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Culture and Cognition

A collection of critical essays

Edited By Shamsul Haque and Elizabeth Sheppard

The past few decades have seen a huge increase in global interest in psychology, with more psychologists, psychology programmes and students than ever before. Culture and Cognition: A collection of critical essays is made up of chapters written by experts in each topic, and is aimed at those wishing to learn more about psychology. While culture and cognition have frequently been regarded as separate areas of study in psychology, this book brings together essays on both of these topics as well as several that consider the direct interplay between culture and thinking.
Essays focus on a range of fascinating topics, such as how culture affects memory for events in our own lives or our perceptions of human attractiveness. Essays also address a diverse range of psychological phenomena like déjà-vu, savant abilities, non-suicidal self-injury, theory of mind, problem gambling and sleep disorders. Socio-cultural and professional issues specifically within the Asian context are also discussed.
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Why culture matters: Social context and how we make sense of our lives

Extract

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From time to time, in the course of conducting cultural research, the question arises, “Why does ethnicity or nationality matter? Aren’t we just one human race?” In fact, from a principled standpoint, most psychologists would agree with the statement that ethnicity, per se, really does not matter as a psychological variable. Partially for this reason, through the history of psychology, sociocultural variables have been largely ignored (Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010). Over the past several decades more psychologists have begun to investigate variables such as ethnicity and nationality not because of any particular interest in the color of a person’s skin, what language their parents speak, or even what country they live in. These variables however are clues to a person’s cultural background; they hint at the social beliefs and practices that a person has been immersed in throughout their life. Generally, people are not consciously aware of their cultural environment (e.g. Adler, 1975). They live in a certain environment, among people who speak and behave in certain ways, and value certain things. It’s easy and natural to implicitly assume that all of these familiar and comfortable ways of going through life are “normal”. Most people don’t consider their own culture much at all until they come into contact with other, different ways of doing things.

In fact though, there is an enormous amount of variation throughout the world in how groups of people think and behave. In this chapter we will briefly explore how some...

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