Good Research Paper About Cross-Cultural Psychology
Modern psychology emerged as a strong science and study domain in the 19th century with many notable psychologists and theorists emerging in Europe. In the early theories like the psychodynamic theory or the individual psychology there were some serious shortcomings. The early theories explained the human personality and development over life time without taking in to account the cultural influences and environmental effects. Even at that time theorists saw these short comings and developed theories that incorporated socio-cultural aspects as in the psycho-social developmental theory of Eric Erikson as well as writings of Carl Jung. Over time the important of cross-cultural psychology has increased considerably and many benefits have been derived from its study. Firstly, it has resulted in the accumulation of a vast body of knowledge that includes important psychological topics like emotions, attachment, attitudes, emotions, morality, motivation, organizational and consumer behavior and numerous others. Cross-cultural has also allowed us new perspectives of viewing others and introspecting. If researchers come up with a theory it is immediately put to test regarding its generalizability. Cross-cultural studies make us think about other perspectives that might not be similar to ours and makes us question our own understandings and beliefs. Cross-cultural research has also led to the identification of the tools and mechanisms most important in adjustment in a different cultural. For someone in a different culture, adjustment is bound to be a taxing task and is likely to lead to conflict and discomfort. In this case having knowledge of the skills required in adjusting can be beneficial and preventive of many problems. Such adjustment is necessary in today’s world where globalization and ease of transport has led to increasingly diverse communities and work places. Cultural similarities and differences can be an outcome of the historical background of a particular nation and the prevalent socio-economic environment. In the case of United States of America and the Scandinavian countries there are some similarities like their individualistic cultures and developed socio-economically developed status but there are also many dissimilarities such as their professional orientations, status dynamics and emotional expressiveness.
In a cross-cultural study it is important to take in to account the respective histories of the nations under study. Even on an individual level we cannot conceptualize a person’s personality without referring to and incorporating his or her history. In the case of nations and states histories tend to be considerably longer and more variable and hence the diverse effects accumulate and bring nations to their current coordinates. Nations are affected by the natural and manmade resources they have, their relations with other nations and especially their neighbors, the wars they go through, the crisis that come upon them, the kind of government structures they have and the kind of individuals and groups that come to power. Differences and similarities between cultures arise in various domains and arenas and hence all these domains provide an opportunity for conducting cross-cultural studies. These domains include but are not limited to economics, industry, arts and crafts, theater and cinema, music, collective and individual personality characteristics, norms of communication, family systems and dynamics, politics and judiciary.
America has had a rich history with significant diversity in its inhabitants and numerous colonists coming to rule here including the Spanish and then the British. But considering the history since the inception of the United States of America in 1776 one can still trace some of the major influences on modern America. The 1776 independence from the British colonists came after a military struggle also termed as the American Revolution hence militarism has been an important part of American history up until today. At the time of the revolution ideals like freedom, equality and natural rights were very popular and were an important part and basis of the movement. After independence American territory kept expanding as other colonists also handed over their domains to the American government and America went on to become one of the largest countries of the world. The internal affairs of America have seen great disturbances with strong discrimination against minorities and various minority uprisings. Over the years feminists, African Americans, Native Americans and other such communities have struggled for their rights and different groups have achieved different outcomes. Some, like women got equal status and recognition earlier, for African Americans it took a civil war and a long time and Native Americans dwindled and became less significant. Beginning in the late 19th century industrialization began to take place and the structure and dynamics of the American economy and markets began to change . Inventions began to take place but America was on the road to progress. The upward trend came to an end with the Great Depression which was followed by the World War II which was another important turning point in American and global history. Overtime various wars other than the WWII took place, most importantly with Russia, Korea and then in Vietnam . In September 2002 terrorist attacks took place on the World Trade Center that increased America’s military involvement and interactions with the world with operations being conducted in Afghanistan and then in Iraq . On the cultural front since the advent of television in the 1950’s various trends came in fashion and died out. Liberal activism was replaced with conservatism and then technology became an immensely dominant force. Currently America stands as perhaps the most powerful state in the world because of its technological and economic development and military power. America is the hub of modern research and education and commands numerous natural and synthetic resources in the world.
