Morris, Chiu, & Liu (2015). Polycultural Psychology.

Morris, M. W., Chiu, C., & Liu, Z. (2015). Polycultural Psychology. Annual Review of Psychology, 66(1), 631–659. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-psych-010814-015001

[Cultures as interacting systems …]

“Polyculturalism assumes that individuals’ relationships to cultures are not categorical but rather are partial and plural; it also assumes that cultural traditions are not independent, sui generis lineages but rather are interacting systems.” (p 631)

[“Culturalist Versus Polyculturalist Perspectives” …]

[Epistemologies, values, and language …]

“Westerners such as Italians describe acquaintances primarily with decontextualizing adjectives (‘P is studious’), whereas Easterners such as Japanese favor contextualized verb phrases (‘P studied hard at school’) (Maass et al. 2006). Similarly, motivational responses differ: Japanese students persist longer in a task after failure feedback, whereas Canadian students persist longer after success feedback (Heine et al. 2001). … Some contend that these Eastern and Western patterns are homeostatic systems that trace back thousands of years to the different ancestral ecologies of rice paddy farming versus pastoral herding, to outlooks that were refined and crystallized in the relational ethics of Confucius versus the analytic logic of Aristotle (Nisbett 2003).” (p 632)

[Defining culture (“loosely”) …]

“Culture: a loosely integrated system of ideas, practices, and social institutions that enables coordination of behavior in a population” (p 632)

[Stereotypes arise …]

“… increased stereotyping (Buchtel 2014). … why does cultural psychology training give rise to homogenizing stereotypes?” (p 633)

[Cultures are not categories …]

“Country comparisons treat culture as a categorical, independent variable. ‘Categorical’ suggests that cultures are bounded groups defined by shared distinctive traits; ‘independent’ suggests that societies develop their own norms sui generis rather than through contact and interchange.” (p 633)

[Human values are broadly consistent …]

“Early researchers assumed that the ‘lenses’ distinguishing cultures consist of general values, such as individualism and collectivism (Triandis 1994). However, there is no consensus in value endorsements; values vary more within countries than between countries (Schwartz 2014).” (p 633)

[Individuals choose their “cultural proficiencies” …]

“Rather than uniform cultural programming, these findings support Allport’s (1961) view that members select their values, beliefs, and habits from the cultural menu in an à la carte fashion. Each person’s repertoire of cultural proficiencies is a slight but a small subset of the collective-level cultural register.” (p 634)

[Interaction with and influence by many cultures …]

“Partiality enables plurality — an individual engages with and gets shaped by more than one culture.” (p 634)

[Definition of polyculturalism …]

“Polyculturalism: a network conception of culture in which cultural influence on individuals is partial and plural and cultural traditions interact and change each other” (p 634)

[Defining cultural influences …]

“Dynamic constructivist: a model of cultural influence on cognition grounded in construct activation theory and learning theory, emphasizing the role of primes and reinforcement and the moderating role of epistemic and social motivations” (p 634)

[Living within and between many cultures …]

“In psychology, polyculturalism focuses on how people live coherent lives informed by multiple legacies, how they borrow from or react against foreign ways, with ripple effects within their communities. … Examples of these polyculturalist concepts include dynamic constructivist research on the activation of cultural schemas (Weber & Morris 2010) and studies of how people use their knowledge of the norms of several cultures to guide their behavior (Tam et al. 2012, Zou et al. 2009).” (p 634)

[“Table 1 Two paradigmatic assumptions and their implications” (p 635) …]

Culturalist paradigm Polyculturalist paradigm
Cultural influence Categorical
Constant, steady, general
Partial and plural
Dynamic, intermittent, situated
Determinants of culture Independent, ancient origins Historically stable Intercultural interactions Continually evolving

[National culture vs ideas and institutions of culture …]

“… less focus on the effects of a national culture as a whole or of general traitlike orientations and more focus on effects of specific engagements with cultural ideas and institutions.” (p 636)

