Welcome back MOOC students. We have another side dish video today and this one is in response to one of your request to learn a little bit more of what we sometimes call cultural psychology or cross cultural psychology. And it turns out that another of my colleagues here at University of Charles Scarborough, Jessica Dere has done a lot of research on this topic and is an expert and so again you know rather than me trying to learn stuff, go to somebody who knows it very well. So, thank you Jessica for spending the time and for agreeing to this interview. >> It's okay. >> Yeah, so where I think I want to start, we had a little bit of a chat yesterday in your office about what we might talk about and you brought up this weird thing and I think it's really appropriate because it kind of gives students a good sense of where the data that we've been talking about comes from. So could you tell us a little bit about what weird is all about and how it might relate to this issue? >> Sure, so a number of authors, I think, over the past several decades really, they have recognized that our psychology literature is really primarily based on research and conducting very specific sub set of the world population. And even within North America subset of the population here. And that really is psychology undergraduate students. Right, so that psychology University departments, many researchers rely on what we sometimes call participant pools or various ways of recruiting students that are sort of easily available. But as a result, much of our research literature is based findings conducted only with these participants who are very specific against upset. And so recently a group of authors at University of British Columbia here in Canada were all interested in cultural psychology, had to come up, we had to look at this systematically. We came up with this clever acronym of highlighted them as weird samples So that is western, educated, industrialized, British, and democratic. So we're sort of characterizing the context in which these samples live. Yeah, so then they also systematically went through recent literature, just showing how the vast majority give samples fit within this characterization and also how unrepresentative they are of North America and also, of course, of the world. >> Yeah, and that's, for those of you who've been following the course there may have been times at which you've kind of question some phenomenon when it didn't sound to you reasonable. Given the context that you live in. And that's quite possibly true. It could very well be a result of the traditional way psychological research has been conducted on this very distinct sub-group of students. So that's really where I think cultural psychology comes in. It's trying to step back a little bit and bringing in some of these other factors and trying to understand the role they might play. So maybe you could give us a sense of cultural psychology and what it's goals are. And maybe if there's a history, you could bring in some of that? >> Sure. So I think the study of culture and psychology has quite a history. Sort of really starting from the beginning of psychology as a discipline itself. And has gone through several different iterations. I think many sub-disciplines within the field. And then you highlighted at the start how sometimes you hear about cultural psychology and sometimes we hear about cross cultural psychology. And those are sometimes used synonymously, but can also be thought of as somewhat distinct traditions within this general interest of looking at culture and psychology. And one way to that is that traditionally cross-cultural psychologists have been interested in looking for universals. So taking psychological concepts that primarily have been developed in what we think of as Western contexts, and then seeing how do these look around the world. So paying attention to culture in terms of highlighting the importance of doing cross-cultural comparisons, studying concepts in different countries, but with the overarching objective being an expectation of finding similarities. And sort of this underlying assumption that ultimately there are a lot of universals. >> So I think of an example that I believe we talked about in the context of the course which is emotional expression. Where a lot of people say that generally if you look at individuals and how they might express anger or sadness or something like that It tends to be a universal. >> Yeah, so the culture and emotional literature is a fascinating one. And I think your right, a good example where there's evidence for some sort of core universals is idea of a certain subset of emotions being some universal emotions. Between five and seven, it seems that some of the evidence we have, there are certain common expressions like smiling with happiness seems to be quite universal. But at the same time, there's a lot of evidence for pretty substantial cultural variations. So how people express embarrassment, for example, the idea of maybe more social emotions, embarrassment, shame, things like that being expressed in really substantially different ways. And so that high lights this sort of tension between reversals and differences. So people who identify as cultural psychologists historically have tended to focus more on really looking at context. So, the importance of understanding context to understand psychology, and so not making assumptions about universals, but more looking at variation, and sort of the profound link between cultural context and psychological processes, and really seeing those intimately tied. So we can't understand psychology without context. >> Yeah, I think the way you put it to me yesterday was something about as the brain develops, it develops within a cultural sphere, and those