Essay Paper on Introduction to Psychology
by Lily Dunn
According to Spok from Star Trek human beings are not logical they are illogical. To some degree that is true because often times humans do this that cannot be understood by others. Humans are affected by their hearts; which can make them do crazy things. Humans are affected by the knowledge that is being absorbed by their brains. However, one of the most important things that affects the way we learn, the decisions we make, and the things we consider every day is culture. Culture can be defined in many ways. Culture is the music as well as the arts & crafts that help define what a certain sect of society is about.
One of the most basic ways that humans are affected by their culture is in a way that can’t be seen by even the trained eye without the aid of technology. That effect takes place on the human brain. Dr. Rick Nauert, a Senior News Editor for Psych Central, wrote an article entitled Culture Affects The Way We Use Our Brain and in that article he discusses the MIT report about differences in cultures when evaluating or attempting to complete optical and graphic tasks. The study evaluated the methods of ten recently arrived immigrants from East Asia and ten American citizens. Each group of people was asked to “make quick perceptual judgments while is a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner…” and were studies on two different types of judgments, and they are:
- Absolute judgment of individual objects independent of context
- Relative judgment of interdependent objects
What the study concluded is that the group of Americans did better in the trial evaluating absolute judgments while the group of recently arrived East Asians did much better on the relative judgment trials.
The extent of the difference in brain activity between the two cultures was great, according to the researchers who actually conducted the study. What the researchers found that also appeared to be interesting is that the differences were even larger for people who associated even closer to the culture in which they were raised.
The aforementioned study that was conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; which was published in Psychological Science, acknowledges the fact that humans use their brains differently because of the fact that they are taught differently. The article by Dr. Nauert relates to the course materials as it discusses the actual brain and the effects on it due to cultural differences. While in class there was a more in depth discussion about neurotransmitters, the cerebral cortex, the nervous system, and other brain systems; there is relation to the previously discussed article as in class the concept of nature vs. nurture and behavioral genetics was also discussed.
The article to be discussed looks at a topic that tugs at the heart of American society. That topic is biculturalism and in the Psychological Bulletin back in the early nineties there was an article entitled Psychological Impact of Biculturalism: Evidence and Theory that discussed this very thing. In the article its authors go into great detail about what they call “models of second-culture acquisition” (LaFromboise, Coleman, Gerton, p.396). The five models as discussed in the article include:
- Assimilation Model
With this model a person is transforming themselves into an individual who can blend in and fit within a new dominant culture in place of their original/current culture with which they identify. For example, when a woman who is biracial gets married to a Hispanic man and is always around his family and friends will become accepted by that culture and loose her original identity as according to the article by being biracial she was conflicted anyway.
- Acculturation Model
This model is discussed as being similar to the assimilation model in a lot of ways. However, there is a major difference between the two models. With the assimilation model the article states that the individual will become part of the new culture at the loss to the original culture they identified with. In the acculturation model the individuals may be accepted into a new culture, but they will always be recognized as being a part of their original culture of origin. For example, a Caucasian man who emulates aspects of the Black culture may be accepted by members of that culture but will always be thought of and recognized as being white.
- Alternation Model
With this model the authors of the article and the research studied acknowledge the fact that a person can successfully comprehend and experience two different cultures. That person, according to this model, will also have the ability to be a chameleon and change their behavior in order to fit within the “social context” they are in at the moment.
- Multicultural Model
This model adapts the assumption that a person can be positively recognized as being part of one culture but also gain that same positive recognition in another culture by engaging with other cultural groups in a big institutional setting and by sharing with the individuals within that institution.
- Fusion Model
This model is closely identified with what many call the “melting pot” theory. What this means is that individuals come together and meld all of their identities into one and create a new culture. For example, when the French as well as free and formerly enslaved Haitians settled into the area known as New Orleans their cultures blended together to form many aspects of the Creole culture and arts within that city.
The aforementioned article about biculturalism discusses positive and well as negative psychological aspects of being multiracial and a part of two different cultures. This article was written not by conducting a separate study but by examining already established literature and brings all of that literature together in one to come up with the theories and conclusions regarding biculturalism. In the end it is concluded that biculturalism can exist within a person without causing them negative effects. This article does not directly relate to the major issues that have been discussed in class, however, it is indirectly related to personality; which is a topic that has been discussed in class. It relates to personality because a person’s cultural identity can affect their personality and if a person is a member or identifies with more than one ethnic or racial group then it will affect the way they carry themselves not just on a day to day basis by the hour.
