigdem Kagitcibasi. The International Handbook of Psychology. Editor: Kurt Pawlik & Mark R Rosenzweig. Sage Publications. 2000.

What is Cross-Cultural Psychology?

Cross-cultural psychology has been variously defined. A consideration of some definitions should shed light on how the field is construed by its students. According to a definition provided in an advanced textbook of cross-cultural psychology (Berry, Poortinga, Segall, & Dasen, 1992) 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 socio-cultural, ecological, and biological variables; and of current changes in these variables’ (p. 2). This is a comprehensive definition of the field, involving on the one hand a comparative focus on similarities and differences across cultures and on the other a focus on relating psychological variables to environmental and even biological ones. Most researchers in the field focus on one aspect of this definition rather than others, bringing about variations in perspectives and emphases. Thus, the definition in the second edition of the Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology (Berry, 1997) states, ‘Cross-cultural psychology is the systematic study of relationships between the cultural context of human development and the behaviors that become established in the repertoire of individuals growing up in a particular culture’ (p. x) (emphases added). The comparative focus in the former definition is not explicit here.

Inherent in the above characterizations is the issue of whether a contextualistic (non-comparative) or a universalistic (comparative) perspective is preferred. This is basically a methodological problem which will be addressed later on. What is to be noted here is that this issue underlies the distinction between ‘cultural’ and ‘cross-cultural’ psychology. Though often seen as conflicting (Shweder, 1990), the two perspectives can rather be considered complementary. Cultural psychology is psychology within the cultural context, and as such all human psychology should indeed be cultural psychology, since no psychological phenomena occur in a cultural vacuum. However, as we are far from this ideal, psychological inquiry that takes cognisance of the cultural context qualifies as cultural psychology. If in such inquiry a comparative approach is used, and thus at least two cultures are implicated, even if implicitly, then we are in the realm of cross-cultural psychology (Kagitcibasi, 1996a, p. 12). Thus the use of both terms in the title ‘(Cross) Cultural Psychology’ is intentional. With this understanding, in this chapter ‘cross-cultural’ will be used as a generic term unless a specific reference is made to ‘cultural psychology’ as such.

From the above description, it is clear that cross-cultural psychology is a general approach or outlook in psychological inquiry rather than a content area. Thus for example it is possible to talk about cross-cultural study of social or cognitive behavior or cross-cultural developmental psychology. What is distinctive in such labels is the term ‘culture.’

Numerous definitions of culture have been proposed, sometimes summarized as ‘the man-made part of the environment’ (Herskovits, 1948). Usually the material aspects of culture, such as the built environment, as well as customs and behaviors (‘explicit culture’) are differentiated from culture as a symbolic meaning system. The latter refers to shared ideas and meanings, such as beliefs and values (‘implicit culture’) (Berry et al., 1992). An important characteristic of culture is its transmission through generations.

Culture is ubiquitous; therefore it is obvious that any human behavior is influenced by or is in response to some aspect of culture. However, the diffuse, all-inclusive nature of culture presents a problem in research. As a superordinate entity it can not serve as an independent variable or explanation (Segall, 1983), for such an explanation can turn into an empty tautology, such as ‘Indians are this way because of their culture.’ Therefore attempts have been made to define culture in less molar terms, that is ‘unpackaging’ it (Poortinga, Van de Vijver, Joe, & Van de Koppel, 1987; Whiting, 1976).

History and Present Status of Cross-Cultural Psychology

The roots of cross-cultural psychology are to be found in the nineteenth and early twentieth century European anthropology and sociology as well as psychology and evolution; philosophical antecendents go back even further. Accounts of this history can be found in a number of sources (e.g., Berry et al., 1992; Jahoda, 1990; Jahoda & Krewer, 1997; Segall, Dasen, Berry, & Poortinga, 1990). In different European countries different historical legacies are apparent. The beginnings of scientific psychology in Germany also contain the seeds of cultural psychology. For example the influential scholarly journal launched by Steinthal and Lazarus in 1860, Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie und Sprachwissenschaften, was devoted to the study of national or ‘folk’ psychology with an emphasis on language, customs, etc. Wundt, also, while on the one hand having founded the first experimental psychology laboratory in 1879, on the other hand was greatly interested in cultural and cross-cultural psychology, as demonstrated in his ten-volume Völkerpsychologie (1912-1921). Wundt tried to reveal the mental basis of cultural development, and there was a general interest at the time in understanding ‘primitive culture.’ Several German ethnographers studied drawings of ‘savages’ in South America and Africa.

In Britain, also, there was an interest in studying ‘primitive peoples,’ as in Germany, but much more influenced by the nineteenth century ‘cultural evolution’ offshoots of Darwinism, espoused by Spencer. Spencer resorted to biological mechanisms to account for the origins and development of psychological and social phenomena, and in particular formed parallels between the evolutionary process of development from simple to complex life forms and the development of societies from simple/primitive to complex/civilized. The Lamarckian concept of ‘the inheritance of acquired traits’ was used as the basis of such evolutionary progression. Similarly, nineteenth-century British ethnologists (Tyler, Morgan, Frazer) claimed stages of cultural evolution, stressing the lower levels of ‘evolutionary’ development of ‘savages.’ These views were well accepted even though they had no scientific basis but were derived from impressionistic accounts of travellers and missionaries. They seemed to provide ‘scientific’ justification for British colonialism.

The first scientific study of primitives’ visual perception was carried out by Rivers in the Cambridge expedition to the Torres Straits Islands (between Australia and New Guinea) in 1901. The focus on perception/sensation was mainly due to the popular assumption of the time, espoused by Spencer, that the excessive concentration of the primitive mind on sensory processes, such as better visual acuity than the Europeans, hinders the development of their higher mental processes. Yet, Rivers did not find the primitives’ visual sensation/perception to be better than the Europeans’ in any marked degree.

Contemporaneously with Wundt’ V ölker-psychologie, American anthropologist Boas published The Mind of Primitive Man (1911). What these two important figures, from different disciplinary backgrounds, shared was a belief that despite the great difference between the cultural performances of the ‘primitives’ and the ‘civilized’ peoples, their underlying intellectual/ cognitive processes are basically the same. This view, which was termed ‘psychic unity’ by Boas, challenged the dominant social evolutionary ideology of the time stressing the inferiority of the less-civilized peoples. The claim for the universality of thought processes, came under attack from the French scholar Levy-Bruhl in his Les Fonctions mentales dans les Societes Inferieures (1910). Unlike Boas, Levy-Bruhl did not carry out any fieldwork but relied on the impressionistic accounts of the day. He labelled primitive mentality ‘pre-logical,’ reflecting an evolutionary bias and claimed a qualitative difference between the prelogical mystical thinking and the Western logical thinking. Though Levy-Bruhl later on softened some of his earlier assertions, the general thrust of his arguments remained influential.

