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Knowledge was produced within the context of European colonization or American slavery in order to justify, within a systematic ideology, inhuman practices. Thus, these ideological aspects construction, evaluation, and naturalization were used by experts of scientific racism or by politicians in order to recommend and execute practices against groups constructed as inferior, while e mpirical research was used to legitimize these practices e. If one looks at the function of knowledge production see Teo, b in scientific racism one realizes that research was performed under the function of providing and producing ethnocentric meaning for Western cultures see Adas, ; Prakash, However, this original goal of providing an ideology of meaning was hidden behind a scientific veneer.

Scientific racism in psychology is extremely powerful as an ideology because it uses the cherished standards of scientific psychology: operational definitions, variables, and most of all, statistical methods. Because of the portrayal of science as objective, neutral, and empirical in the public sphere it is sometimes difficult to convey the ethical as well as the epistemological-ethnocentric limitations of scientific racism.

Researchers' Prejudices. The sociology of knowledge emphasizes that knowledge production is located within paradigms. A psychology of knowledge e. Specifically, a psychology of science would attempt to uncover why a particular individual joined the research program of scientific racism. Reichenbach confined the philosophy of science to the context of justification and attributed the context of discovery to the psychological domain.

However, epistemologists interested in the whole picture of knowledge cannot exclude the context of discovery and psychologists are of course obliged to answer the basic question: Why is someone interested in research on "races" or in racist constructions? As it is difficult to provide general answers it is important to carry out concrete studies, which tend to be more social-historical than psychological for example, Weidman, Bacon discussed idols of the cave in order to address the intellectual peculiarities of individuals and suggested that individual "prejudices" of researchers are a problem in the pursuit of empirical knowledge.

Although there have been plenty of studies on racial prejudice in the general population, and in fact there is a whole industry of prejudice research in social psychology see e. Science is seen as a rational enterprise, and the scientific community does not look favorably upon pointing to prejudices or irrational and unconscious motives in the context of discovery. Some psychoanalytically inspired studies have been relevant in this research area.

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One could paraphrase Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik, Levinson, and Sanford and ask: What is there in the psychology of an academic that renders him or her prejudiced? Although Adorno was not interested in scientists in his studies on the authoritarian personality it seems important to do so in order to understand the context of discovery more adequately. Yet, it may be difficult to convince racist psychologists to participate in studies that try to elucidate idols of the cave in race research.

Moreover, such an approach would be epistemologically limited if it did not take the socio-historical dimension into account, elucidating how individual prejudices are mediated by cultural ethnocentrism as a form of intuition. Perhaps a psychology of science would allow us to understand why comparing the penis size of various "races" is of interest to male researchers and psychologists. Professor Marcel de Serres , a well-known French geologist and naturalist of the 19th century, sought to prove scientifically why a white man could have sex with a black woman but why a white woman should not have intimate relations with a black man.

Impressed by the lengthy penis of the Ethiopian African race he argued that "this dimension coincides with the length of the uterine canal in the Ethiopian female" Serres, as cited in Broca, , p. From this physical reality follows "that the union of the Caucasian man with an Ethiopian woman is easy and without any inconveniences for the latter" p. The case is different in the union of the Ethiopian man with a Caucasian woman "who suffers in the act, the neck of the uterus is pressed against the sacrum, so that the act of reproduction is not merely painful, but frequently non-productive" p.

Richards points out that Galton's racism was not only constructed in his writings but also practiced during his travels, when he included punishments such as pouring boiling water on the naked bodies of his servants in his court of justice. He emphasizes that Galton's racist attitudes were formed in his 20's during his expeditions to Africa and that in his mature work he did not change his racist beliefs. That is, Galton's racism was formed before he had collected any scientific data.

Similarily, Fancher shows that eugenics played for Galton the role of a secular religion, replacing his conventional faith, which had been crushed by his conversion to evolutionism. We think it is a fair assessment to suggest that most contemporary psychologists view scientific racism and blatant racial prejudices and actions as an aberration of the discipline's past.

Indeed, Samelson showed the discipline's shift from race research to prejudice research in the first half of the 20th century. Although there are still proponents of scientific racism, who are not marginalized in terms of access to psychological journals and public attention e. This does not mean that there is not plentiful evidence of the social pervasiveness of everyday racism Essed, From a perspective of ethnocentrism as a form of intuition we suggest that researchers must look at the premises that enables psychological research, including research on prejudice.

The film Rashomon , directed by Akiro Kurosawa, comes into mind when describing Western psychologists. Several witnesses in medieval Japan see a rape and murder but provide entirely different accounts of what happened. Instead of focusing on the personal or social construction of reality, one could use Rashomon as an example of the distortion of truth.

