Culture and Psychology
Culture can be defined as the transmitted content and patterns of values and meaningful systems, which shape human behavior. Psychologists have long been interested in the influence of culture on abnormal behavior. This article will focus on the cultural biases that are clearly visible in the research conducted in psychology with emphasis on controversy over mental illness. There have been basic attributes of what constitutes a mentally healthy person. These are independence, confidence, and internal locus of control of all characteristics that are deemed normal and mentally stable. These are typical characteristic of a typical American and can be generalized to those living in Western society (Kashima, 2016). Therefore, individuals characterized by external locus of control and connectedness are seen as less psychologically healthy. This shows that definition of normality and abnormality varies across cultures.
The definition of mental health should not be narrow in psychology since it could lead to wrong diagnoses and assumptions. Cultures may differ in their tolerance for particular symptoms to be normal or abnormal. For instance, in the Nigerian culture they accept the presence of voices (Kashima, 2016). In the cultures where shamanism is widespread, such voices and visions are a manifestation of power and religious meaning, whereas in the Western world they could be taken as symptoms of mental illness (Hayward, Berry, McCarthy-Jones, Strauss, & Thomas, 2013). Similarly, a study found that Irish American schizophrenic patients are likely to have paranoid delusions than Italian American patients. The author cited cultural differences in parenting to account for this difference (Hayward et al., 2013). Finally, these indifferences can be explained by the possibility of genetic differences in the brain structure rather than this cultural biasness.
Hayward, M., Berry, K., McCarthy-Jones, S., Strauss, C. & Thomas, N. (2013). Beyond the omnipotence of voices: further developing a relational approach to auditory hallucinations. Psychosis, 6(3), 242–252. http://doi.org/10.1080/17522439.2013.839735
Kashima, Y. (2016). Culture and Psychology in the 21st Century Conceptions of Culture and Person for Psychology Revisited. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 47(1), 4–20. http://doi.org/10.1177/0022022115599445