Another article published in the Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior deals with the problems in cross-cultural psychology. The article; which is entitled Theoretical and Methodological Problems in Cross-Cultural Psychology discusses the problems that this field of study has in its actual study. One of the problems encountered, as mentioned in the article, deals with the cultural and biological factors of a human being. The problem mentioned is that these two things are separate, yet when studies have been conducted in cross-cultural psychology they make an attempt to fuse these two aspects together instead of looking at them separately; which can alter the effects of a study. Another problem that is discussed within the field is the fact that cross-cultural psychology puts forth great effort when they are looking at describing how people are different, however, they do not make any serious efforts to truly look at the cultural aspects that would aid in explaining the differences. There are many other problems with the field of study that are discussed such as the some of the cultural factors misunderstood as well as the fact that rather than consider these factors to be absolute and concrete they are considered to be abstract or conceptual.
All of the problems mentioned here are theoretical problems, however, there are also methodological problems discussed. These problems include:
- Environmentally invalid instruments as well as testing conditions
- Scale items that are used tend to be either vague or not complete
- Definitions used for the psychological and the cultural occurrences are not capable of properly characterizing the occurrences
- Contradiction between the date presented and the conclusions brought about as a result of the data
The article concludes by discussing the solutions that could help the field of study in solving the theoretical and methodological problems that the author’s state exists. One solution deals with a system that is completely different from the current one and fundamentally changes some of the aspects of the field of study itself. The make the assumption that those who engage in research must develop new principles theoretically and methodologically in order to conduct studies that are less flawed in their outcomes and solutions.
The relation of this most recently discussed article to class is that it is in the field of psychology itself. This article raises questions that are not discussed in class because it goes into detail about actual problems that exist within a psychological field of study, more specifically the field of cross-cultural psychology. The actual theories and methods used in many studies are challenged in the article by Ratner and Hui and would be difficult to repeat with any kind of empirical data. Some will be lead to the conclusion that this article is of no use due to the fact that it challenges their own methods, however, it must be taken seriously because if there are any chances that the flaws in the methods and theories can seriously affect the outcomes then it should be addressed immediately in order to get to the root of the problem before any more flawed studies are conducted and produced.
Finally, an aspect that has not been discussed in any great details is culture shock. This has a significant psychological impact on many people. For example, students who come to college for the first time quite often receive culture shock. This is true of a student from a small rural town that goes to school in a large city like New York or Miami. It is also true of a person who grew up in a town that was mostly white and comes to college and ends up rooming with someone who is Black or a Black student who goes to a high school where they are in the majority and all of a sudden in college they are in the minority.
In the article Culture Shock Due To Contact with Unfamiliar Cultures these very phenomena is discussed. Stephen Bochner in the article discusses how there is shock between societies and how this shock may affect individuals. Two hypotheses that are discussed are:
- Similarity attraction hypothesis
- Culture difference hypothesis
In the end it is concluded that the experiences one goes through as a result of culture shock can cover a wide range of emotions, anywhere from being outright negative to very much pleasurable and satisfactory to the person going through the experience. The emotions one experiences as a result of culture shock are meant to be justified and rationalized within oneself.
In conclusion, there are many areas of psychology that can be explored and examined, particularly within the field of cross-cultural psychology. The questions is how will those areas be explored and how will they arrive at their conclusions. Those are questions that can only be answered through the course of time. As long as those conducting the research adequately cover all aspects of what is being studied then they will come up with solutions and results for the rest of us to study and review in order to aid us in becoming better cross-cultural psychologists and better people.
Bochner, S. (2003). Culture Shock Due to Contact with Unfamiliar Cultures. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture. International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology, retrieved from http://orpc.iaccp.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=101%3Abochner&catid=26%3Achapter&Itemid=2.
LaFromboise, T., Coleman, H.L.K., and Gerton, J. (1993). Psychological Impact of Biculturalism: Evidence and Theory. Psychological Bulletin. American Psychological Association, Inc., Volume 114, No. 3, pp. 395-412.
Nauert PhD, R. (2008). Culture Affects The Way We Use Our Brain. Psych Central. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/news/2008/01/11/culture-affects-the-way-we-use-our-brain/1773.html
Ratner, C. & Hui, L. (2003). Theoretical and Methodological Problems in Cross-Cultural Psychology. Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior, Volume 33, pp. 67-94.
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