Each witness presents a deformed view of what had actually occurred. The philosophical problem does not lie in this particularism, because, we argue, any form of intuition starts in a particular contexts. The problem lies in the assumption that one's own story is not particular and a refusal to listen and learn from others' perspectives.

The argument applies to all cultures but because we are interested in eurocentrism we focus on Western knowledge. This does not mean that one should not study, for example, various Eastern ethnocentrisms see also, Shelton, However, any comparison between Western and Eastern ethnocentrism cannot neglect a study of the consequences and the impact of economic and military power in the social practice of ethnocentrism. Hidden Ethnocentrism. Already everyday experiences of multiculturalism teach us that there are different cultural narratives on important psychological issues.

One can make the argument that academia must be more sophisticated than to base its concepts on particular experiences and must routinely study other cultures' conceptualizations historically prototypically performed by Danziger, and systematically. Yet, if psychologists know that there are various conceptualizations of a mental object or event, and they report only a particular conceptualization, or suggest that only one particular conceptualization makes sense, or imply that the Euro-American one is superior, then they have accepted their culture's form of intuition as the standard.

If researchers are not aware of "peripheral" conceptualizations and instead universalize Euro-American conceptualizations, then they have acknowledged a particular form of intuition as the universal one. It seems epistemologically self-evident that psychologists should disclose as many conceptualizations as possible in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of mental life.

These conceptualizations may or may not differ from Euro-American ones; however, researchers cannot answer this issue a priori. Academics in the human sciences and in psychology who are not willing to inquire about alternative constructions in other cultures or subcultures must either admit from the beginning that their knowledge is particular, Western-focused, and eurocentric, or they must accept the assessment that they are part of the hidden ethnocentrism of Euro-American psychology.

When it comes to socio-historical concepts such as subjectivity, identity, intelligence, emotion, motivation, personality, and so on, Euro-American researchers tend to teach, write, and act as if they have told the whole story of human mental life. In fact, they tell only a few parts of the story, a story that is largely influenced by the history and context of Euro-American history, culture, and science see Spivak, It is epistemologically premature to suggest that Euro-American conceptualizations of personality, for example, are universal.

However, they do not prove the cultural validity of the concepts, only their universal administrative applicability. Psychologists must be aware of practices that Said describes so eloquently: "The universalizing discourses of modern Europe and the United States assume the silence, willing or otherwise, of the non-European world.

There is incorporation; there is inclusion; there is direct rule; there is coercion. But there is only infrequently an acknowledgement that the colonized people should be heard from, their ideas known" p. In line with this argument we suggest that a hidden ethnocentrism is not overcome by simply assimilating ideas from other cultures, which would be a colonizing approach. In other words, a solution to hidden ethnocentrism requires a process of accommodation as well as assimilation.


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A sober analysis shows that most of mainstream psychology falls under the notion of hidden ethnocentrism and thus we agree with Howitt and Owusu-Bempah that "eurocentrism describes the orientation of much of the social sciences, especially psychology" p. Many psychologists may even possess a consciousness about this problem and would like to delegate their epistemological duties to cross-cultural psychology. As important as cross-cultural research has been in advancing psychology's knowledge of culturally varying behaviors e.

We emphasize that it is important not only to look, for example, at different patterns of attribution but also to study the meaningfulness of the concept of attribution in other cultures. A cross-cultural psychology that does not address hidden ethnocentrism may be well-intentioned but, nevertheless consolidates Western forms of intuition and Western categories.

As Harding emphasizes in her advancement of post-colonial epistemologies: "The distinctive way that cultures gain knowledge contribute to their being the kinds of cultures they are; and the distinctiveness of cultures contributes to the distinctively 'local' patterns of their systematic knowledge and systematic ignorance" p. Paranjpe reports in his important book on Indian and Western psychology about an international psychologist who staunchly argued that science and the concept of falsification are Western inventions.

Paranjpe p. Statements that assume a priori that there is no need to look at other cultures' ideas or conceptualizations emerge from ignorance and show how deeply hidden ethnocentrism is part of Western thought. Paranjpe's analyses - based on knowledge of the epistemological, ontological, and ethical foundations of psychology in both the West and India — instruct one to recognize the similarities and differences of two culturally diverse systems on person, self, and identity, and demonstrates that psychological concepts are often of a social, historical, and cultural kind.