The Scandinavian history is also very rich and militarily active. From an anthropological point of view this region holds considerable importance because the earliest human artifacts and fossils have been extracted from this and surrounding regions (d,Errico, 2003). Scandinavia being comprised of Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway has been either an active party in war or a reluctant participant. Europe throughout history has been a hub of powerful and resourceful nations who have engaged extensively in war. Russia, Germany, France, Netherland and Britain have all commanded power and influence world over at different points in history and the Scandinavian countries have often been engaged in other’s power struggles. At the end of the 19th century and early 20th century many Scandinavians were migrating from their homelands due to adverse local population and employment conditions (Derry, 2000). In early to mid-20th century welfare states were established in the Scandinavian countries because of the dominant political powers (Derry, 2000). Soon after in 1940s tension escalated between Germany and Britain and Germany occupied Denmark and Norway. Later the WWII also made Denmark and Norway participants in the war while Sweden remained neutral. From 1950s onward relative peace ensued and the Scandinavian countries began forming coalitions and mutual cooperation. Denmark became a member of the European Union in 1973, Sweden and Finland joined in 1995 while Norway remains unattached. As of now Sweden represents the 7th richest country in the world in terms of Gross Domestic Product, has a low population and an economy driven by engineering and exports. Denmark is also a highly developed country and ranks amongst the highest in population happiness measures worldwide. Its economy is strong and is supported by both agriculture and industry. Norway is among the richest countries of the world and among the persistent toppers of the UNDP human Development Index. Its economy is driven by the oil and gas sectors and its accumulated capital reserves. In the same vein Finland is one of the richest and sparsely populated countries of the world with a predominance of service industry followed by mining and refining. Finland’s college education system is considered the best in the world.
Comparing America and the Scandinavian countries one is forced to confront the similarities despite their different cultural and historical heritage. All four countries under consideration are clustered in the group of the most individualistic societies with America in the top spot world-wide. Individualism versus collectivism is an important socio-cultural distinction and it has important effects on the way of interaction, communication, self-concept and market dynamics. Even from a consumer’s point of view the effects of individualism are evident. Individualism connotes an independent as opposed to inter-dependent self-concept. In collectivistic societies people derive their sense of self by their relations and groups of association. Individualistic individuals are independent and hence self-sufficient in their identity. Individualists consume for their personal pleasure and satisfaction and not for improving their group status or impression and hence consumption does not have to be publicly demonstrated. In individual cultures choices are dictated by personal tastes and preferences and not by social norms so hedonic consumption and experiences are given more importance in individualistic cultures like our consideration set. Groups and social contacts exist for the service of individual and individual takes precedence over social constructs. In an individualistic culture personal merits also become more important and are considered a legitimate basis of judgment and possessions are delegitimized as indicators of personal qualities. This gives us a profile of Americans and Scandinavians along a certain dimension and being individualistic cultures these characteristics are likely to be shared in both the regions.
Individuality is a characteristic that is strongly invested in our way of communicating. It has been concluded after research that collectivistic individuals tend to conform more hence in the countries that we are concerned with, communication is less encumbered by social responsibilities and having personal opinions even if they are unique is acceptable. Individualism is also more likely to come out through greater assertiveness. When an individual is less concerned with conforming he or she can be more steadfast in his or her opinion and be less likely to show deference. But even with this similarity, differences do emerge at a finer level. Individualistic individuals are less conformist but their emotional expression can vary depending on their particular cultural heritage. Particularly Scandinavian culture encourages emotional moderation and control and this is different from the norm of Americans. Research demonstrated that even European Americans who have lived in America for multiple generations are likely to show signs of traditional Scandinavian emotional restraint. Even when compared with other European nations like the Italians marked differences are notes as Italians encourage emotional expression. This removes all considerations that given a common trait, in this case individuality, all resulting characteristics are likely to be similar.