In fact, the nineteenth century Zeitgeist of the inferiority of the non-literate people continued to influence the thinking of psychologists and social thinkers well into the twentieth century. In particular, the tendency to see similarities between primitives’ thinking and children’ (and mental patients’) was rather common. It was reflected in the claim, first made by Tylor, that ‘Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny,’ forming an analogy between the development from childhood to adulthood and the development from ‘primitive’ to ‘civilized’ society. Known as the recapitulation theory, this view was held for example by well-known developmental psychologists in the United States, Stanley Hall and Werner in the 1940s and 1950s. Jahoda (1990) notes that ‘it was not until almost the middle of the twentieth century that the doctrine of the mental inferiority of people in non-literate culture ceased to be scientifically respectable’ (p. 33).

Thus the central controversy in early cross-cultural work has been whether there are fundamental differences in thinking across cultures that are critical to an understanding of human nature; or whether there are no fundamental differences in basic psychological processes, the differences being in content or performance. The former view, which emerged first but then lost popularity, has re-emerged recently in the relativistic perspective of ‘cultural psychology’ and ‘everyday cognition’ school, informed by Vygotskian thinking. In this new form, however, it does not involve an ethnocentric social evolutionist stance as before but stresses the context-specific nature of psychological processes, to be discussed later.

The study of sensation, perception, and subsequently cognition was conducted in pre-literate societies in Africa and Australia, by Western psychologists. These psychologists often worked in teams with anthropologists or utilized anthropological/ethnographic materials and data files. Quite a bit of research along these lines was conducted in the post World War II period. The research and thinking in cross-cultural psychology have therefore been closely influenced by anthropology, but not much by other social sciences such as sociology. Later work is marked by a great expansion in both topics covered, the national origins of the researchers and the locations where studies are done. Research has moved into diverse topical areas such as emotions, the self, interpersonal relations, developmental psychology, social psychology, and work and organizational psychology. In relative terms the study of basic processes, especially sensation—perception, decreased in number and importance. A continued interest in cognition is seen, however, including cognitive development, language, everyday cognition, and social cognition. As for the geographic expansion, on the one hand non-Western psychologists in growing numbers are getting involved in cultural and cross-cultural research; on the other hand, research is being conducted more in contemporary national societies, both Western and non-Western, and less in isolated pre-literate societies.

The 1970s mark the establishment of cross-cultural psychology both institutionally and as a distinct discipline. In 1971 a conference on mental testing with a cross-cultural perspective was held in Istanbul, organized by Cronbach and Drenth (1972). In 1973 the Annual Review of Psychology had a chapter on ‘psychology and culture’ for the first time. In 1972 the International Association for Cross Cultural Psychology (IACCP) was founded, with Jerome Bruner as the president, at a conference held in Hong Kong, organized by Dawson. From these beginnings this association has grown steadily with a membership of more than 700 from 71 different nations. There are also other associations ]involved in cross-cultural work of a general nature such as the Society for Cross-Cultural Research, International Association of Applied Psychology, or focused on subdisciplines, such as the International Society for the Study of Behavioral Development, or regional ones, such as the Inter-American Society and Asian Association of Social Psychology. Finally, the International Union of Psychological Science has a growing involvement in international psychology. These institutional structures provide supportive ground for cross-cultural research.

The great increase in publications in cross-cultural psychology, especially in the 1980s and 1990s may be even more impressive than organizational activities. Some journals are clearly cross-cultural in their mandate, such as Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Culture and Psychology, International Journal of Psychology, Cross-Cultural Research, International Journal of Behavioral Development, International Journal of Intercultural Relations, Psychology and Developing Societies, World Psychology, Applied Psychology: An International Review. Others emphasize an international, cross-cultural outlook. They attest to the internationalization of psychology and the growing importance of cultural, cross-cultural, and ethnic perspectives in research.

A six-volume Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology was published in 1980 under the general editorship of Triandis. In 1997 a completely revised three-volume second edition (general editor: Berry) set the stage for the field. Several authored and edited textbooks are now disseminating information to an increasing number of readers. A number of reviews have appeared in the Annual Review of Psychology since 1973 as well as topical reviews in some mainstream journals. Cross-cultural psychology has come of age by the end of the 1990s.

Theory and Method in Cross-Cultural Psychology

While the historical beginnings of cross-cultural psychology might have had understanding the primitive mind and the mental basis for culture as an impetus, the more recent development of the field has had different bases and goals. Foremost among these is a reaction to the culture-bound and culture-blind nature of mainstream psychology. Psychology has traditionally followed the physical science model, aspiring toward universals in human behavior. In practice, however, this has not involved studying human behavior universally (globally) but rather within one cultural context (the Western middle class) and generalizing from it to humanity. The limitation, even the invalidity, of this approach becomes more evident as we move from basic psychological processes that are biologically based to the study of topics such as self—other relations, social cognition, etc. which are more influenced by the cultural context. Thus the above-mentioned expansion in the research topics of cross-cultural psychology was to be expected.

Since any theory that claims universality needs to be subjected to cross-cultural testing, comparative analysis is of high priority in cross-cultural methodology. Thus a significant value of cross-cultural research is its possible contribution to the generalizability of research findings and therefore theory. The theoretical basis for a comparative methodology is ‘universalism,’ which holds that psychological processes are the same in all humans, though their manifestations in behavior may differ due to cultural factors. This view is also called the ‘etic’ approach in cross-cultural psychology. In contrast the ‘emic’ or the ‘cultural relativist’ approach claims that context gives meaning, thus human behavior is context specific and should be studied within culture, not comparatively. These contrasting theoretical perspectives are the contemporary parallels of the nineteenth—early twentieth century central controversy discussed above.

The research methodologies associated with these different paradigms show distinctive characteristics. Cultural, emic research, such as utilized in the study of ‘everyday’ cognition (e.g., Childs & Greenfield, 1980; Rogoff, 1990; Scribner & Cole, 1981; for a review see Schliemann, Carraher, & Ceci, 1997) tends to be based on observations within context and descriptive, qualitative analysis. It is akin to anthropological methodology. Cross-cultural, etic research often involves hypothesis testing with comparable samples of subjects, using standardized measures (often tests or inventories and sometimes experimentation), resulting in quantitative analyses. The methodological problems encountered in the two approaches tend to be different, also. In the former, main problems are generalizability and replicability (external validity) of the findings; in the latter, sampling, equivalence (comparability), and cultural validity issues come to the fore.

Beyond the above contrasting research goals, establishing generalization of theory versus analyzing context-based dynamics, cross-cultural research can also aim specifically to uncover cross-cultural differences again for theory testing. In this approach if the cultures are known or demonstrated to vary on some theoretically meaningful variable, such as individualism—collectivism, then this can serve as an ‘experimental’ manipulation whose effects on variations in some behavioral outcome can be studied.