There is no doubt that Kohlberg , had good intentions when he developed a stage theory of moral development. In order to prove the cross-cultural validity of his theory he tested it in different cultures. But the testing of different cultures does not lead to a cross-cultural conceptualization of a theory of moral development.

The ability to respond to a Euro-American theory does not constitute the validity of a theory. Kohlberg would have needed to understand the conceptualization of morality in diverse cultures, which might have led to a different conceptualization of moral development, and perhaps, a culturally different voice cf. Gilligan, In not doing so, Kohlberg contributed to hidden ethnocentrism in an epistemological sense. Holzkamp , suggested an ingenious approach to the construction of psychological concepts. He argued that a real understanding of psychological subject matters would only be possible by including the natural history, the pre-history, and the history of humanity.

He suggested three steps in analyzing psychological concepts. In the first step, one must incorporate the natural history of the issue and identify general evolutionary-biological characteristics. In the second step, one must analyze the main features of the topic with regard to their general societal-historical characteristics by focusing on the transition from pre-human to human life-forms.

In the third step, one must clarify perception under a given historical-economic reality such as bourgeois society see Teo, Although it may be correct that most contemporary societies are based on a capitalist mode of production, such a description is indifferent to the socio-historical specificity of various socio-cultural contexts and their conceptualization of psychological topics. In order to understand the concept of the "self" we may look at what "self" means in capitalist society but this is certainly not sufficient in order to understand conceptualizations of self in various cultures.

In that sense any conceptualization of psychological concepts based on an analysis of Western bourgeois society is part of hidden ethnocentrism. The idea that one can export Euro-American psychological concepts into other cultures is based on a natural scientific model of science: Natural scientific laws are universal and can be found in any culture. In Dilthey's justification of the human sciences [Geisteswissenschaften] he pointed out that their subject matter is the historical-social reality and therefore their method must be different from the natural sciences. This also means that their concepts cannot transcend space and time.

More recently, Danziger pointed in Naming the Mind to the historical dimension of concepts such as intelligence. He points out that the "cultural embeddedness accounts for the taken for granted quality that so many psychological categories possess" p. These psychological concepts appear natural to a given speech community although historical and cultural research indicates that most psychological categories are not of a natural kind. Euro-American psychology often assumes that psychological concepts that have been developed in Euro-America are unquestionably culturally valid.

We suggest that as a consequence psychologists perform poorly in understanding mental life in other cultures. Understanding mental life requires an understanding of the objective mind Hegel of the culture or subculture under investigation. Understanding the mental life of an individual from another culture or subculture also requires taking his or her context, history, categories , and forms of intuition into account.

If Western psychology intends to be objective it cannot stop within the borders of its own conceptualizations.


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  • Unfortunately, in the process of academic and intellectual globalization we expect less interest of Western psychologists in non-Western psychologies, but rather an increased interest of non-Western psychologists in Western psychologies, which are associated with power, money, and influence. Explicit ethnocentrism has been the objective mind of Western society for several hundred years. Some of the greatest Western thinkers, including Immanuel Kant and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel , were trapped in this mindset.

    However, in contemporary thought, hidden ethnocentrism has become the objective mind of Western thought and most of mainstream psychology's concepts have been based on a hidden ethnocentrism of knowledge production: It has been assumed implicitly, without any bad intentions, that Western conceptualizations of human subjectivity are superior to others.

    It is considered so self-evident that it requires no further explanation or elaboration; it is the collective unconsciousness of Western psychology.

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    If the argument that ethnocentrism is a form of intuition is meaningful, then one must presume that all psychological concepts are culturally determined. This does not mean that no universal psychological concepts exist. Yet, it would be the task of psychologists to prove that psychological concepts have global significance, and not the opposite, that is, to assume a priori that they have universal validity.

    Unfortunately, psychology's natural-scientific based methodology does not address the socio-historical nature of psychological concepts nor does it allow for a test of universal validity, which can only be accomplished through historically and culturally sensitive hermeneutic approaches. Moreover, psychologists should be aware that in the process of academic globalization, during which Western psychological ideas become more dominant, it might become more difficult to promote any alternative forms of intuition and categories. Ethnocentrism in Academic Structures. Psychological science can be described as a game with many institutional rules.

    Important moves in the game include publishing papers, presenting ideas, applying for research grants, participating in various peer-review processes, communicating with colleagues, and last but not least, teaching. The significance of streamlined institutional behavior for the production of normal science has been understood by sociologists of science Kuhn, Institutions, embedded within a given society, are the concrete locations in which research is executed.

