Distance Learning

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Cultural Psychology

Syllabus for pre-PhD Distance learning course on Psychology


Sona Manusyan, Ph.D, Associate Professor,
Yerevan State University, Distance Learning Laboratory

1. Course module description
The course module aims to explore current theories and research advances on the relationship of personality, culture and ethnicity. This course module will introduce students to the perspective and methodology of cultural psychology. Cultural psychology, the relatively new direction in psychology, has emerged at the intersection of developmental and social psychologies, cross-cultural studies, anthropology, education, and sociology to provide culturally-informed psychological insights into the behavior of human individuals and groups in current context of globalization, multiculturalism, and increased intercultural communication - on the one hand, and need for preservation of cultural identities and local singularities – on the other. Thus the coursen module aims to develop students’ understanding in various issues of cultural constitution of individual and group psychological phenomena. The course module is designed as a build-up to students’ knowledge in main fields of psychology. 

Topics covered in this course module include theoretical and methodological grounds of the discipline, theories of self/personality and culture, research and measurement of personality across cultures, cultural universals and variability in human behavior and basic cognitive and emotional processes. Upon completion of this course module, the students are expected (a) to know the main theoretical/methodological approaches, concepts, (b) the key areas of research and application of contemporary cultural psychology, (c) be able to display enriched knowledge of fundamental psychological issues through added evidence from cultural and intercultural perspectives, (d) demonstrate sufficient ability to develop research ideas and respective research design independently, as well as (e) increased intercultural competence.

The proposed course module will have particular focus in (a) understanding self and personality in different social and cultural contexts, understanding the interplay between personality and culture within globalization and increased intercultural communication, (b) providing some insight into the ways in which culture may influence psychological processes, (c) empirical methods used in the disciplines of cultural psychology and cross-cultural psychology, and (d) achieving a more profound and non-judgmental understanding of cultural groups throughout the world.

2. Objectives of the course module
- To familiarize students with the theory, key concepts and main areas of cultural psychology.

- To familiarize students with the research methodology and classical research questions in cultural psychology and interrelated disciplines.
- To introduce the state-of-the art of cultural psychology both in research and in application.
- To incorporate the knowledge of cultural psychology into students' general psychological training for their better understanding of personality, self and behavior.
- To analyze different cultural perspectives as they determine the mental (cognitive) processes, the emotional sphere and communication of human individuals and groups.
- To contribute to the students' increased intercultural competence through exploring shared and differing cultural patterns underlying psychological phenomena.

3. Assessment
The assessment of the distance-learning course will be based on students’ written work. The students will score their final grades from:

  • Weekly written essays – 60%
  • Final essay-40%

4. Course module program

Class 1 Introduction to Cultural psychology: scope, areas, and objectives of the discipline
- Introduction into the main concepts, categories and research interests in the discipline.
- Main ideas on cultural universals and variations of human psyche.
- Theoretical and methodological origins of cultural psychology.
- Main areas of research and application of contemporary cultural psychology.
- The significance and implications of cultural psychology for academy, policy areas and everyday life.

- Adamopoulous, J., Lonner, W.J. (1994). Absolutism, Relativism and universalism in the study of human behavior. In: W.J. Lonner & R. Malpass (eds) Psychology and Culture. Boston.
- Berry, J. W., Poortinga, Y. H., Segall, M. H., & Dasen, P. R. (2002). Cross-cultural psychology: Research and Applications (2nd ed.). Cambridge, UK:     Cambridge University Press.
- Bruner, Jerome (1990). Acts of meaning.
- Eysenck, M. W. (2004). Psychology: An international perspective. New York.
- Hall L. E. (2005). Dictionary Of Multicultural Psychology: Issues, Terms, And Concepts. Thousand Oaks, California, Sage. 
- Heine S.J. and Ruby M.B. (2010). Cultural psychology in: Advanced review.Vol.1, March/April.
- Heine, S. J. (2008). Cultural Psychology. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
- Matsumoto, D. (Ed.). (2001). The Handbook of Culture and Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Matsumoto, D., & Juang, L. (2008). Culture & Psychology (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
- Michael Cole (1996). Cultural psychology. Harvard Press.
- Miller J.(1999). Cultural psychology. Psychological Science, vol 10, 85-91.
-  Norenzayan A. and Heine S.J., Psychological Universals: What Are They and How Can We Know? Psychological Bulletin, 2005, Vol. 131, No. 5, 763–784.