All the methodological issues involved in psychological research with people also concern cross-cultural research, but there are also some additional ones which increase the challenge of conducting a cross-cultural study. First of all, the choice or sampling of cultures from which subjects are to be drawn should be theoretically informed, rather than being based on convenience. There is however, the additional problem of the sampling of subjects within each culture and particularly ensuring that they are comparable. For example the fact that the two samples are university students does not ensure matching in contexts as different as the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa. In the former tertiary enrollment reaches 70.4%, whereas in the latter it is as low as 2.1% (UNESCO, 1991, p. 94); thus the latter would be a much more select group. A related problem, especially in ethnic research, is the social class standing of the subjects which is often confounded by ethnicity. The differences attributed to ethnic variation may in fact be due to social class variations. For example, in a number of studies ethnic variations in parenting values are found to disappear when social class was controlled (Cashmore & Goodnow, 1986; Lambert, 1987).

Finally, equivalence of the measures and the ecological validity (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) of the testing situation present additional challenges. Equivalence has been studied extensively, and several types have been identified (see Berry et al., 1992; Poortinga, 1989; van de Vijver & Leung, 1997) where both conceptual and technical issues are involved. Basically, if some behavior is to be compared in different cultural contexts, its assessment has to have the same properties (including similar meanings and psychometric factor structures) in the two contexts. Furthermore, the testing (experimental, observational, etc.) situation should carry the same meaning in the two cultural contexts. For example, if some cognitive assessment technique is perceived by schooled subjects as an intelligence test on which they are motivated to do their best, while the same assessment technique is seen as a curious thing which does not make much sense by a group of non-schooled bushmen (and thus has no ecological validity), their behavioral outcomes are non-comparable.

What is called ‘culture-fair’ testing refers to this basic issue of comparability with a ‘universal’ standard. Several precautions such as back translations and similar administrative procedures are helpful but not sufficient for comparability. Refined conceptualization and operationalization of equivalence in measures is required. Specifically, it is important that data sets from different cultures have similar psychometric properties, as determined for example by the similarity of factor structures underlying measurement (structural equivalence). Similarly, the measurement itself should have scalar or metric equivalence across the groups (see van de Vijver & Leung, 1997).

Going beyond these statistical and psychometric methods promoting comparability, the research question asked and how it is studied, including the research design, are also of crucial importance in cross-cultural study. Often research collaboration with local researchers helps assure that the research methodology carries the same meaning (has ecological validity) in different cultural contexts.

Basic Psychological Processes in Cultural Context

Basic psychological processes such as sensation, perception, cognition, language, motivation, and emotion have been subject to cross-cultural inquiry. Most cross-cultural research in these areas aims to develop a better understanding of the nature and extent of universals in human functioning by uncovering similarities and differences across cultures. A century of cross-cultural research in basic processes is extensive, and extensive treatments of the area are available in the Resource References. Here only some selected topics will be summarized.

Culture and Perception

Of the several areas of study in sensation and perception in which cross-cultural work has been carried out, color perception/categorization and susceptibility to visual illusions have probably stimulated most research and debate.

Color perception/categorization, an area spanning sensation, perception, and cognition, has been a battleground of nativist and empiricist theoretical perspectives, stressing the universal/ biological and the experience factors, respectively. Experience in color perception has been stressed in terms of the Sapir—Whorf ‘linguistic relativity hypothesis’ proposing the mediation of language in color perception. From this perspective the existence of varying numbers of color names in different languages is interpreted to mean that color perception involves parallel variations, thus claiming the priority of (learned) language to perception. Berlin and Kay (1969) seriously challenged the linguistic relativity hypothesis in a study where they asked bilingual subjects from 20 different languages in the United States to generate basic color terms in their mother tongue. Then using the terms that the subjects generated themselves, they were asked to indicate on a panel with 329 differently colored chips from the Munsell system the best examples of each color. The results showed neat clusters of most typical, or focal, chips for basic colors showing similarity of foci for basic colors across languages.

Subsequent work by Rosch (1977) further questioned linguistic relativity hypothesis. She first showed that focal colors were named more rapidly and were recognized faster (i.e., had higher codability) than non-focal colors by subjects from 23 languages. Then she worked with the Dani, a tribe in New Guinea, who have only two color names, refering to white (light) and black (dark). She found that the Dani, also, recognized focal colors better than non-focal colors. Thus, even lacking a term for them in the language, focal colors are recognized clearly, implying the significance of the underlying universal physiological system in color perception.

More evidence for the role of physiological factors was provided by Bornstein (1973) who showed a correspondence between the wavelengths of the most basic focal colors obtained by Berlin and Kay (1969) and the spectral sensitivity of four types of cells found in the brains of macaque monkeys. In a further study with infants Bornstein, Kessen, and Weiskopf (1976), using habituation and dishabituation, demonstrated greater sensitivity and reaction to stimulus change which involved color category shift compared with the same amount of change in wavelength which did not involve a color category shift. Since infants have no language, any linguistic determination is not possible here.

Though there is no consensus, the weight of the evidence from early research seems to uphold the primacy of perception and neurophysiology, rather than language, in color perception. Current work on color perception is smaller in volume and involves mainly interpretations of the early research findings (Kay, Berlin, Maffi, & Merrifield, 1997) and new theoretical conceptualizations (e.g., the ‘vantage theory’ of MacLaury, 1992, and the evolutionary perspective of Shepard, 1992). For a current review see Russell, Deregowski, and Kinnear (1997).

Susceptibility to visual illusions (perceptions that involve a discrepancy between how an object looks and what it really is) has been another area where the empirical (experiential) and nativist (physiological) perspectives have been tested. Segall, Campbell, and Herskovits (1966) conducted a study with 14 Western and non-Western samples using several visual illusions such as the ‘Müller—Lyer’ and the ‘vertical—horizontal’ illusions. They hypothesized that visual illusions result from learned habits of inference from visual perception and thus should be subject to different environmental (ecological) influences. Specifically they reasoned that people living in modern ‘carpentered’ environments interpret perceived non-rectangular figures as rectangular, tend to perceive figures in perspective, as well as experiencing them as two-dimensional representation of three-dimensional objects. They indeed found greater susceptibility to visual illusions in the Western samples, supporting the ‘carpentered world hypothesis.’ However they also found a decrease in illusion susceptibility with age, whereas the experiential hypothesis would predict an increase in this tendency with increased environmental exposure. Other research on age trends brought up more ambiguous results.

Contrasting explanations were proposed in terms of race and physiological factors and focusing on contour detection. This ability was found to decrease with age (Pollack, 1963) and to increase with retinal pigmentation (Pollack & Silvar, 1967), the latter being related to skin color. However, Jahoda (1975) found no evidence for the retinal pigmentation hypothesis, and Stewart (1973), varying the environmental carpenteredness and keeping race constant, supported the environmental hypothesis. Though there is no consensus, the weight of evidence seems to provide support to the experiential perspective in susceptibility to visual illusions.