    Hidden ethnocentrism as reflected in academia as an institution of knowledge production refers to the neglect and exclusion of experts who have knowledge and experience from other cultures and subcultures, of experts that may have different conceptualizations of psychological topics or even of different ways of knowing Collins, In order to change the eurocentric character of mainstream psychology it will not be sufficient to just listen to new ideas and conceptualizations.

    It would be naive to assume that alternative forms of intuition would prevail without institutional support. Therefore, concrete practices and policies are needed in order to change the structure of academia. One could label such a process as "affirmative action" for alternative forms of intuition. It must be emphasized that affirmative action for alternative cultural knowledge and experiences is more important than affirmative action for traditional ethnic divisions — even when at the moment these experiences often go hand in hand.

    It is clear that affirmative action for experts from postcolonial countries would require not only academic, but also major political and legal changes. Affirmative action in this epistemological context targets unheard voices, suppressed knowledge, and neglected ideas from other cultures and subcultures.

    The popular belief that affirmative action undermines the self—esteem of those concerned can be challenged here perhaps most clearly. If an expert were hired for knowledge and experience in Arabic philosophy and psychology, for example, why would it necessarily undermine his or her self-esteem? On the contrary, one might assume that anyone who is hired on the basis of possessing expertise that is missing in a given department would be proud of his or her contribution.

    Other examples of hidden institutional ethnocentrism can be found in the channels of academic communication, such as journals. Howitt and Owusu-Bempah report that they "have been told by white journal editors that the language we use in academic papers is unacceptable and has to be toned-down or removed as a condition of acceptance for publication" p.

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    Asking for a change in tone, streamlining arguments, and other r evisions, can be used as an instrument to censor papers that use a different voice. This is not censorship in a crude way but it expresses the "repressive tolerance" of Western academia according to which papers are accepted as long as they are palatable to the mainstream. Hidden institutional ethnocentrism is also expressed in teaching. For example, a Euro-American history of psychology may be fascinating to Euro-American students.

    It may even be interesting to Non-European students because Western pioneers of psychology for example, Freud address important issues and are part of mainstream culture. However, psychologists often teach Euro-American psychology as if no other psychologies existed.

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    By not teaching non-Euro-American ideas on human subjectivity teachers perpetuate and consolidate one form of intuition. The changing ethnic structure of student populations in many urban centers in North America may one day change the content of courses by demand. But until then psychologists who are truthful and committed to knowledge must admit that psychology courses are taught from a Euro-American perspective.

    Most psychologists must admit, for example, that instead of a History of psychology they teach a History of Euro-American psychology. Instead of a theory of personality they focus on a Western theory of personality. Instead of an introduction to psychology they teach a Western introduction to psychology. Instead of writing a textbook of social psychology they write a textbook of Western social psychology. Such a change in perspective would involve admitting that psychologists' knowledge is profoundly limited.

    Psychologists are frequently not aware of the problem of ethnocentrism, its hidden form especially. There are often no bad intentions involved, and in a Kantian ethical tradition one has learned that good intentions must be valued above all. Yet, we have discussed ethnocentrism as a form of intuition from an epistemological and not a moral perspective. We are not interested in using ethnocentrism as a moral yardstick in order to condemn Western researchers or to provoke personal guilt.

    It is not about blaming Euro-American scientists and calling them eurocentrists. Our interest focuses on the limits and possibilities of Western psychological knowledge, on what psychologists are doing, and on challenging and being open to extending the knowledge on human mental life.

    The argument is not about moral but about epistemological responsibility. He discusses Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Islamic thought systems in their own rights without assimilating them into Western concepts - an important step for a postcolonial philosophy. Hegel believed that he was able to know and embrace totality. Based on his hidden and explicit ethnocentrism and his belief that the West is the center of truth see Dussel, , he did not understand fundamentally the real content of his statement.

    From a truly global perspective we suggest that his statement should receive a new meaning: a multicultural, postcolonial, and post-eurocentric meaning that Hegel could not have envisioned in the early 19th century. Thus, in order to be consistent with our own argument — we only marginally include other cultures' notions of knowledge - we must re-label this article as: "Ethnocentrism as a Form of Intuition in Psychology: A Western Perspective. Adas, M. Islamic and European expansion: The forging of a global order.

    Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Adorno, T. The authoritarian personality. Alcoff, L. Feminist epistemologies. New York: Routledge. Bacon, F. A selection of his works ed. Toronto: Macmillan. Barkan, E. The retreat of scientific racism: Changing concepts of race in Britain and the United States between the world wars.

    Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Bhatia, S. Rethinking "acculturation" in relation to diasporic cultures and postcolonial identities. Human Development , 44 1 , Broca, P.