Assignment 1: Please, answer the following questions (up to 5 pages in sum):

- Based on your reading, how would you distinguish disciplines of cultural psychology and cross-cultural psychology from the point of view of research objectives and areas?

- How does cultural psychology differ from other disciplines studying cultural phenomena?
- How would you link cultural psychology to personality psychology and social psychology? What are the main intersections, joint research questions?
- What are the practical objectives of cultural psychology? How have these objectives evolved from early periods of the discipline to this day?

Class 2 Methods and measurement in cultural psychology
- Focus on research methodology and distinct empirical methods applied in cultural-psychological research.
- Introduction of the key research directions and questions topical for today’s cultural psychology.
- Methodological preferences in the area: qualitative and quantitative approaches.
- Some methodological issues of cross-cultural comparisons.

- Creswell, J. W. (2007). Qualitative inquiry & research design:  Choosing among five approaches, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Greenfield, P. M. (1997). Culture as process: Empirical methods for cultural psychology. In J. W. Berry, Y. H. Poortinga, & J. Pandey (Eds.), Handbook of cross-cultural psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 301-346). Boston:Allyn & Bacon.
- Heine S.J., Lehman D.R., Peng K (2002). What’s Wrong With Cross-Cultural Comparisons of Subjective Likert Scales?: The Reference-Group Effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Inc. Vol. 82, No. 6, 903–918.
- Hui, C.H., Triandis, H.C. Measurement in cross-cultural psychology. A review and comparison of strategies.
- Lyons, E., & Coyle, A. (Eds.). (2007). Analysing qualitative data in psychology. Thousand Oaks, Sage.
-  Ratner, C., Hui, L.( 2003). Theoretical and Methodological Problems in Cross-Cultural Psychology. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, Vol. 33, pp. 67-94.
-  Shweder, R. A. (1990). Cultural psychology: What is it? In J. W. Stigler, R. A. Shweder, & G. Herdt (Eds.), Cultural psychology: Essays on comparative human development (pp. 1-43).
-  Smith, J.A. (ed.). (2008). Qualitative psychology: practical guide to research methods (2nd ed.) Sage.
-  Vijver, van de FJ, Leung, K. Personality in cultural context: methodological issues.

Assignment 2: Please, answer the following questions/provide examples (up to 5 pages in sum):

- Please, give a typical example of a problem in cultural psychology that needs to be studied with qualitative methodology, and 2. another example that requires quantitative measures. Substantiate your choice, as well as briefly describe your research designs and the tools you would use respectively.

- What are the main quantitative/survey methods used in the field of cultural and cross-cultural psychology? How (if) do they differ from methods used in other fields of psychology?

Class 3 Culture and basic psychological processes
- Culture and cognition: Cultural universals & variations in cognitive processes, in particular – perception and thinking.
- Cultural factors underlying social cognition/perception in intra-cultural and intercultural situations.
- Recent research findings and differing views on the role of cultural factor for cognitive processes.
- Culture & Emotions: Differences and pancultural elements in humans’ emotional sphere.
- Culture and emotional expression.
- The language of emotional expression/display and non-verbal behavior across cultures.
- Culture and emotion recognition.
- Culture and emotional experience.
- Differing emotionally significant agents across cultures.
- Culture and appraisal/judgment of emotions. 