Other work in cross-cultural perception has involved picture perception in terms of the degree of depth perception (perspective) demonstrated in different cultural contexts, focusing especially on non-industrial groups in Africa (Hudson, 1960; Jahoda & McGurk, 1974). Cross-cultural work on perception has decreased in volume since the 1970s. However, alternative methods and more sophisticated apparatus especially for depth perception, has allowed different conceptualizations of perception in cultural contexts involving variations in environment and education. For example, picture perception is considered as a set of skills involving the use of relevant cues in a given situation (Deregowski, 1980). For a current review of cross-cultural perception and aesthetics see Russell et al. (1997).

Culture and Cognition

Cross-cultural work on cognition is extensive, being a popular research area from the very beginning and often combined with perception.

Categorization and Sorting

Above-mentioned work on color perception/ categorization (Bornstein et al., 1976; Rosch, 1977) pointed to perceptually salient color categories (focal colors) constituting natural prototypes. Such natural prototypes were also revealed in form perception/categorization in the sense that perfect squares, triangles, and circles (rather than irregular ones) (Rosch, 1977) and pure expressions of basic emotions (happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust) (Ekman, 1971) were found to be better recognized, regardless of culture and language. Color, form, and basic emotions may have a physiological and evolutionary basis and thus be categorized in similar ways universally. Other categorization, as demonstrated in research on sorting, shows a stronger effect of experience and therefore more cultural variation.

The common finding in Western research of a developmental shift in sorting from color to form to shared function to taxonomic categories is not found in studies conducted in non-Western cultures especially in Africa, where sorting by color is seen most frequently even in adults, followed by sorting by form and then by function, with almost no taxonomic sorting. The most plausable explanation of this finding is in terms of differences in formal education. Color being a salient perceptual category tends to be most readily used, unless the subject has had schooling which orients him/her to search for less obvious attributes (Evans & Segall, 1969; Greenfield, Reich, & Olver, 1966). Indeed when schooling is controlled, the observed cultural differences often disappear. Similarly, when familiarity with the testing situation and materials is controlled, differences again disappear (Okonji, 1971).

Thus, the variations seem to rest more in habits, or learned orientations, than in (innate) capacities. For example a well-known anecdotal account (related by Glick) showed that the Kpelle farmers kept making functional sorting of utensils and vegetables together (because a knife is used to cut a vegetable) and saying that this is the way a wise man would do the grouping. When asked how a fool would do it, they produced a perfect taxonomic sorting. The distinction between performance and capacity, first pointed out by Tolman in the 1930s, was further stressed by the cross-cultural research of the 1960s and 1970s and is currently well accepted (e.g., Mishra, Sinha, & Berry, 1996; Wassman & Dasen, 1994). It sets the contemporary outlooks in culture and cognition apart from the early claims of the inferiority of the ‘primitives,’ discussed earlier.


Cross-cultural research on memory has mainly attended to serial position effects in remembering lists of names, etc. and to recall of stories. In their work with the Kpelle people of Liberia, Cole and Scribner (1974) found no serial position effects (such as primacy and recency), and no clustering into semantic categories. These are mnemonics (tools for recall) commonly used by Western subjects. The positive effects of the use of more culturally meaningful materials and instructions were noted, thus methodological factors might have played a role in the results. (See also Roediger and Meade, Chapter 7 in this volume). However, the researchers also found positive effects of schooling on serial position effects and clustering. Wagner (1981) proposed a distinction between ‘hardware’ and ‘software’ of memory. The former, as seen in short-term memory capacity may be universal, whereas the latter, such as practice and the use of mnemonics in retrieval, are control processes based on learning (culture). Wagner’ research in Mexico and Morocco substantiated the hypothesis. Schooling emerges as an important factor, as it improves recall by teaching organizing principles which can serve as mnemonics in memory (Cole & Scribner, 1974). More recent work further substantiated the importance of schooling and cultural relevance in memory (for a review see Mishra, 1997).

Story recall is another topical area for the cross-cultural study of memory. Starting with Ross and Millsom’ work (1970) with Ghanaian and American subjects, oral cultural tradition has been seen as improving patterned story recall. However, Mandler, Scribner, Cole, and De Forest (1980) found few differences between Liberian and American adults and children and concluded that story recall is a universal process. What accounts for the obtained cross-cultural differences appears to be whether story content is culturally relevant (Harris, Schoen, & Hensley, 1992).

Problem Solving and Reasoning

Cross-cultural research has focused mainly on conditional (syllogistic) reasoning and mathematical problem solving. Luria’ work (1976) in Central Asia showed that illiterate subjects failed in deductive hypothetical reasoning tasks presented to them in the form of syllogisms. Literacy and involvement in collective farming made a difference in performance. In line with the sociohistorical school of thinking, influenced by Vygotsky, Luria claimed that schooling and more particularly literacy produced new cognitive processes, absent in their absence. Similar positive contributions of schooling to syllogistic thinking were also reported by Cole and Scrib-ner (1974) in Liberia and by Tulviste (1978) in Estonia (see Segall et al., 1990).

However, the interpretation of this evidence as the inability of unschooled subjects to do hypothetico-deductive reasoning, as claimed by Luria, is not widely accepted. Rather, what happens is a refusal on the part of the unschooled subject to accept at face value the information presented in a hypothetical premise which goes against his/her experiential knowledge. What apparently schooling brings is a new habit of accepting and addressing hypothetical statements (logical truths, as opposed to empirical truths) as used in question—answer format in the classroom. Again, performance—ability distinction and culturally familiar tasks become relevant issues. This is the case in both verbal reasoning and also in inferential reasoning as in the use of apparatus to solve mechanical problems (Scribner & Cole, 1981). Finally some recent work on deductive reasoning has focused on linguistic factors and has shown that, notwithstanding some generally held assumptions, hypothetical reasoning is not constrained by any linguistic features of non-Western languages (Politzer, 1991).

Everyday Cognition and Mathematical Problem Solving

Mathematical problem solving has been studied in everyday life situations as a part of the larger research tradition in ‘everyday cognition,’ informed by Vygotskian thinking. This tradition stresses contextual (emic) study of specific teaching and learning through ‘guided participation’ within the child’ ‘zone of proximal development,’ where in a master—apprentice relationship with an adult or someone more advanced, the child’ actual level of development is extended upward within the limits of his/her potential (e.g., Childs & Greenfield, 1980; Rogoff, 1990). Observational studies have been done in such everyday apprenticeship situations as weaving, tailoring, carpentery, cooking, practical mathematics of dart players, and street vendors in many societies (for a review see Schliemann et al., 1997). Researchers in this tradition stress the importance of learning as context-dependent, goal-directed and adaptive action, and in this sense consider school learning as no different from or superior to everyday learning.

