Unit 15: Introduction

Social Psychology and Culture

Center for Cross-Cultural Research
Western Washington University

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Social and cultural psychology  are two areas of investigation and discovery that naturally complement each other and include almost endless topics.  Indeed, the wide range of topics within the large domain of social psychology constitute the majority of books, journal articles, conference presentations, and other scholarly contributions to the entire discipline.  How do people respond to natural or man-made disasters like devastating earthquakes, floods, terrorist bombings of civic centers, or pollution of essential water supplies?   Do children who are educated about the effects of intoxicants make healthier life style choices than children who are not similarly informed?   What is the nature of prejudice and stereotypes, and what beliefs or feelings launch these often pernicious processes?  What is the nature and purpose of a good leader in business or politics?  These are some examples of the investigations that draw the attention of social and cultural  psychologists around the globe.  Many more examples and a rich compendium of resources in cross-cultural aspects of social psychology can be found in D. Matsumoto's edited Handbook of culture and psychology (Oxford University Press, 2001) and of course in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology.

Our world includes regions of vastly different climates and physical conditions that influence human adaptation and social behavior.  Psychologists may focus on the greatest threats to human vitality as well as the greatest assets that produce flourishing communities of healthy and creative members who are highly cooperative and accepting of social diversity.   This unit  provides a rich array of  topics that are of importance to those who seek insight into an endless list of fascinating human questions. 

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