Unit 8: Introduction

Acculturation and Adapting to Other Cultures

Center for Cross-Cultural Research
Western Washington University

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If you look at any good newspaper any day of the week you will be able to find articles and stories concerning an obvious fact of life throughout the world:  People are on the move.  Thus, for one reason or another - some quite positive and most others emphatically negative - people are going from one culture or society to another in seemingly record numbers.  Indeed, the history of the world is replete with stories about migration and wholesale changes from one culture to another.  Some people will experience many changes throughout their lives, thereby challenging and stretching their ability to cope. 

The study of acculturation and adaptation to other cultures is one of the more active areas in psychology and culture.  One of the reasons for this unusual amount of interest and productivity is that many nations are severely challenged by large in-migrations of foreign peoples. And most humans can identify with such challenges, having experienced the common condition of "culture shock", which can briefly be defined as the "shock", "fatigue", or uncomfortable adjustment we know is inevitable when confronted with a new situation that threatens the individual's status quo.  Psychologists active in this area invariably are interested in one overarching question:  What are the psychological consequences to individuals who either voluntarily or (usually) involuntarily switch cultures? The chapters in this unit address this and other questions.
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