This orientation has served as a corrective to the rather ethnocentric undermining of ‘indigenous’ cognitive competence of people in non-Western and especially pre-literate contexts, characteristic of the field since its beginnings. It has also helped expand our view of teaching, learning, and competence. However, if interpreted to mean that school learning is not important, it can feed into double standards such as formal schooling being necessary for children in Western/industrial society (because it is functional there), but not for children in preindustrial societies where parochial religious education or non-formal apprenticeships in handicrafts would do (Kagitcibasi, 1996a). School learning has greater generalizability to different situation, especially as required by more specialized work contexts in urban settings. With increasing urbanization and economic globalization, school-like cognitive habits, orientations, and skills are becoming ever more important to the development of competence. Furthermore, as research discussed above shows, schooling has a greater impact on cognitive processes such as memory, clustering, reasoning, concept formation, etc. than does any other single learning experience, including literacy (see Mishra, 1997; Scribner & Cole, 1981; Segall et al., 1990). What appears to be needed is to improve school quality. Research in India by Mishra has shown for example that cognitive performance of children from ‘good’ schools is better than that of children from ‘ordinary’ schools (see Mishra, 1997).

Cognitive Style

Cognitive style in cross-cultural psychology has focused on field dependence—independence (FI-FD) from an ecocultural framework (for a review see Berry, 1990). FI refers to greater psychological differentiation involving the tendency to be analytic and therefore less influenced by the larger field (perceptual ground), whereas FD refers to a more synthesizing orientation. In general studies have found that hunters and gatherers are more FI, compared with agriculturalists, and women are more FD than men. Western educated groups score higher on FI than non-Western and less-educated groups. Formal education, which emphasizes analytical skills, as well as child-rearing orientations involving independence, self-reliance training, and individualistic goals are implicated in the development of FI. A meta-analysis of 35 cross-cultural studies (Van Leeuwen) provided support to Berry’ ecocultural framework, particularly demonstrating that the sex difference is higher in high food accumulating (agricultural) societies with greater division of labor on the basis of sex, accompanying lower status assigned to women’ work and greater emphasis on compliance training for girls. Work on cognitive style has decreased in volume except for some recent research in India (see Mishra, 1997).

Culture and Emotion

Cross-cultural study of emotions has focused mainly on testing the generality of basic emotions. One type of evidence for the universality of basic emotions is based on the fact that most languages have emotion labels referring to the same commonly occurring emotions (Russell, 1991). Another type of evidence comes from cross-cultural recognition of facial expressions of emotions (Ekman, 1971). However, there is also evidence for cross-cultural variability in the recognition of some emotional expressions (Russell, 1994). While Western and non-Western literate samples were found to agree, isolated illiterate groups differed in their judgments, particularly of surprise and disgust.

An important theoretical distinction in the cross-cultural study of emotion is the potential for and the practice (expression) of emotions. In general, cross-cultural similarity (universality) is seen in the potential for different emotions, as well as in the antecedent conditions eliciting them (Mesquita, Frijda, & Scherer, 1997) though there can be culturally different meanings attributed to the same antecedent conditions which can lead to variations in emotional outcome. Emotional expression, however, should be more subject to cultural variation. Cultural norms about ‘display rules’ may differentially suppress, encourage, or channel the expression of emotions in specific social contexts.

Cultural differences in emotional experience and expression may be associated with emotion-related cognitive processes. For example variations in the frequency of positive or negative emotions may imply corresponding variations in the cognitive attributions regarding self-worth, etc. Thus, Americans report greater frequency of experiencing positive rather than negative affect, but no such difference is found among the Japanese (Markus & Kitayama, 1994). Moreover, the levels of both positive and negative emotion is found to be higher for Americans than for Japanese. Relevant cognitive strategies are likely to be correspondingly different. For example, Americans are found to have greater degree of self-serving bias than the Japanese who show more self-deprecating tendencies. Variations in individualism/collectivism and in norms of modesty may be relevant interpersonal dimensions mediating emotional experience and expression. Thus, ‘ego-focused’ emotions (such as anger, frustration, and pride) and ‘other-focused’ emotions (such as sympathy, shame, and feelings of interpersonal communion) are differentiated and found to be more characteristic of individualists and collectivists, respectively (Markus & Kitayama, 1991). The study of emotions in cultural contexts is not far advanced. More attention needs to be given to design and methodology issues and to studying emotions as processes rather than as stable states.

Human Development and the Family

Childrearing is goal oriented; though often not explicit, this goal is becoming a competent member of a society. Cognitive and social competence are conceived as positive developmental outcomes, however, their definitions may show both similarities and differences across cultures. A great deal of cross-cultural research has focused on studying human development within the cultural context. This has constituted a methodological/theoretical perspective that is quite different from the dominant mechanistic (e.g., behavioristic) and organismic (e.g., Piagetian) paradigms in mainstream developmental psychology.

Development of Competence

In the cross-cultural study of child socialization and the development of competence, comparisons are often made between the Western/ urbanized/industrial contexts and the traditional/ rural contexts. Theory testing has been an important impetus in such comparative work. In particular, the cross-cultural generality of Piagetian theory has been questioned by research results which show that while the ‘sensory-motor stage’ of cognitive development is a strong universal, the higher stages, especially ‘formal operations,’ may not be reached by adolescents, even adults in some preindustrial societies. Though methodological problems of comparability and equivalence and the competence—performance distinction, mentioned before, explain some of the results, this body of research has been important in pointing to the importance of cultural factors which were by and large ignored by Piagetian theory. Neo-Piagetian models combine a Piagetian qualitative-structuralist perspective (maintaining the stages of development) with functional frameworks which can take into account cultural factors (Berry et al., 1992; Dasen & Ribaupierre, 1987; Segall et al., 1990)

Quite a lot of teaching and learning of tasks in rural society is through observation and imitation, without elaborate verbal instruction or praise (LeVine, 1989; for a review see Kagitcibasi, 1996a). This is to be contrasted with the verbal, child development oriented teaching of the child in the (Western) educated/middle-class home. The developmental implications are important, particularly if almost all learning is observational. This is because such learning has limitations especially for transfer to new tasks and situations. The significance of schooling (and childrearing in general) which involves verbal instruction, abstraction, hypothetical reasoning, etc. becomes relevant here, as discussed above with regard to cognitive processes in different cultural contexts.

Cultural conceptions of competence are found to vary in line with cultural values and the demands of life styles. A study by Serpell (1977) in a Zambian village showed that the children chosen by the adults as ‘intelligent’ were not the ones who did best on intelligence tests, even though the tests used were designed by Serpell for use in Zambia. This finding shows that the psychologist’ and the villagers’ concept of intelligence are very different. In traditional, closely knit society, the intelligent child is socially responsible and attuned to others’ needs—this is the so-called ‘African social intelligence.’ Actually, it is not limited to Africa but is rather prevalent in most traditional collectivistic societies which value highly group well-being and interdependence rather than individual independence and self-reliance.