The American economy and management is strongly driven by competition and this is also a major motivating factor for individuals. Scandinavian states on the other hand have a more controlled and highly regulated market and hence the competitiveness is likely to be lower. Given the fact that both these regions have strongly individualistic cultures and both represent some of the strongest economies of the world the differences noted in market approach and management style are worthy of interest. This shows that even if there are similarities there will still be cultural factors that will cause differences. As in the case of America and Scandinavia it is observed that in the former there is more competition and hence more individual pressure to succeed and take initiative. In Scandinavia mutual cooperation still takes precedence over personal achievement. This difference is also promoted by the reward system as in America compensation and rewards are tied to the performance of the company and the individual so there is considerable upward earning potential. In Scandinavia upper management normally receives relatively fixed salaries so there is no personal drive to be in a competition and this allows greater cooperation within the company and with subsidiaries (Selnes, Jaworski, & Kohli, 1996). With regards to subsidiaries a controlling attitude is shown in America while in Scandinavia work style is more relaxed and flexible. Although the exact dynamics of this are yet to be researched, it is hypothesized that companies in America are more likely to be short-term oriented (Selnes, Jaworski, & Kohli, 1996). This will be the case because rewards are performance based and hence the pressure to produce results quickly will be greater. In Scandinavia however rewards are fixed and there is no urgency to show excellent results hence management can be more long-term oriented and be more willing to take calculated risks. In business world these difference hold serious managerial implications especially when cross-cultural work forces are concerned or when mergers and acquisitions are being or even when business is to be conducted.
It has also been shown that the experience of certain emotions like guilt and shame can vary with cultures. In some cultures the subjective idea and feeling of guilt and shame is experienced earlier. In individualistic cultures like Scandinavia and America this is less likely to be the case. This feature is also closely linked with moral development. It is commonly accepted that in most parts of the world the notions of right and wrong are similar. Lying, murder, theft, and physical harm will be disapproved in all most any culture. But on a higher level where there is greater specificity differences are likely to emerge. As with individualistic versus collectivistic cultures moral development is likely to diverge at some point regarding certain issues. In collectivistic cultures respect, obedience and deference are likely to be considered the norm of appropriate behavior. On the other hand in individualistic cultures personal expression, assertiveness and creativity are likely to be encouraged. This difference can also appear in some form between America and Scandinavia. The difference will be due to the relative competitiveness prevalent in the cultures. American culture promotes more competitiveness hence personal motives and opinions could take precedence over others’. In Scandinavia the characteristics resulting from individualism will exist but nevertheless due to lesser competition there will be different trends observed. Mapping this on to Erik Erikson’s psycho-social theory differences will be observed in the between collectivistic and individualistic cultures in the muscular-anal age of 1 years to 3 years (Erikson, 1959). In this stage the psychological crisis is of autonomy versus shame and doubt. In collectivistic cultures shame and doubt are likely to be experienced earlier and more strongly while children from an individualistic culture will experience autonomy more strongly. Even within individualistic cultures like America and Scandinavia differences are likely to emerge at some stage probably the one occurring at age 6 years to 12 years (Erikson, 1959). In this age the crisis is between industry versus inferiority as the children raised in a more competitive environment will be more driven to take initiative than those raised in a less competitive environment.
On a more societal level there are phenomena that make American and Scandinavian cultures widely contrasting. Diversity is one important variable. America is a vast geographical stretch and is home to many racial, religious and ethnic groups (Utley, 1994). This diversity has had its costs and many internal movements and struggles have resulted from it. African Americans began as slaves and lead a long and bloody movement before they achieved some level of respect. Then gradually their conditions improved until in the recent past an African American was elected as the President for the first time in America’s history. Native Americans are another group that clashed with the administration of USA various times fighting for their identity and their lands. Their struggles were always thwarted until they gradually diminished and became acculturated in the Modern American lifestyle. Still the diversity in America is immense and different states represent different cultures, norms and values. This diversity also affects the legislation and customs of America and it is made more pronounced because of the huge numbers of emigrants to USA that arrive from all over the world (Utley, 1994). This movement is made easier by the global acceptance and knowledge of English language. The American culture has also been immensely popularized through popular culture and America’s entertainment industries (Derry, 2000). On the other hand Scandinavia is very less popular because European languages are not commonly known and their popular culture and entertainment industries don’t reach global audiences. Because of this lesser popularity immigration and resultantly diversity in this region is likely to be a lot less than in America. Europe has also seen its share of conflicts but they were mostly national and at one time were motivated by religion when Catholics and Protestants came to war. In the modern day Europe and particularly Scandinavia has lower levels of diversity and hence its legislation can be done and implemented more uniformly.
