Unit 16: Introduction

Perspectives on Becoming More Culturally Competent

Center for Cross-Cultural Research
Western Washington University

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It can be argued that one of the primary reasons to study interrelationships between psychology and culture is to become more effective in dealing with people from different backgrounds and belief systems.  This means that a goal of cross-cultural and cultural psychology is to help produce more culturally-competent individuals.  But what is meant by "cultural competence"?  Surely part of the answer is that a culturally competent person appreciates, understands, and even cherishes the interesting differences there exist between people who come from far corners of the globe.  Understanding others, even in one's own culture or ethnic group, is a life-long challenge.  It is therefore much more challenging to understand people who come from different cultures, have experienced different family structures, learned different values, practiced different religions, and perhaps have greatly different definitions of morality and justice.  We are particularly pleased that F. Tyler contributed a chapter to this project.  His recent book entitled Cultures, Communities, Competence, and Change (Kluwer/Plenum, 2001) is a fine study of thought in this area.  A forthcoming edited book by R. Sternberg and E. Grigorenko  (American Psychological Association) entitled Culture and Competence will be an excellent additional source of information about this topic, made increasingly important by our shrinking world and increased interdependence on each other for survival. 

Difficult as it may be to learn about other cultures, there are various ways to approach the challenges that this presents.  The chapters in this unit address different ways to learn about other cultures.  While there are many more resources available to the individual who desires to be more culturally competent - or whose business or profession requires a high level of cultural competence - these chapters focus on several important issues in an era of expanding political, economic and cultural globalization. 

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