Harkness and Super (1992), within their framework of ‘developmental niche’ showed the divergent developmental results of different parental conceptualizations of cognitive competence (ethnotheories) and their reflections in parenting in Kenya (Kokwet) and the United States. While the Kokwet children were highly skilled in household chores and taking care of infants and animals (tasks in which the urban American children would fare poorly), they did poorly on a simple cognitive test involving retelling a story, with which American children had no difficulty. Clearly children’ cognitive competence in culturally valued domains gets promoted, whereas development in other domains lags behind. Thus learning and socialization are adaptive to environmental demands. A misfit may emerge, however, when stable functional relationships or adaptive mechanisms get challenged by modifications in lifestyles accompanying social-structural and economic changes such as seen in urbanization and migration. Mismatches with the school culture can be particularly problematic. Nunes (1993) found, for example, that immigrant Mexican parents in the United States believed, erroneously, that if their children are quiet and obedient, then they will succeed in school.

What seems to be needed for adjustment to schooling and modern lifestyles is an expansion of the concept of competence to include cognitive competence, in addition to social intelligence. Correspondingly, teaching and learning need to be more varied to include verbalization and reasoning (cognitive and language skills), in addition to observational learning and imitation. Applied research can help parents cultivate new orientations which can promote in children cognitive competence required for success in school and future specialized work in modern society.

Development of the Self

The antecedents of the study of self in cultural context go back to the ‘Culture and Personality’ school of the 1940s and 1950s. This work first involved intensive and holistic study of single cultures, and then a cross-cultural comparative approach was introduced, using the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) (e.g., Whiting & Child, 1953). HRAF are extensive ethnographic records on a great number of preindustrial societies, founded by Murdock at Yale University. The culture and personality school, which was later called ‘psychological anthropology’ was informed mainly by psychoanalytic theory, which turned out to be a limitation, both in terms of topics of study and methodology. Nevertheless this early work paved the way to later research, particularly in pointing to the importance of early childrearing and family patterns from a contextual/functional perspective.

Current work on culture and self focuses on cross-cultural variability in conceptions of the self. Since ‘self’ is a social product, in the sense that it emerges out of social interaction and is socially situated at any point in time, it can be expected to show cultural variation. In particular a ‘relational’ conceptualization of the self is a common finding in non-Western collectivistic societies, variously labeled ‘the we-self,’ ‘the group-self,’ ‘the familial self’ (in India and Japan), ‘the two-person matrix’ (in China), ‘social selfhood’ (in Africa), etc., in contrast to the individualistic selfhood of the west. Yet the west is no homogenous entity; similar distinctions have been made, for example, between the Northern European (Protestant) and the Mediterranean (Latin) concepts of the person.

Different self construals refer both to self perceptions and also to the perception of others. For example, Shweder and Bourne (1984) studied person concepts in India and the United States and found them to be more context-specific and relational (‘socio-centric’) in the former, where ‘units (persons) are believed to be necessarily altered by the relations they enter into’ (p. 110). Thus the American person descriptions involved more stable and abstract traits that have generality over situations, whereas the Indian descriptions reflected a more situational understanding of the changeable self. Relational concepts of self can also figure in attributions made about others’ behavior.

Miller (1984), again comparing American and Indians, asked her subjects to give reasons for other’ hypothetical behaviors. The results showed a preponderance of dispositional (person) attributions for Americans but situational (contextual) attributions for Indians. Apparently in more individualistic contexts persons are assumed to be the sole agents of their actions, thus the reasons for their behaviors are seen to be their own dispositions. In more collectivistic societies, however, relational concerns, such as others’ expectations, etc. tend to have a greater influence on people’ behavior, thus attributions regarding the causes of behavior reflect this. There are implications for moral reasoning, as well, in the sense that social responsibility in the form of beneficence is a key concept in morality for Indians but not for Americans who tend to see it as an imposition conflicting with individual freedom of choice (Miller, Bersoff, & Har-wood, 1990).

The Self and the Family

A common theme underlying the above discussion is the dependence—independence dimension (Kagitcibasi, 1990; Markus & Kitayama, 1991). In cultural contexts where interdependent human/family relations are common, ‘social intelligence’ is valued, as discussed above, and the development of the relational self is encouraged. This contrasts with the promotion of the separated individuated self in the context of human/family pattern of independence. Why is it that some socialization contexts reinforce independence while others reinforce interdependence? A functional/contextual perspective is required to answer this question and to make an attempt to reveal some systematic patterns underlying the apparent complexity of the intricate relations between the self and the family in diverse socio-cultural settings.

Kagitcibasi (1990, 1996a) has proposed a model of family change which differentiates three ideal-typical patterns of self/family dynamics in different socio-economic contexts. In the rural-traditional context with low levels of affluence and a ‘culture of relatedness’ (collectivism) the family is a system of interdependent relations, particularly between generations, through the family life cycle. Children are socialized into interdependence and loyalty to the family, since their future material support is crucial for family livelihood. Independence and autonomy in childrearing is not functional in this context. In contrast is the Western (American) middle-class family of independence where autonomy and independence training are stressed in childrearing. The model proposes that with urbanization and industrialization in collectivistic societies there is not a simple shift from the former to the latter model, as assumed by the modernization paradigm, but rather a third model emerges which synthesizes some elements of each. This is the human/family pattern of relationships characterized by independence in the material realm but interdependence in the emotional realm. Thus the resultant self is a relational-autonomous self (Kagitcibasi, 1996b). The model seems to reflect some of the complexities observed in diverse self and family patterns (e.g., LeVine, 1989; for a review see Kagitcibasi, 1996a) but needs to be substantiated by more research.

Within an individualism—collectivism framework, Markus and Kitayama (1991) proposed a similar distinction between the ‘independent’ and the ‘interdependent’ self construal and examined its consequents, particularly its implications for cognition, emotion, and motivation. This distinction has also been integrated with horizontal (egalitarian) and vertical (hierarchical) human relations and with communication styles (Singelis, Triandis, Bhawuk, & Gelfand, 1995). Beyond variations in self construals, diverse behavioral implications of individualism—collectivism have also been the topic of much research to which we now turn.

Social Behavior across Cultures

Cross-cultural social psychological research has been most concerned about the rather culture-blind manner in which mainstream social psychology constructs theories and assumes generalities based on research with narrow samples of subjects (mostly American university students). For example, systematic programs of replication by Amir and Sharon (1987) in Israel and by Rodrigues (1982) in Brazil demonstrated the rather severe limits in the replicability of some well-known social psychological experiments. There is a need to develop a better understanding of the reasons for the cross-cultural variability that is implied by these failures of replication. Some of the theorizing in cross-cultural social psychology has endeavoured to do this.

