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Contemporary Psychology: Sociocultural Perspective

Contemporary Psychology: Sociocultural Perspective

Author: Erick Taggart

This lesson will explain the key idea and areas of emphasis associated with the Sociocultural Perspective.

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Another of the three major contemporary perspectives on psychology, or the biopsychosocial perspective of psychology, is the sociocultural perspective. Now sociocultural psychology has become a major area of study recently with increases in technology in travel communication and increased globalization. The sociocultural perspective looks at the importance of the social and cultural context that influence the behavior of individual people.

Historically a lot of psychology was based on American and European ideas. However, with the advances in multiculturalism, especially the United States but also branching out to other countries around the world, there became a greater need to understand people in a specific context and how they might differ from country to country.

Sociocultural psychology also examines the other social differences and their effects they have on the mind and on behavior. Things like gender or economic status, sexual orientation. Anything that defines a specific group of people can also be considered part of the sociocultural perspective.

When we're studying psychological phenomenon, it's important to realize that not all of our theories can be applicable in different situations. Cultural relativity says that an individual's actions and beliefs should be understood by considering his or her cultural context.

For example, in social psychology, one of the terms that we use is the fundamental attribution error, which is to say it's when something goes wrong, we tend to attribute those problems to personal traits. Things are within a person themselves as opposed to outside or environmental factors. For example, if I see somebody on the road that does something wrong, that cuts me off, I might say that they're a stupid, a bad or a negative person. I attributed to them personally when in fact it was just an external behavior of theirs or it might have been the result of something in their environment.

Now what we find when we study the fundamental attribution error is that it's often very common in the United States and in European countries. However, when we look at other countries, countries like Asian-- or Asian countries, like China or Japan or Korea, we find it's not as prevalent in those kinds of countries. Because a lot of times those cultures are less focused on individuals and more on the collective or the whole. So this is an important term to consider when we're looking at the sociocultural perspective.

Another term to consider under the sociocultural perspective is the idea of social norms. Social norms are the ways that people a certain social group should or should not behave within that sort of situation. So for example, how I'm expected to act at work might be totally different from how I'm expected to act at a party with my friends.

This idea also spans different social differences as well. All those things we were talking about like culture, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation. So these ideas of social norms help us to understand what's expected or not expected within our society.

Psychologists need to understand the differences between these different groups of people and to be sensitive to their specific needs. So the things that one group of people might find to be acceptable might be totally different. And thus, a psychologist as a scientist of human behavior needs to understand and respect those kinds of things.

Now it's important again to understand with the sociocultural perspective that the modern perspectives tend to take into account a lot of different types of perspectives. So we should look at it as a whole. Again, we're considering as a biopsychosocial approach. So looking at it from just one of these perspectives doesn't give us the entire view of psychology today.