“Cultural Revolution” in Teaching About Professional Psychology

Tsytsarev, Sergei
Hofstra University, New York,
Shiraev, Eric
George Washington University,

Cultural approach to both psychology research and practice has been a landmark of the past two decades in academic and professional psychology (Segal, Lohner & Berry, 1998; Shiraev, Levy, 2000). Cultural findings have made a significant impact on areas in psychology such as emotions (Russel, 1994, Eckman, 1994), learning (LaFromboise, et al., 1993), motivation (Tsytsarev, 1995), anger (Kassinove, 1995), aggression (Bonta, 1998), psychology of education (Lopez, 1995), adaptation (Triandis, 1994), family psychology, intellectual and personality assessment (Suzuki & Valencia, 1997), abnormal psychology (Tanaka-Matsumi & Draguns, 1996), and counseling (Sue, 1998). In many subfields of psychology, research data previously considered as universal do not seem to be relevant in the cultural contexts other than the ones in which they were initially obtained.

Teaching cross-cultural aspects of professional psychology is a big challenge. Cross-cultural findings have led to intense debates on almost every subject that is taught in the doctoral programs. The discussions have been focused on cultural biases and limited predictive validity of IQ tests, cultural influences on definition, diagnosis, and treatment of mental disorders, problems of counseling across cultural groups, and a questionable relevance of Western-born psychotherapies beyond the boundaries of the Western Civilization. Thus, cultural research has added a dimension that appears an inextricable part of most basic and applied psychology courses.

Three cross-cultural paradigms—universalism, relativism, and multiculturalism—have been widely discussed as mainstream approaches to research and practice, and multiculturalism has been viewed by many experts as the most productive approach (Pedersen, 1991). However, several forms of assessment, therapy, and psycho-education cannot fit into any of these models. The data illustrating how cultural psychology findings and controversies could be integrated in some professional courses will be discussed in this presentation.