Individualism—collectivism has served as a tool for understanding and interpreting cross-cultural variability in social behavior. It may be seen as the main paradigm for social psychological research across cultures, particularly since the early 1980s. These constructs have their antecedents in Tonnies’ (1957) Gesellschaft and Gemeinschaft and were introduced into cross-cultural psychology by Hofstede’ (1980)Culture’ Consequences, to be followed by much research and theorizing, especially promoted by Triandis (for reviews see Kagitcibasi, 1997; Kim, Triandis, Kagitcibasi, Choi, & Yoon, 1994; Triandis, 1995). As a paradigm, individualism/collectivism seems to have replaced to some extent the ecocultural framework (Berry, 1990; Berry et al., 1992; Segall et al., 1990) in social psychological research. This is because, as discussed before, while earlier work on sensation, perception, cognition, and cognitive style was conducted among preindustrial groups, more directly influenced by the ecology (e.g., hunting-gathering vs. agriculture), more recent social psychological research is conducted more with similar, mainly urban, groups (e.g., students) in contemporary societies. Nevertheless, these societies often differ on cultural norms and values, particularly those arranging interpersonal relations, thus this dimension can serve as a theoretical basis for the selection of the societies in comparative research.

Conformity and Behavior in Groups

Given the variations in individualism/collectivism, as well as the related factors of socialization for independence/interdependence or loose/tight social networks in different societies, corresponding variations in social influence and conformity may be predicted. The Asch (1951) experiment (conformity to group pressure on a visual discrimination task) is the most widely replicated social psychological study in many cultures. Smith and Bond (1993) note that given the variations in subjects and procedures used in these replications, it is difficult to arrive at clear-cut results. Nevertheless, it is found in general that more conformity is obtained in collectivistic cultures and with non-student subjects (university students tend to be more individualistic than the general population in any culture). The collectivists not only engage in more compliant, conforming behavior, but they also value conformity, as demonstrated by a number of studies in non-Western countries (reviewed by Matsumoto, 1996, pp. 175-177).

However, such behavior is shown and valued not indiscriminately but mainly with ‘in-groups,’ i.e., groups that are important for the individual, such as the family. An earlier finding by Frager (1970) of less conformity among Japanese students (compared with the original American finding) was seen as an anomaly. However, it can be explained in terms of the fact that in Frager’ study the student subjects did not know each other, thus the others constituted an ‘out-group,’ whereas in collectivistic societies conformity occurs to one’ ‘in-group.’ In fact an important variation in self—other relations among individualistic and collectivistic people is seen in how differently they treat the in-group and the out-group—this difference is greater for the collectivists.

The significance of the group is reflected in studies of social loafing,2 also. Studies conducted with a variety of subjects such as children, students, and managers in the US, China, Taiwan, and Japan found less social loafing in the East Asian contexts and in fact an even greater amount of effort in the group situation (reviewed by Smith & Bond, 1993, pp. 15-16). Indeed, when acceptance by the group and group goals are important for the individual, social loafing is not seen. Strong identification with and valuing the group can also have motivational outcomes. Specifically, studies show a socially-oriented, rather than an individually-oriented achievement motivation among collectivists (e.g., Phalet & Claeys, 1993; Yu & Yang, 1994). The distinctive characteristic of the socially-oriented achievement motivation is that it integrates the need for achievement with the need for extension (extending to others). Thus, when the individual achieves, both s/he and his/ her group are exalted, as contrasted with the individual-oriented achievement motivation which is focused on the individual alone.

Regarding distributive justice and conflict resolution, also, meaningful differences between groups in individualistic and collectivistic societies are obtained, with equity being preferred in the former and equality in the latter (e.g., Leung & Bond, 1984). This is explained in terms of the dominant goals. The greater salience of group harmony among collectivists orients them toward equality; when the goal is defined as productivity, however, they adopt an equity orientation, also (Leung & Park, 1986). Need norm3 is also found to be more common among collectivists (Berman, Murphy-Berman, & Singh, 1985). Greater group-orientedness in collectivistic cultures is also apparent from their greater tendency toward conflict avoidance and non-adversarial conflict resolution, believed to be most likely to reduce animosity (Leung, 1987).

A great deal of research points to higher competitive tendencies among individualists than among collectivists (e.g., Domino, 1992). This may be related to the socially-oriented achievement motivation, mentioned before, and is for example found to be reflected in Chinese popular sayings (Ho & Chiu, 1994). Finally, the tendency to perceive consensus in group (‘false consensus effect’) is also found to relate to collectivism (Yamaguchi, 1994).

Social Cognition in Cultural Context

Shweder and Bourne (1984) in their study of person-perception, mentioned before, found more relational and contextualized perceptions of the person among Indians, contrasted with more abstract/trait conceptualizations among Americans. Similar results were also obtained with self-perceptions (Cousins, 1989), contrasting Japanese with Americans.

Attribution shows parallel cross-cultural variation. Miller (1984), in her study mentioned before, demonstrated that the so-called ‘fundamental attribution error’ (making dispositional attributions for others’ behavior) is not so fundamental, after all, as she found it to be more common among Americans than among Indians. More individualistic (independent) or collectivistic (interdependent) construals of the person and interpersonal relations apparently influence social cognition.

A great deal of research finds more self-serving bias among individualists than among collectivists (reviewed by Markus & Kitayama, 1991). A factor explaining the difference is the value of modesty, prevalent in East Asian societies, where humble and even self-effacing attributions for success are seen, while self-enhancement is found to be a common tendency among Americans, also expressed in ‘false uniqueness’ (seeing oneself better than the average). Another factor accounting for little self-serving bias may be a low degree of ‘self-focusing,’ as found in a study by Stipek, Weiner, and Li (1989) comparing the recollections of Chinese and American subjects. Such findings have implications for self-esteem, also; a ‘collective self-esteem’ might be more characteristic of collectivists than an individual self-esteem (Crocker & Luhtanen, 1990; for a comprehensive review of culture and cognition see Semin & Zwier, 1997).


Values have been studied extensively in cross-cultural social psychology, both at the individual and the cultural level of analysis. The latter type of analysis has typically involved comparative study of a large number of nations. Hofstede’ (1980) seminal work with IBM employees (117,000 respondents) in 50 countries and three regions has defined the agenda for this type of research. The resultant four value dimensions, ‘power distance’ (referring to hierarchy in interpersonal relations), ‘individualism—collectivism,’ ‘masculinity—femininity’ (referring to the contrast in valuing assertiveness, achievement, etc. versus relationships and harmony), and ‘uncertainty avoidance’ (need for rules and certainty) are used to rank, order, and compare nations. Of these, individualism—collectivism has stimulated the most theory and research, as mentioned above. Several instruments measuring individualism—collectivism have been developed by other researchers and used extensively across cultures. Most of these also treat individualism and collectivism as values. Kagitcibasi (1997) has proposed that this is ‘normative individualism/collectivism,’ to be differentiated from ‘relational individualism/ collectivism.’ While the former refers to values held by a group or society, the latter refers to interpersonal relations, interpersonal distance, and the independence/interdependence of the self, as discussed previously.