Other factors that are important in this cross-cultural analysis include views about intelligence. In the larger Western world intelligence is seen as the ability to categorize objects and information. Forming rational arguments is also an important part of what is viewed as intelligence in the West as compared to the East. Within the American and Scandinavian cultures intelligence is viewed slightly differently. Americans value intelligence but too much intelligence is looked down upon. Highly intelligent individuals are often ostracized and this put them at risk of social seclusion. No such trends have been noted in Scandinavian countries and instances of discrimination based on intelligence are very rare. With regards to health and health care there are some serious differences. Both geographic regions have well developed systems but Scandinavian countries rate among the top health countries. American healthcare is affected by national politics and policies and the infrastructure is also deficient in some regards. Scandinavian countries have highly organized and advanced health care facilities and although this puts a lot of burden on the populations in the forms of taxes, the people are well treated and facilitated. With regards to morality American population was found to be pessimistic in a survey done by Gallup. The moral issues that concern Americans the most are related to matters of civility, religion and family structures. Political issues like gay rights and abortion were less influential but the overall moral situation is expected to decline by a majority of Americans. Although America still rates quite high on many developmental scales like the UN Human Development Index, Economic Freedom, Life Expectancy and Life Satisfaction, it still cannot compete with the Scandinavian countries who have truly established highly developed welfare societies. These factors when aggregated result in Scandinavian countries being place amongst the top ten in the world. From this overall positive situation one can also infer the moral status of these countries. Rarely do they appear in news in relation with some moral or ethical transgression and this hints at highly advanced and morally well settled societies. The issue of gender equality has seen positive development in the past years in America but inequality and debate are still wide spread. From politicians, Hollywood actresses to low wage workers issues of inequality are raised at all levels and America is still hovering in 20s in the world ranking. The Scandinavian countries on the other hand have occupied consecutive positions from the second to the fifth and are only behind another European country. Overall it would seem that Scandinavian countries are only lagging behind America in geographical size and influence in the global politics otherwise on most front they have outpaced USA.
The discussion of points like the communication, emotional expression, managerial styles, diversity and various other factors makes it evident that America and Scandinavian countries have numerous differences even though they are both individualistic societies and highly developed economies. Americans tend to be more competitively oriented and this influences their market orientation, managerial style and personal preferences (Chentsova-Dutton & Tsai, 2003). Scandinavians are less competitive with each other but they still manage to run highly efficient and productive enterprises. Despite both being individualistic societies, the levels of assertiveness and emotional expression differ in both (Chentsova-Dutton & Tsai, 2003). Scandinavians tend to be more in control of their emotions and express judiciously and this difference exists even in comparison with other European countries. Diversity is also a factor that contributes to major differences between the two cultures and how legislation is done and implemented. The influences of our culture are deep rooted and are not lost despite living in a foreign culture for many years. And the study of these cultural influences opens up new horizons of investigation and provides one with knowledge that can be used in cross-cultural interactions and adjustment. If this knowledge was made universal it can hypothesized that there will be less conflicts because many of the misunderstandings causing these conflicts will be resolved. One could even hope of having a world devoid of conflict. This utopian society might not become a reality in the near future but the cross-cultural studies need to be extended and multiplied and the findings need to be made publically accessible as the betterment of the human population in general.
On a personal level this assignment has been an informative and personally relevant endeavor as I have ancestral roots in the Scandinavian region while I live in America. I have gotten to know something about how life would have been had my ancestors stayed in their homeland and this idea has been enlightening and cognitively stimulating.
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