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    On the phenomena of hybridity in the genus homo. Cavalli-Sforza, L. The great human diasporas: The history of diversity and evolution. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley. Choi, I. Causal attribution across cultures: Variation and universality. Psychological Bulletin, 1 , Crawford, M. Women and gender: A feminist psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Collins, P. Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Corcos, A. The myth of human races. Crosby, F. Words worth of wisdom: Toward an understanding of affirmative action. Journal of Social Issues, 52 4 , Danziger, K. Naming the mind: How psychology found its language. London, UK: Sage. Davenport, C. Race crossing in Jamaica. Dilthey, W. Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften Gesammelte Schriften I. Band [Introduction to the human sciences Collected writings: Volume 1 ].

    Stuttgart: Teubner Original work published Dovidio, J. Prejudice, discrimination, and racism. Orlando: Academic Press. Dussel, E. The invention of the Americas: Eclipse of "the other" and the myth of modernity M. Barber, Trans. New York: Continuum. Spanish original published Ernst, W. Race, science and medicine, London: Routledge. Essed, P.


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    • Understanding everyday racism: An interdisciplinary theory. Newbury Park, CA: Sage. Fancher, R. Eugenics and other Victorian "secular religions". Green, M. Teo Eds. Febbraro, A. Gender, mentoring, and research practices: Social psychologists trained at the University of Michigan, Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Guelph, Ontario.

      Foucault, M. The order of things: An archaeology of the human sciences. London: Tavistock Publications. Gaertner, S. The aversive form of racism. Gergen, K. Corsini Ed. New York: Wiley. Gilligan, C. In a different voice. Gould, S. The mismeasure of man revised and expanded. New York: Norton. Guthrie, R. Even the rat was white: A historical view of psychology 2nd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Hannaford, I. Race: The history of an idea in the West. Harding, S. The science question in feminism.

      Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Whose science? Whose knowledge? Thinking from women's lives. NY: Cornell University Press. Is science multicultural? Postcolonialisms, feminisms, and epistemologies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. One thousand years of philosophy: From Ramanuja to Wittgenstein. Oxford: Blackwell. Hegel, G.

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      Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp. Original work published in Helmholtz, H. U eber das Sehen des Menschen [ On human vision]. There is, however, research evidence about the social ethnic vs. This study found that the task-oriented cultural style was generally more favored than the task-plus interpersonal alternative, particularly among Anglo-American participants, for whom ethnicity did not matter. Mexican and Latino participants, however, showed some degree of favoritism toward ethnically similar participants Sanchez-Burks et all, It seems that there are different viewpoints regarding cultural and social identities.

      Cultural identity is defined as the identity of a group or culture or of an individual as far as one is influenced by one's belonging to a group or culture. Further, Cultural identity is similar to, and overlaps with, identity politics. New forms of identification have been suggested to break down the understanding of the individual as a whole subject into a collection of various cultural identifiers.

      Such identifiers can result from various conditions including: location, gender, race, history, nationality, language, sexuality, religious beliefs, ethnicity, aesthetics, and even food. In places like the U. However, some critics of cultural identity declare that cultural identity based upon difference is a divisive force in society. In addition, cultural identity may be defined by the social network of people imitating and following the social norms as presented by the media.

      Therefore, instead of learning behavior and knowledge from cultural or religious groups, people may be learning social norms from the media to build on their cultural identity. Language may also be an important factor in culture identity. The communication that comes with sharing a language promotes connections and roots to ancestors and cultural histories.

      When young people are severed from the ideals and positively sanctioned statuses, feelings of alienation or social isolation may develop. These feelings can result in undesired treatment and status. This process results in personal marginalization, and it may lead to social marginalization which includes that person's relative economic, employment, educational, and cultural loss compared to those around him. This provides a second source of alienation from mainstream society. This can cause an individual to experience extreme discomfort called ego identity discomfort.

      The person is then motivated to identify with an alternative social group such as a drug subcultural group. Such groups provide opportunities to resolve identity problems. Identification with such a group reduces the person's ego identity discomfort, or it helps to solve identity problems.

      Scholars today are focusing on the basic elements of social organization race, ethnicity, gender, and social class in their theory and research. In the case of drug subcultures, it is reported that Anderson discovered that the composition of the drug subcultural groups differed between blacks and whites. Blacks described neighborhood and school based groups as securing an improved social status and reputation. On the other hand, Anderson found that the drug subcultural groups reported by whites differed.

      These groups were located at nightclubs, bars, colleges, high schools and around the neighborhood. Whites reported using many different drugs, from alcohol and cocaine to marijuana and heroin.