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Cultural psychology is the study of how psychological and behavioral tendencies are rooted in and embodied in culture. The main tenet of cultural psychology is that mind and culture are inseparable and mutually constitutive, meaning that people are shaped by their culture and their culture is also shaped by them. As Richard Shweder, one of the major proponents of the field, writes, "Cultural psychology is the study of the way cultural traditions and social practices regulate, express, and transform the human psyche, resulting less in psychic unity for humankind than in ethnic divergences in mind, self, and emotion."
Cultural psychology is often confused with cross-cultural psychology. However, cultural psychology is distinct from cross-cultural psychology in that the cross-cultural psychologists generally use culture as a means of testing the universality of psychological processes rather than determining how local cultural practices shape psychological processes. So whereas a cross-cultural psychologist might ask whether Jean Piaget's stages of development are universal across a variety of cultures, a cultural psychologist would be interested in how the social practices of a particular set of cultures shape the development of cognitive processes in different ways.
Cultural psychology research informs several fields within psychology, including social psychology, cultural-historical psychology, developmental psychology, and cognitive psychology. However, the relativist perspective of cultural psychology, through which cultural psychologists compare thought patterns and behaviors within and across cultures, tends to clash with the universal perspectives common in most fields in psychology, which seek to qualify fundamental psychological truths that are consistent across all of humanity.
According to Richard Shweder, there has been repeated failure to replicate Western psychology laboratory findings in non-Western settings. Therefore, a major goal of cultural psychology is to have many and varied cultures contribute to basic psychological theories in order to correct these theories so that they become more relevant to the predictions, descriptions, and explanations of all human behaviors, not just Western ones. This goal is shared by many of the scholars who promote the indigenous psychology approach. In an attempt to show the interrelated interests of cultural and indigenous psychology, cultural psychologist Pradeep Chakkarath emphasizes that international mainstream psychology, as it has been exported to most regions of the world by the so-called West, is only one among many indigenous psychologies and therefore may not have enough intercultural expertise to claim, as it frequently does, that its theories have universal validity.
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