Cross-Cultural Psychology: Definition and Elements


The purpose of this essay is to address primary elements of cross-cultural psychology. It shows the relationship between culture and psychology, the role of critical thinking and methodology applied in cross-cultural psychology. Several factors, particularly biological, contribute in shaping a person’s behaviors. However, experiences play critical roles in shaping behaviors. In this context, cultural elements related to beliefs, attitudes and value systems have major influences on behaviors (Shiraev & Levy, 2010). The fundamental aim of cultural psychology is to establish the relationship between cultural attributes and individuals’ behaviors.

Cross-cultural psychology aims to illustrate the major difference between regions by applying credible comparative analysis of cultures. Scientific research methods offer psychologists various opportunities to conduct credible studies and account for impacts of cultures on individuals’ behaviors.

Definition of cultural and cross-cultural psychology

One can rely on the genetic makeup to analyze and understand behavior. However, the approach may only provide a partial explanation. Therefore, it is imperative to understand how other factors like experience may shape behaviors (Segall, Dasen, Berry & Poortinga, 1999). A focus on experience to understand behaviors leads to cultural influences and diversity. Shiraev and Levy (2010) define culture as “a set of attitudes, behaviors, and symbols shared by a large group of people and usually communicated from one generation to the next” (p. 3). However, cultural attributes may differ from one place to another and impact individuals’ behaviors differently.

The fundamental focus of cross-cultural psychology is to determine the relationship between cultural aspects and psychological elements with reference to a person and his or her environment. Cultural psychology focuses on a given behavioral factor within a socio-cultural sphere in which the behavior under investigation occurs. On the other hand, cross-cultural psychology evaluates elements of psychological diversity in different cultures. Thus, behaviors and psychological differences define the two fields of the study. Shiraev and Levy (2010) referred to cross-cultural psychology as the “critical and comparative study of cultural effects on human psychology” (p. 2). Cross-cultural psychology highlights the relevance of critical thinking and relative elements of cultural and psychological studies. In this respect, it shows how cultural forces affect human behaviors (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).

The relationship between cultural and cross-cultural psychology

There are imperative links between cultural psychology and cross-cultural psychology. These fields of study assess the impacts of culture on people. Cultural psychology concentrates on the influence of culture on people within a defined place. Conversely, cross-cultural psychology presents vital and comparative analysis of psychological elements within different social setups. These two fields of study make general contributions to understanding human behaviors.

However, cultural psychology and cross-cultural psychology differ with regard to presenting and interpreting the link between psychological occurrences and culture (Ratner, 2006). Cultural psychology gathers data from different geographical locations. Cross-cultural psychology explores such data for valuable insights derived from testing and comparing outcomes against psychological concepts.

One can also assess the relationship between the two concepts from individual and interpersonal levels. In this case, individual factors, such as goals, cognitive processes and information processes influence cultures. At the interpersonal level, there are social and communication factors, which could have critical impacts on culture. One can gain a clear understanding of factors that influence cultures by focusing on the real aspects of psychological elements within a specific context in which they take place and relate them to interpersonal outcomes. This may involve a critical, comparative assessment of real cultural and psychological issues across a large population.

While there are differences between the two fields, their overall goal is to contribute to the field of culture and its impacts on human behaviors within a given context.

The role of critical thinking in cross-cultural psychology

The concept of critical thinking is essential in learning and understanding aspects of cross-cultural psychology (Shiraev & Levy, 2010). Critical thinking offers certain approaches for scientific inquiry and problem solving. People tend to believe in subjective evidence rather than reliable facts and empirical evidence obtained through effective inquiry processes.

It is imperative to shun biased points of view based on speculation when evaluating different hypotheses. Critical thinking aids in developing reliable evidence that can support a given argument. When people provide accounts of social phenomenon, they tend to present observable events supported with personal opinions. In other words, people prefer to change facts in order to fit their personal opinions based on pre-determined mental processes of description (Shiraev & Levy, 2010). However, such approaches when used to convey important information circumvent reliable information based on facts and evidence. Thus, speculation should not be applied in critical thinking.

In this respect, psychologists rely on meta-thoughts to eliminate biased presentation of facts. Meta-thoughts are mental tools, which offer methods of enhancing meta-thinking and lessening chances of presenting biased information about cultural outcomes (Shiraev & Levy, 2010). It is necessary for psychologists or researchers to observe uniqueness of cultures and be culturally sensitive. In this case, researchers should not assume but inquire about phenomena and gather facts (Stuart, 2005). Therefore, critical thinking is an essential element for understanding cross-culture psychology.

The methodology associated with cross-cultural research

Cross-cultural psychology depends on data collection for understanding wide variations and diversity among individuals from different cultural groups and locations. A reliable methodology results in the collection of reliable data, which may be useful for fact verification and elimination of potential bias in the study.

There are many methods of conducting research in cross-cultural psychology. Research helps in gathering data for clarifying and predicting behaviors of people. Study outcomes assist people to know how to manage unique behaviors and actions of others. Cross-cultural studies involve behavioral science. Therefore, the primary and applied approaches in the study must have sound research techniques.

The study of cross-cultural psychology uses valuable data to describe, interpret, predict and manage study outcomes. The main methodologies applicable in these processes are qualitative and quantitative. The quantitative technique entails statistical evaluation of behaviors based on comparative perspectives while qualitative strategy focuses on natural settings of the study (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).

The move toward multicultural developments has facilitated the use of different research methodologies to test different psychological hypotheses about individuals’ cultural diversity in different cultural contexts. Thus, psychologists require scientific guidelines to avoid research bias and assumptions on cultural behaviors and their influences.

The major types of methodology applied in cross-cultural psychology include survey, participant observation, meta-analysis, experiment, focus-group discussions, content analysis and statistical techniques for manipulating study variables (Shiraev & Levy, 2010).


The purpose of this essay was to address primary elements of cross-cultural psychology. It showed the relationship between culture and psychology, the role of critical thinking and methodology applied in cross-cultural psychology.

People have abilities to learn and modify their behaviors based on environmental influences. Cultural psychology aims to demonstrate the relationship between behavioral aspects and cultural effects while cross-cultural psychology shows the cultural diversity under different influences by using comparative methodologies. Critical thinking is a fundamental aspect of cross-cultural psychology, which helps psychologists to avoid subjective ideas and include empirical evidence in their presentations. Cross-cultural psychology uses scientific methodologies for data collection, analysis and presentation of findings.


Ratner, C. (2006). Cultural psychology: a perspective on psychological functioning and social reform. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Web.

Segall, M. H., Dasen, P. R., Berry, J. W., & Poortinga, Y. H. (1999). Human behavior in global perspective: An introduction to cross-cultural psychology (2nd ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn Bacon. Web.

Shiraev, E. B. & Levy, D. A. (2010). ross-cultural psychology: Critical thinking and contemporary applications (4th ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn Bacon. Web.

Stuart, R. B. (2005). Multiculturalism: Questions, not answers. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 36(5), 576. Web.

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