Psychology for the past one hundred years have been based and developed on the western conception of psychology. It seemed that most psychological practitioners have been trained and developed in western universities and then brought the concepts, principles and theories pf psychology to their own countries of origin which in turn helped perpetuated the belief that western psychology was the psychology of this generation.
With the advent of globalization, as many people of varying cultural heritage and orientation live, work and study together, we are faced with the reality that western psychology is very limited in terms of cultural differentiation between areas of study like personality, learning, counseling, social interaction, life-span development and etc. it can be noted that traditional psychology is based on the cultural orientation of the western world and from this alone is basis for the question of the universality of psychological concepts. It is important for students of psychology to know, learn and appreciate the cultural aspect of psychology.
This would teach students to become more open and accepting of the diversity of psychology and critically understand how it is unified by the discipline (APA, 2003). This course will build on the traditions of cross-cultural psychology, feminist psychology and black psychology whose development has contributed to the greater awareness of the diversity in psychology. In the history of psychology, many dissenters have attempted to establish their own brand of psychology that offers a different perspective to the definition of psychological concepts and its implications to the study of human behavior.
These perspectives grew out of the reaction of these scholars who did not agree with the way psychological constructs have been presented, discussed and studied in the academic world. The first of this was feminist psychology, which grew out of the women’s movement in the late 60’s. This unique psychological perspective was a reaction to the male dominated field of psychology and especially the psychoanalytic theory of Freud which portrayed women negatively (Brabeck & Ting, 2000).
Feminist psychology wanted to change psychology into acknowledging gender equality in its study of human behavior as well as the elimination of pathological definitions of women’s mental health problems and to empower women in their relationships, careers and education. This new course will use the feminist psychology as a framework in identifying the differences in the use of psychological concepts in different cultures and their perception of gender differences.
Black psychology which was a recent perspective in psychology deals with the study of how African-American experience is inferior, deficit and incompletely represented in psychology in terms of personality development, assessment, counseling, relationships and family systems (Helms, 1990). Black psychology is important for this course as it gives the student a concrete example of how psychology in its narrowness has not even adequately represented African-Americans in their researches, studies and experiments (Helms & Cook, 1999) and has equated the average white American male as the average representative of the American people.
Through Black psychology, students will be able to distinguish how minority groups are under represented in western psychology and at the same time use the conflict theory or the inequality of power between cultures to critically understand the role of psychology in the changes and development in human society and behavior in the face of globalization.
Lastly, cross-cultural psychology a more recent discipline within the science of psychology has focused on the differences of non-western and western cultures, this subfield have tried to identify how different cultures perceive and construct knowledge of psychological phenomena like the development of identity, attribution, stress, conflict resolution, learning and values formation. From this subfield, newer understanding of non-western cultures have come to the fore and it has offered a method of studying human behavior in its cultural context.
Cross-cultural psychology gives students a preview of what has been discovered in terms of non-western studies of psychology, it enables them to think and acknowledge the importance of studying a psychological concept in the context of one’s culture. The attempt of cross- cultural psychology to identify differences between cultures is not to dispel the essence of psychology but to make it more culturally relevant and applicable.
These three subfields of psychology depart from traditional psychology since they formulated their theory and teachings in the inequality, conflict and limitations of psychology to fully understand human behavior as a discipline, stressing the roles of gender, race and cultural orientation in human behavior. Instead of debating whether psychology is a study of mind or behavior, whether cognitive or psychoanalytic, the focus was on how psychology was used and developed without giving due consideration to the influence of culture, race and gender to behavior.
Cross-cultural, feminist and black psychology can be infused in the course through devoting the early lessons to the history and development of this fields and how it can be used as a perspective or as a means of explaining psychological phenomena (APA, 2003). Then, the course would use examples, cases and readings that are under this three perspectives and hence develop in the students the ability to integrate the three perspectives to more fully understand psychology in the global village as well as provide for the means with which globalization issues and debates can be dissected and analyzed.
Moreover, course projects and requirements would specifically use the tenets of cross-cultural psychology, feminist and black psychology to provide the students the opportunity to develop his/her own theoretical assumptions and critically evaluate the arguments of this three perspectives in the hope of building a culturally relevant psychology that can be applied and be more useful to the study of globalization and its impact to different cultures.
Globalization have brought people from different cultures closer, and with the interaction of different cultures comes an entirely new definition of human behavior and its antecedent functions like communication patterns, motivation, learning, interpersonal relationships, social functioning, emotional expression and a host of other human specific behavior. Globalization has been defined as the precursor to the development of a global village, where space and time does not exist and where each person adheres to the social norms and mores of the dominant culture (Friedman, 1994).
And since western culture is the more dominant one, then it would follow that cultural differences will dissipate and be integrated to the global culture. However, as cross-cultural psychology and its related disciplines have found that a global village is far from reality since there are too many psychological constructs that western culture hold to be universal has not been supported in the study of other cultures.
But globalization is continuing to take a stronger hold on areas like businesses, production of goods, education and medical staffing, so it is also a very real phenomena that has slowly been creeping and catching up with psychology. Thus, the need for this course, it is important that students become cognizant of the influence and impact of globalization to the practice of psychology and how it threatens to throw out majority of the knowledge that psychology had labored to discover, explore and understand (Friedman, 1994).
A student with a strong foundation on globalization and its effects will become better able at generating data and building new theories to explain globalization as it affects the study of human behavior. The course content is only effective if it is communicated through a well-prepared and knowledgeable teacher/instructor. I can infuse the teachings and perspectives of feminist, black and cross-cultural psychology in my personal paradigm and let it guide me in my discussions and lectures on the importance of studying globalization and how it impacts psychology as a discipline.
I could also uphold the basic gender equality tenet in my class; students will be treated and evaluated fairly without bias to gender and of course race. It also does not preclude preferential treatment to women or blacks or other minority groups but rather a conscious effort to teach students that they are critical thinkers and they must learn to be objective and deal with their personal biases (Worell & Remer, 1992). I should also be quick to correct false arguments that are racially or gender based discrimination as well as to promote cultural relativism in my class.
I could also share with the class my own narrow-mindedness in the past and how I believed everything that was taught to me as infallible and universally true, this would enable me to build a relationship with the class and through our interaction they will learn to appreciate the differences in the study of psychology. I can also stress the importance nowadays of breaking out from our personal comfort zones and to go out and gather as many information and knowledge that could help us gain a deeper understanding of human behavior. This would also emphasize the need for collaboration, shared learning and the academic discipline of critical thinking, problem solving and creativity.
American Psychological Association. (2003). Guidelines on multicultural education, training, research, practice and organizational change for psychologists. American Psychologist 58;5, 377–402. Brabeck, M. & Ting, K. (2000). Feminist ethics: Lenses for examining ethicalpsychological practice. In M. M. Brabeck (Ed. ), Practicing feminist ethics in psychology (pp. 7–35). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Friedman, J. (1994). Cultural identity and global process. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Helms, J. (1990). Black and White racial identity: Theory, research and practice. New York: Greenwood. Helms, J. & Cook, D. (1999). Using race in counseling and psychotherapy: Theory and process. Needham: Allyn & Bacon. Worell, J. & Remer, P. (1992). Feminist perspectives in therapy: An empowerment model for women. New York: John Wiley.