In contrast to Hofstede’ Western-origin value survey, Bond (Chinese Culture Connection, 1987) developed an instrument based on Chinese values. In a study conducted in 23 nations with university students, value factors corresponding to three of the four Hofstede value dimensions, power distance, individualism—collectivism, and masculinity—femininity, were obtained. A fourth factor, ‘Confucian work dynamism’ emerged as an East Asian emic.

A further large-scale study of values was carried out by Schwartz (1992) and many collaborators in 25 countries with nearly 60 samples. He used as a starting point the Rokeach Value Survey, from which he developed a new theory and methodology (smallest space analysis). At the individual level of analysis, single values were grouped into 10 value types according to their common goals: power, achievement, hedonism, stimulation, self-direction, universal-ism, benevolence, tradition, conformity, and security. Further work, with collaborators in 54 countries, has gathered data from about 44,000 respondents (teachers and university students in 121 samples). The 10 value types are found to be organized into two bipolar dimensions, ‘openness to change’ versus ‘conservation’ and ‘self-transcendence’ versus ‘self-enhancement.’ The culture level analysis of Schwartz (1994) has brought forth three further dimensions: ‘conservatism versus autonomy,’ ‘hierarchy versus egalitarianism,’ and ‘mastery versus harmony.’

Another multi-nation value survey was conducted by Trompenaars (1985), who drew upon sociological literature and like Hofstede focused on business organizations (15,000 employees in over 50 countries). Further work by Smith, Dugan, and Trompenaars (1996) using a multidimensional scaling analysis derived two main dimensions, ‘conservatism/egalitarian commitment’ and ‘loyal involvement/authoritarian involvement.’

Work on value types and dimensions is continuing using all the different approaches mentioned above and in particular searching for parallels between national values and other national characteristics (for a review see Smith & Schwartz, 1997). A word of caution is in order here; explaining national differences, as for example in the status of women, the extent of foreign aid, domestic political violence, etc., in terms of national values, as has been attempted by some researchers, may involve confusing association (correlation) with causation, as well as psychological reductionism and undermining the importance of social structural economic factors.

Industrial Organizational Psychology as Applied Cross-Cultural Psychology

Cross-cultural psychology is progressively more relevant for and involved in applications, in line with the current globalization of psychology. This is because, particularly as we move from theory to applications, the limits of generalization from single-culture work become more obvious. Several areas emerge as important for both research and applications. These include, among others, organizational behavior; health behavior; literacy and education; sex and gender; aggression, crime and war; intercultural communication and intergroup relations; and migration/acculturation. Space limitations preclude any extensive discussion of applied cross-cultural psychology, therefore cross-cultural industrial/organizational psychology will be briefly taken up as an example. The reader is advised to consult the third volume of the Handbook of Cross-Cultural Psychology (Berry, Segall, & Kagitcibasi, 1997) and other Resource References listed below for coverage of the other areas.

In the forefront of applied cross-cultural psychology is industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology. A reason for the advance of cross-cultural I/O may be the economic growth of the Pacific Rim (with collectivistic cultures) and the challenge this presents to the assumed correspondance of individualism and economic development. One approach has considered culture as external to the organization, influencing it, while another approach has looked at culture as internal to the organization, organizational culture paralleling national culture. A comparative line of research has examined cultural variation in organizational structure (Lammers & Hickson, 1979) proposing three types of organization: ‘Latin,’ ‘Anglosaxon,’ and ‘Third World.’ The first is characterized by centralization and hierarchy (classic bureaucracy); the second is more flexible with less centralization and hierarchy; and the third has paternalistic leadership and little formalization of rules (traditional).

It is possible to integrate Lammers and Hickson’ typology with Hofstede’ value orientations (above), where Hofstede’ power reflecting distance index reflects organizational hierarchy and his uncertainty avoidance index reflects rule orientation. A fourfold typology then emerges: (1) small power distance, weak uncertainty avoidance (or weak rule orientation): Anglo (the USA, Canada, UK, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, etc.); (2) large power distance, strong uncertainty avoidance: bureaucratic (Latin) (France, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Italy, Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, etc.); (3) weak uncertainty avoidance, large power distance: traditional (Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Philippines, Indonesia, etc.); and (4) small power distance, strong uncertainty avoidance (or high rule orientation): Germanic (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Israel, and Finland) (Hofstede, 1983). Such typologies are substantiated by some research. However, critics question the stability of the diversity assumed by typologies and claim that similar technological requirements may override cultural factors and lead to convergence. Others (e.g., Drenth & Groenendijk, 1984) claim that technological factors influence how organizations are structured, but cultural factors affect how they function.

The study of how organizations function has focused on managerial behavior and leadership styles. Two behavioral styles have emerged in leadership research deriving from sociological and social psychological perspectives over a long period of time, which are called summarily ‘concern for people’ and ‘concern for production.’ These orientations have often been assumed to be contradictory. Research from India and Japan has provided new insights. J. B. P. Sinha (1980) proposed the concept of ‘nurturant task leader’ as the most effective leadership style in India where low levels of work motivation implicate a task orientation and collectivistic tendencies implicate a nurturant (concern for people) orientation for effective leadership. Similarly, in a research program Misumi (1985) proposed that the performance (P) and maintenance (M) functions are interdependent and when both high, lead to the highest leadership effectiveness.

These perspectives show that especially in cultures with ‘relational collectivism’ (Kagitcibasi, 1997) group maintenance (socio-emotional) needs can not be ignored. This may turn out to be a universal, as claimed by Misumi and shown in research by Smith and Peterson (1988). What seems to vary is what specific behaviors are seen to constitute a considerate tendency (for example a supervisor talking about a subordinate’ personal problems seen as caring in a collectivistic context but as breaching his privacy in an individualistic context).

Diversity in the meaning of work and work centrality has emerged in comparative research, such as the Meaning of Work Project conducted with large samples in eight countries (MOW, 1987). A rather unexpected finding was higher centrality of work in the more recently industrialized countries such as Japan and (former) Yugoslavia, with lowest scores in Britain and then Germany which were industrialized first. The rise of postmodern values in Europe, replacing capitalistic values, may be a factor here.


This chapter has endeavored the challenging task of presenting an overview of cross-cultural psychology. Though attempting to cover the main lines of influence, research, and theory, the chapter has also been necessarily selective at times, since this is a burgeoning field of inquiry, spanning an increasingly expanding scope. The examination of the historical development of the field and its main theoretical and methodological perspectives provides a better understanding of its present status. In particular, it is important to note again that cross-cultural psychology does not refer to a content area, such as social behavior, but is rather a culture-sensitive and often comparative study of human psychological phenomena. As we move from basic psychological processes, such as sensation and perception, to social behavior, the relative impact of culture increases. Thus there is a progressively increasing volume of research in such topical areas as the self, interpersonal relations, and organizational behavior across cultures. However, research in basic processes is continuing, also, focusing mainly on cognition. Whatever the topical area of inquiry, cross-cultural research promises to expand the range of variability in the behavior studied and to provide better ground for theory testing, which in turn contribute to scientific progress in psychology.