What is Cultural Psychology?

· April 23, 2018

Have you ever heard of cultural psychology? André Malraux once said that “culture is the sum of all the forms of art, of love, and of thought, which, in the course of centuries, have enabled man to be less enslaved.” Using this definition as a stepping stone, perhaps cultural psychology gives a broad glimpse into a society’s past, present, and future.

Much of our behavior is just as intertwined with our culture as it is with our own experiences. That doesn’t mean that experiences and genetics have no influence, but they’re not the only things that moderate and influence the way we act.

“True culture is born with nature, and is simple, humble, and pure.”

-Masanobu Fukuoka-

What is cultural psychology?

Now we’re going to give you a brief overview of cultural psychology. Most experts refer to it as a school of thought that emerged as an alternative to the theories and methods of more speculative psychology. Wilhelm Wundt is considered the father of cultural psychology.

paper dolls

Cultural psychology focuses on the influence of culture on the people who grow up in it. It, along with behavior, also influences thoughts and feelings. The main vehicle for influencing behavior is the culture’s habits and customs.


In other words, cultural psychology attempts to explain the reasons a group of individuals immersed in a particular context act certain ways and not others. With this perspective, we observe details and explain what we observe.

For example, why does Western society, which is very globalized today, view certain past events and diametrically opposed societies with horror? Why weren’t past generations horrified by those events that took place during their time? Why don’t people who are immersed in those opposing cultures see those things as horrible?

It begs another question: what will future generations be horrified by when they learn about things happening now that seem normal to us?

Cultural barriers

When you look at the state of the world today, it’s easy to see all the cultural barriers. Languages, customs, mentalities, and ways of thinking are all forms of cultural barriers.

In every country, some customs are common to the entire population, while others are more localized to specific cities or regions. Combined, all these cultural influences result in variations in the human mind. Each individual receives a unique cultural heritage that depends on many different factors.

To use a few simple examples, Muslims don’t eat pork, Indians view cows as sacred animals, and Spain’s Basque Country has its own language. All of these factors create a unique cultural heritage that is different from any other population.

Why study cultural psychology?

Culture varies depending on location and heritage, influencing the behavior and thoughts of people who come into contact with it. What is the purpose of cultural psychology? It goes beyond simply describing facts. Instead, it explores both the origins and consequences produced, defined, and maintained by tradition in that particular context.

Like we said before, cows are sacred in India. But how did they get to that point? The aim of cultural psychology is to answer questions like that.

Cultural psychology doesn’t just investigate the heart of the story to understand why a population has a particular culture. It also studies how the culture affects the people in it. Why do some customs persist and others don’t? How do these customs affect patterns of behavior? What implications do these traditions have for the future?

people from different cultures: cultural psychology.

Links to sociology and anthropology

Cultural psychology is closely related to the social sciences, particularly sociology and anthropology. While sociology studies societies in a broad sense, it focuses on quantitative data to investigate dynamic histories. The idea is to understand how a specific culture formed and how it influences individuals.

Meanwhile, anthropology studies the cultural content of a society and the collective changes that occur. The idea here is to understand symbols, concepts, and settings.

So, if you were to ask yourself what cultural psychology is, now you have a small outline. It allows you to understand ethnic behaviors and study intercultural conflicts, just to name a few interesting examples.

“No one leaves his or her world without being transfixed by its roots, or with a vacuum for a soul. We carry with us the memory of many fabrics, a self soaked in our history, our culture.”

-Paulo Feire-