two things are constantly interacting to shape that individual. >> Exactly, so a key tenet within cultural psychology is sort of this phrase that the culture and mind make each other up so that we can't understand culture without understanding the minds that create cultural. But, similarly, we can't understand the mind without understanding the cultural context in which it exists. >> Right, and this can run pretty deep as well, right? It can affect the way we perceive things. In fact, we were talking about the perception of emotion. Maybe you want to share that example. >> Sure, yeah. Yeah, so I think that's been a big contribution of the cultural psychology. Literature has been highlighting how profoundly culture matters that it's not just sort of about superficial differences about clothing or food but that it really fundamentally impacts psychological processes. And so again the cultural emotion literature is an interesting one because emotion seems so fundamental to human experience. And so there's some really neat examples, highlighting again really important cultural differences. So, one that comes to mind that's relatively recent was a group of researchers looking at the perception of emotion, faces let's say, expression of emotion, in Japanese and North American participants. And they in fact, use little cartoon figures and the key, just a bit, was there was a central figure who had either, let's say, a smiling face or a sad face and then there were four people, people on either side of that central figure who's faces either share the same emotion or a difference emotion. You can imagine people on either side being sad while central figure was happy and so the patient's we're asked to rate the emotion of the central figure and the key variable was how much did the faces of the friends, let's say, the people on the other side, how much did their faces impact the rating of that central figure's emotion. And so the key finding was that people of Japanese background were more influenced by the surrounding figures when grading that central figure's emotion. Whereas the people of Mexican, European background in North America, we just paid more attention, just to that central figure. And so, they conducted several different experiments including eye tracking data to highlight that the Japanese participants are looking more at the context. So pretty neat and it really ties into a larger literature about how the ideas that people of East Asian backgrounds often take context into account to a greater extent and highlighting how understandings of emotion can be more social as opposed to more individual. >> Yeah, I think that's a cool example. That's cool. You yourself have done some research in this area that relates a lot of cultural issues to mental health issues. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about what you've been doing. >> Sure, yeah. So that's my particular area of interest. So I'm a clinical psychologist and a cultural psychologist. So really most fascinated by sort of the intersection of those fields and of the inter-diciplinary area of culture and mental health. And so, I guess, one theme in my work has been trying to understand cultural differences in the experience of emotional distress, and also its expression. And so, one key, sort of, finding in the area of culture, and mental health, over the years, has been differences in the expression of depression, depressive symptoms, and in particular, the distinction between more physical or somatic symptoms versus more psychological symptoms. And sort of one finding that people may have heard of is the idea that people of Chinese background tend to emphasize more physical or somatic symptoms when experiencing what we may call depression. Compared to kind of the North American norm that we're so familiar with which really emphasizes psychological symptoms. So that difference has been found repeatedly but we don't have a great understanding of why. So what is it that sort of leads to these cultural differences and what types of sent of people Talking about what do they talk about when they go to seek help? Why do they emphasize in interviews, etc.? And so one theme within the literature recently has been theories around what contributes to what people pay attention to, what they define as a symptom that ties into what we know about difference in emotion, emotional expression, and the importance placed on emotion. So one idea is that people in North America, there's more of an emphasis on individual emotional experience. You know thinking quiet a lot about how we're feeling. Sharing how we're feeling with other. That sort of, you know, it's welcome, it's encouraged, right? And there's a contrast in Chinese context, where there's less of the focus on those individual emotions. And so there's some theory and some work trying to look at is that part of what contributes to then differences in symptoms when somebody is stressed. >> Cool, I think this all sounds really cool. So by the way, any of you who are interested in hearing more about that, I'll also have a link to a TEDx talk that Jessica gave where she's focusing a lot more on this issue of mental health. And I think the take-home from all of this is psychology is a young science. We're still learning about a lot of things as we go. And it has had some biases in terms of where we've collected our information and who we actually have built a psychology about. And thanks to the work of cultural psychologists we're now starting to widen that understanding and finding out the extent to which these results do or do not generalize to other populations. So all very cool. All part of being a young, fun science, I think. I want to thank you, Jessica, for your time. I really appreciate it. It was a lot of fun.