Cultural Psychology


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By Steven J. Heine


Cultural psychology is a field which has flourished in the recent years with the creation of various   literature materials based on the study. Cultural psychology studies ways in which culture influences the psychological thinking and process of cognition, reasoning, attention and perception. Much research on the field majors on the relationship between individualism and collectivism in a cultural dimension. This relationship studies the way individuals relates to the society they live in. through the studies, it has been established that there are two types of societies. The individualistic societies like those in North America are which individuals are considered to be autonomous and independent of others. There are collectivists societies which on the contrast integrate in the social networks they are in obligations and roles. In such a society there is a very narrow boundary between the others and the self.

  1. Cultural Gender

Though it is assumed that there area equal number of women and men in the society    or a given sector, but at aggregated level, the society is segregated along the lines of gender, subgroups and in media. The printed media, performing arts and journalism depict high level of segregation. Gender is highly influenced by the representation of sexes get   through mass media and other environmental factors like family and childhood culture. Cultural psychology according to Heine (2008) influences how people think and perceive various aspects in life. Gender representation is influenced through   environmental factors such ads family and childhood culture.

When one is born, the immediate family instills information to a child about gender. Such massages clearly indicate the role of the sexes. For example for a girl, she will be told to perform house activities such as cleaning and cooking. The boy child on the other hand will be given out door duties. These passed ideas get to be accepted or rejected by others. Childhood experiences therefore could have a great influence in how to define the gender concepts. The culture one is born in and raised enhances how the person will   have gender views. The mass media has exposed various gender presentations starting from childrens advertising, cartoons, films and stories.

In a recent survey on Ghanaian medias  coverage, it was found out  the in a total of 6053 issues in  the  editorial  news, 96 editorial frequency only was on women  and  female  aspects   the  youth  editorial  frequencies was at 126 while the youth issues was at 115. These statistics were carried out between the year 2005 to 2009 (Human Rights advocacy Center, 2010).

This research was meant to establish the media coverage in Ghana in general based on gender and non gender issues. from  such a research is can be  evident that the traditional African Ghana society plays a major in determining gender relations and its consequences on womens in  decisions making, access to resources and other social difficulties. The success set up in the Ghana society is strongly patriarchal. Women since childhood have specified roles and duties to perform. They have no influence in decisions making process especially in political, social and economic aspects in the country. Generally women have limited options both by the specified set traditional roles and women accepting this limitation. The Ghanaian  woman are  psychologically affected in  their  perception , thinking and reasoning  by  the  strong   patriarchal  societies  they  have  grown up in. Therefore, they will be featured minimally by media house and publishing presses.

  1. Emotions reported in the media

Steven Heine in his book Cultural psychology offers a broad-based research on the filed. He touches on topics such as emotions, relationship, motivations and identifies. He examines the every day living in various regions around the world to demonstrate cultural psychology which is closely related to the way we behave and think. Emotion is a combination of concept of desires attitude and beliefs but are bound within specified contexts are specific to culture and developed over history (Heine, 2008, pp 123). There are some emotions which are culturally specific. Emotions are important part of our every day living as well as how we think and treat about the emotions. An emotion like anger his not common to all the cultural groups in the world.  For example the Utka Eskimos according to research by Jean Briggs says that they never get annoyed even in circumstances which can any us to respond with outrage.

This shows that it is extraordinary how cultural physiology even has an impact on our emotions. In the Utka Eskimos society, they were not socialized to get angry in any circumstance and that is why they are the way they are. Therefore the emotion like anger is ubiquitous cultural realism affects our thinking as well as our emotion (Jean L Briggs, 1963).

Another controversial emotion is love. The coming Valentine day, is a day to show love.  Many  countries  in the world  are acknowledging  and celebrating  valentines day but  Islamic countries like Iran and Ukraine have  banned valentine day claiming  that it is  beyond the Islamic believes. Each day according to Muslims is a day to show love and not only on the 14th February each year. (Island crisis, 2011) this shows the differencing cultural psychology shaped from peoples religious believes.

3. Cultural Personality topics reported in the media

Culture has a great impact on ones personality. This is because there is a close relationship between human behaviors and childrearing customs which vary from one society to another. Culture facts human nature according to Heine (2008), the theory of personality and culture is based on Frauds psychoanalysis in early childhood and cultural relativism. This indicates that because we are not similar in personality we have a society which is highly diverse. Cultural differences instill the way we thinking and cat   which shape our personality.

According to the current media news about Egypt, a lot has been highlighted concerning the personality of the recently stepped down president Hosni Mubarak.  His personality based on the cultural set up he has grown in, makes him to be an authoritarian and dictator president.  He is mainly accused of delaying the changes Egyptians need due to his cult of personality which has endured. It is until the protesters have demonstrated for more than a week that the president as finally decided to step down. He strongly believed that the Egyptian people are barbaric and violent and they need a strong dictatorial form of government to ensure there is peace and order in the country. This perspective is mainly influenced by his childhood experience and cultural influence which could have been highly authorities and dictatorial. He has also been trying to use Hitlers, Saddam Hussein and Joseph Stalin tactics to rule his   people (Global realm, 2011)

4. Cultural mental health topics

Culture plays an important role in determining the mental health of an individual.  Culture plays a role in treating and diagnosiss mental illness. in developing nations a  critical  part is  played   by  ones social network in the  recovery and  healing   of  patients  to  live  normal lives and  not  to  be  isolated.  In the United States some racial groups have reported high rate of schizophrenia diagnosis that others (Haine, 2008, pp 443). Current reports have shown that there is a crucial link between societal factors and the diagnosis outcome and treatment of mental illness.

Recent news in Washington D.C post gave a story about woman from the Latino community at the Cambridge hospital hearing voices from the walls. She was diagnosed with psychotic and depression. The doctors diagnosis  was however mistaken because the desire  of  the  woman even to go ahead and  want  to  murder  her son was within the cultural context .This shows culture has an  influence on distress idioms just  like  how symptoms are experiences by different patients( the Washington Post , 2005). Depression and psychotic conditions are highly stigmatized in various parts of the world and among some minority groups. Stigmatization therefore hinders patients from being mentally healthy.



Human Rights advocacy Center, (2010) Ghanaian media devote minimal space to gender issues

 Island crisis, (2011) Valentines Day Banned In Iran – Stupidity 2011

 Global realm, (2011) Mubaraks cult of personality endures. Retrieved from

On February 11, 2011

Heine, S (2008) Cultural psychology Publisher W.W. Norton

 Washington Post (2005) Culture and Mental Illness. Retrieved from

On February 11, 2011


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