PSYCH403: Cultural Psychology

Course Syllabus for "PSYCH403: Cultural Psychology"

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Cultural Psychology reviews the cultural, community, and ecological factors that play a role in how people perceive their environment.  It is the integration of the nature and nurture phenomenas, whereby an individual’s psyche is determined, or at least influenced, by both that individual’s culture and those other cultures to which the individual is exposed.  This may include many layers and levels, such as those discussed by Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory, including the microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, macrosystem, and chronosystem. For example: On a small scale, it is easy to see how an individual living in New York City would encounter different psychosocial stressors than a person living on a farm in Iowa might.  On a much larger scale, a person living in the United States may differ greatly, in cultural terms, from an individual living in China.  It may be easy to tell that two cultures are different from one another, but identifying exactly what we mean—and all that is encompassed—when we speak about “culture” can be much more difficult.  Culture can include everything from ancient religion, gender constructs, race/ethnicity, and regional differences, to the effect of new technologies or artistic movements.  All of these aspects of culture can affect an individual’s psychology. It is salient to note that culture differs from individual to individual, because two people growing up in the same type of environment may internalize situations and environmental factors differently based upon their own makeup and past experiences of which they use to filter the new experiences. It is important to note that cultural psychology is a relatively new field of psychology and, as such, many questions in the field remain unanswered.  And since psychology has largely developed out of a Western philosophical tradition, the information in the field is mostly from a Western (Western European and North American) cultural standpoint.  The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders had begun to address this through culture-bound syndromes, although many of the other disorders have yet to address some cultural differences in the means in which a person may present with them or other cultural considerations.  For example, hearing the voice of a person who has passed away may be considered a normal part of bereavement for some persons of Native American or Latino cultures, while other people may view it as abnormal and seek to label the patient/client as having depression with psychotic features or the like. The goal of this course is to investigate the ways in which culture can affect aspects of that individual’s psychology.  We begin by reviewing the history and major theories of cultural psychology before moving on to a more in-depth examination of culture and its relationship to cognition, intelligence, emotion, motivation, and behavior.  We end the course with a discussion of how human development and psychological disorders are affected by culture.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

  • Identify current trends in contemporary cultural psychology and compare and contrast these concepts with historical and empirical psychological theory.
  • Compare and contrast variations in cognitive processes and expectations amongst cultures.
  • Describe the difference between measuring and quantifying intelligence within different cultural groups, including culturally normed assessment tools.
  • Explain the study of intercultural relations and communication.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of theories of cultural differences in affective expression, including both culture-specific and universal concepts.
  • List factors of motivation and cultural implications.
  • Identify the stages of human development, including racial and ethnicity-specific developmental theories with a focus on comparing and contrasting individualistic and collectivistic themes.
  • List the criteria for various psychological disorders, including cultural adaptations and culture-bound syndromes. 

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (e.g. Adobe Reader or Flash).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Have competency in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed the following courses listed in the Core Program of the Psychology Discipline: PSYCH101: Introduction to Psychology.

Course Information

Welcome to PSYCH403.  Below, please find some general information on the course and its requirements.

Course Designers: Nick Affrunti, Dr. Bender, and Krystle Hays-Hurd

Primary Resources: This course is composed of a range of different free, online materials.  However, the course makes primary use of the following materials:

  • iTunesU lectures from professors around the globe
  • YouTube videos

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit andall of its assigned materials.  You will also need to complete a final exam.  In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam.  Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it.  If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 71 hours to complete, not including the final examination.  Each unit includes a “time advisory” that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit.  These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit and then set goals for yourself.  For example, Unit 1 should take you 11 hours.  Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunit 1.1 (a total of 7 hours) on Monday and Tuesday nights, subunit 1.2 (a total of 1 hour) on Wednesday night, and subunit 1.3 (a total of 3 hours) on Thursday night, and so forth.

Tips/Suggestions: It is recommended that with each unit and subunit, you reflect on your own cultural values and beliefs, as well as utilize the knowledge you are gaining in this class in order to help you learn more about other cultures around you. 

Also, it is of utmost importance to ensure that you are aware that cultural concepts are generalized in many senses, but all humans are also shaped by their individual experiences, so these concepts are fluid and dynamic.  This course is applicable in all fields in order to broaden your basis of understanding regarding cultural constructs.

Table of Contents: You can find the course's units at the links below.