- Ambady, N., Koo, J., Lee, F., & Rosenthal, R. (1996). More than words: Universals of linguistic and nonlinguistic communication of politeness in two cultures. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 70(5), 996-1101.
- Berry, John W; Dasen, Pierre R; Saraswathi, T.S. (Editors) (1997), Handbook of Cross-cultural Psychology, Vol 2: Basic processes and human development (2nd ed.), Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 
- Ekman, P., Sorenson, E. R., & Friesen, W. V. (1969). Pancultural elements in facial displays of emotion. Science, 164(3875), 86-88.
- Heine S.J. and Ruby M.B., Cultural psychology in: Advanced review 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Volume 1, March/April 2010.
- Henrich J., Heine S.J., Norenzayan A. Most people are not weird. In: Opinion, Vol. 466/1 July 2010.
- Kitayama, S. (2002). "Culture and basic psychological processes--Toward a system view of culture: Comment on Oyserman et al. (2002).". Psychological Bulletin 128 (1): 89–96.
- Matsumoto, D. Culture and Nonverbal Behavior, in: Manusov, V., & Patterson, M. (eds.). Handbook of nonverbal communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Matsumoto, D., & Juang, L. (2008). Culture & Psychology (4th ed.). Belmont, CA.
- Matsumoto, D., Kupperbush C. (2001) Idiocentric and Allocentric differences in emotional expression, experience, and the coherence between expression and experience. Asian Journal of Social Psychology. (2001) 4: 113-131.
- Matsumoto, D., LeRoux, J. et al. (2000). A new test to measure emotion recognition ability. Matsumoto and Ekman's Japanese and Caucasian brief affect recognition, Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 24(3), Fall. 
- Shore, B. (1996). Culture in mind: Cognition, culture and the problem of meaning. New York: Oxford University PressNisbett, R.E.; Peng, K.; Choi, I.; Norenzayan, A. (2001). "Culture and systems of thought: Holistic vs. analytic cognition". Psychological Review 108 (2): 291–310.

Assignment 3: Please, answer the following questions/provide examples (up to 5 pages in sum):

- In your opinion, what do researchers imply by saying that color perception and signification differ across cultures and societies? Please provide short examples.

- What are the social-psychological factors counting for prejudiced intergroup/intercultural perception? How is the phenomenon of self-serving bias related to this question?
- How do cultures differ in social control over emotional expression? Please provide research evidence.
- Based on your reading, which emotions are the most explored and elaborated in cultural research? What do you think counts for such focus in research?

Class 4 Culture & Self
- Self-concept and identity across cultures.
- Universal and culturally-influenced patterns of formation and manifestation of social vs. personal identities. 
- Individual vs. collective self.
- Self & culture.  
- Multicultural identities.
- Identity questions in the context of globalization, social/cultural transformations and cultural resistance.

- Campbell J.D., Trapnell P.D. et al. Self-Concept clarity: measurement, personality correlates, and cultural boundaries. in: Journal of personality and social psychology, 1996, Vol. 70, No. 1, 141-156.
- Chiao, J. Harada, T., Komeda, H., et al. (2010). Dynamic cultural influences on neural representations of the self. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 22, 1-11. 
- Culture Influences Brain Cells: Brain's Mirror Neurons Swayed By Ethnicity And Culture
- Heine S. (2001). Self as cultural construct: an examination of East Asian and North American selves. Journal of Personality, 69/6, Dec.
- Heine S.J. Positive Self-views: understanding universals and variability across cultures. Journal of Cultural and Evolutionary Psychology, 2 (2004)1-2, 109-122.
- Heine S.J., Takata T. Beyond Self-Presentation: Evidence for Self-Criticism Among Japanese.
- Heine, S. J. (2008). Cultural psychology. New York: Norton. (chapt.5).
- Heine, S.J., Takemoto, T., Moskalenko, S., Lasaleta, J., & Henrich, J. (2008). Mirrors in the head: Cultural variation in objective self-awareness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34.
- Matsumoto, D., & Juang, L. (2008). Culture & Psychology (4th ed.). Belmont, CA.
- Triandis, H. C. (1989). "The self and social behavior in differing cultural contexts". Psychological Review 96: 506–520.
- Vohs, K.D., Heatherton, T.F. (2001). Self-esteem and threats to self: Implications for self-construals and interpersonal perceptions. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1103-1118.

Assignment 4: Please, answer the following questions/provide examples (up to 5 pages in sum):

Please use your knowledge from the readings on self and identity in cultural contexts to describe the main challenges for the cultural identity of immigrants.
- What does recent research in cultural psychology suggest about cultural differences in self-esteem?
- How are personal and cultural selves interconnected in personality?
- How does self-concept influence individual and group behavior?

Class 5 Personality and Culture
-  Personality in psychology.
-  Cultural types and personality: early research, classical concepts and current advances.
-  The cultural dimensions of personality.
-  Individualism-collectivism, value systems and orientations of personality across cultures.
-  Dispositional personality traits, characteristic adaptations, and life narratives considered within cultural contexts.
-  Personality contructs and models within cultures.
-  Cross-cultural studies of personality, personality measurement.
-  Methodological issues of relevance and comparability of personality measurement data for different cultures.
-  Integrative, culturally-informed approaches to personality.

