Psychology often focuses on the individual. However, there are cultural applications of psychology. The link between culture and psychology comes in two forms.
Cultural psychology Applied psychology
Cultural psychology focuses on the relationship that exists between the individual mind and one’s environment or culture. Cultural psychology assumes there are no absolute “laws” or principles at work within the mind other than a drive to survive and thrive in one’s environment. Attempts to make multicultural generalizations of research findings in one culture to a multicultural population are inappropriate since cultural information is contextual.
Cultural psychology presumes that cultural norms, traditions, and social practices will shape the psychological development and cognitive processes of members of that culture. Cultures can be any group that forms around commonalities and offers a sense of exclusive identity and membership.
Psychological theories based on cultural psychology are sensitive to multicultural differences. Psychological and cognitive processes such as information processing, perceptions, and moral reasoning are shaped by one’s cultural environment. An accurate understand of the individual psyche requires an understanding of the subject’s cultural environment.
The insistence on considering psychological development and function with the cultural context separates the discipline from cross-cultural psychology. Cultural psychology emphasizes the role of cultural differences in psychology formation while cross-cultural psychology seeks to use cultural differences to find commonalities that generalize across cultures.
Cultural psychology fits well within a multicultural or Postmodern theoretical perspective. However, cultural psychology conflicts with many of the theories associated with developmental and cognitive psychologies as well as conflicts with the universal principles offered in behaviorism.
The second application of culture to psychology is in applied psychology. Applied psychology began in Germany and came to the U.S. in the 19th century. The founder of applied psychology, Hugo Munsterberg, wanted to apply principles of philosophy in ways to promote positive social change. Munsterberg’s work eventually led to the publication of his first book on the subject of applied psychology. Harvard University picked up on Munsterberg’s work and founded the first Division of Applied Psychology in the early 20th century.
Applied psychology emphasizes the practical application of psychological principles and research findings to “cultural” context. Unlike cultural psychology, applied psychology assumes that certain psychological and behavioral universals apply regardless of the context. For example, applied psychology addresses topics such as motivation, intelligence assessment, and performance enhancement.
Applied psychology is not limited to one domain. Rather, applied psychology is more akin to a theoretical application than a theoretical system of beliefs. The possible context where applied psychology is used varies from the mental health field to organizational cultures.