- Barnouw, V. Culture and Personality, The Dorsey Press, Inc.
- Church A. T. Current Perspectives in the Study of Personality Across Cultures. Perspectives on Psychological Science, July 1, 2010 5: 441-449
- Goncalo J.A. Staw B.M (2006). Individualism–collectivism and group creativity. In: Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 100 (2006) 96–109, available online at: www.sciencedirect.com
- Heine S.J., Buchtel E.E, Norenzayan A. (2007). What do cross-national comparisons of personality traits tell us? The case of conscientiousness. Psychological Science, Vol. 19—Number 4.
- Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture's consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nation (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Markus, Hazel Rose; Kitayama, Shinobu The Cultural Psychology of Personality. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, January 1998 vol. 29: 63-87
- McGrae, R. R., & Allik, J. (Eds.). (2002). The five-factor model of personality across cultures. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers.
- Triandis (1995). Individualism and Collectivism. Boulder, CO: Westview.
- Triandis, H. C. (1989). "The self and social behavior in differing cultural contexts". Psychological Review 96: 506–520.

Assignment 5: Please, answer the following questions/provide examples (up to 5 pages in sum):

- How do you think one can distinguish between researches in areas “culture and personality” and “personality and culture”? What kind of change in focus do they imply?

- How do cultural types relate to personality traits and types?
- Why do some cultural psychologists consider personality measurement to be a methodological issue in cross-cultural research?
- How do you evaluate the approach distinguishing collectivist and individualist cultures? If you were a critic, what (if) would you criticize such distinction for? Substantiate your answer.

Class 6 Developmental questions in cultural psychology
- Culture as personality development factor and context.
- Culture and childhood development.
- Differing approaches to nurture across cultures as possible predictor for personality formation.
- (Cross-) cultural views and aspects of development across the lifespan.

- Cheung B.Y., Chudek M., & Heine S.J. Evidence for a Sensitive Period for Acculturation: Younger Immigrants Report Acculturating at a Faster Rate. Psychological Science, http://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~heine/publications.html
- Gardiner, H. W., & Kosmitzki, C. (2008). Lives across cultures: Cross-cultural human development (4th ed.). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.
- Heine, S. J. (2008). Cultural psychology. New York: Norton. (chapt.4)
-  Matsumoto, D. (Ed.). (2001). The Handbook of Culture and Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
-  Mead, Margaret. Coming of Age in Samoa.
-  Sam, D. L., & Berry, J. W. (Eds.). (2006). The Cambridge handbook of acculturation psychology. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Assignment 6: Please, answer the following questions/provide examples (up to 5 pages in sum):

- What are the main implications from cultural psychology for positive childhood development?
- Why is adolescence considered as sensitive life period for acculturation? What does this mean?
- How do cultures differ in their opportunities/limitations for personality autonomy development?
- What does Kohlberg’s theory of moral development stages suggest to understanding cultural differences?

Class 7 Cultural psychology and Intercultural communication
- Psychology of intercultural communication.
- Psychology of intergroup relations.
- The psychological views/projects for intercultural awareness and competence.
- Multiculturalism and new tasks for psychologists.
- Ways to improve intercultural communication and increase (inter) cultural competence.

- Burke, M.J. , Watkins M.B., Guzman E. (2009). Performing in a multi-cultural context: The role of personality. Available online at: www.sciencedirect.com
- Deardorff D.K. (2009)The SAGE Handbook of Intercultural Competence. Sage, Tousandoaks, CA
- Matsumoto, D. (Ed.). (2001). The Handbook of Culture and Psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Weigl, Robert C. (2009) Intercultural competence through cultural self-study: A strategy for adult learners , available online at http://www.sciencedirect.com

Assignment 7: Please, answer the following questions/provide examples (up to 5 pages in sum):

- Why is psychology concerned with trying ways to make intercultural communication effective? Why is it a priority area?

- What are the constitutive components of intercultural competence? How would you define it in generalized form, based on your reading?
- What are the cultural and psychological factors that count for frequently occurring problems in intercultural communication?
- What personality traits/factors may count for facilitation or hindrance for intercultural communication? Please, provide illustrations.

Class 8 Closing exam
Based on your interest, please choose any topic discussed within this course module and write an analytic essay (13-15 pages). 

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