[“Polycultural Selves: Plural Cultural Identities” …]

[Post-immigration declines …]

“The surprisingly positive outcomes of first-generation immigrants decline across subsequent generations [the so-called immigrant paradox (Nguyen 2006)].” (p 637)

[Defining settler societies …]

“Settler societies: societies populated mainly by immigrants, such as Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, and the United States” (p 637)

[Matrix of immigrant acculturation and social and psychological effects …]

“Building on sociological studies of immigrant acculturation, Berry (1974) developed self-report measures of four configurations of immigrant acculturation — assimilation (high host-culture engagement, low heritage-culture engagement), separation (low host, high heritage), integration (high host, high heritage), and marginalization (low host, low heritage). Early evidence supported his theory that psychological adjustment is best with integration and worst with marginalization (Berry 1990).” (p 637)

[Range of cultural needs …]

“Rather than needing one strong cultural identity, individuals can thrive with several strong identifications or several weak identifications.” (p 637)

[Definition of frame-switching (like code-switching?) …]

“Frame switching: shifts between different interpretive constructs in response to cues in the environment, assimilatively or contrastively, depending on the person’s identity-related motivations” (p 638)

[Self-identity and negotiation between cultures …]

“Bicultural identity integration: the extent to which a bicultural individual experiences her two cultural identities as compatible and integrated versus oppositional and conflicted” (p 638)

[Cultural priming and language use …]

“Frame switching refers to biculturals’ experience of switching cultural lenses from one transitory situation to the next. Hong et al. (2000) proposed that cultural identities are made salient through priming and found that bicultural Hong Kong students could be induced to endorse Chinese values and attribute behavior to situations, or they could be induced to endorse American values and attribute behavior to persons. Priming was implemented through prior tasks that activate Chinese or Western identities, such as exposure to iconic Chinese images (a dragon) or iconic American images (a cowboy).3 Verkuyten & Pouliasi (2002) replicated this with Greek immigrants in Holland, priming them with iconic Dutch (windmills) and Greek (the Acropolis) images. Asian Americans primed with Asian images switched to person description using contextualized verb phrases, whereas those primed with American images switched in the direction of decontextualized adjectives (Morris & Mok 2011).” (p 638)

[Individuals with conflicting cultural identities …]

“Conflicted biculturals are more likely to respond to cultural cues in a contrastive manner, enacting the identity that was not primed. Conflicted biculturals tend to feel disidentified with one of their cultures and are motivated to distance themselves from it (Zou et al. 2008). They are also motivated to defend the nonprimed identity against neglect (Mok & Morris 2009, 2010, 2012a,b).” (p 638)

[“Polycultural Minds: Plural Cultural Legacies” …]

[Where cultural plurality manifests …]

“Cultural plurality pertains to knowledge as well as identity, mind as well as self.” (p 639)

[Defining NFCC …]

“Need for cognitive closure (NFCC): a desire for quick and firm answers that varies dispositionally and situationally (e.g., as factor of time pressure)” (p 639)

[Polyculturalism open to hybridity and code-switching …]

“Polyculturalism directs attention to how people pick up proficiencies from multiple cultures throughout their life span through a range of different learning processes, some explicit and some implicit.” (p 639)

[Culture learned through “immersion and interaction” …]

“The polyculturalist picture of cultural ideas and practices as apps suggests that most cultural learning happens implicitly through immersion and interaction in the cultural setting.” (p 639)

[Constant cultural negotiation …]

“… people update their norm representations continually based on what they are exposed to.” (p 639)

[Learning process provides “implicit” culture …]

“… implicit acculturation likely occurs through social learning (Bandura 1977).” (p 640)

[Cultural exposure in expats …]

“… expatriates may also learn through first-hand conditioning.” (p 640)

[Levels of cultural learning …]

“Comparing the three implicit learning processes, each requires progressively more immersion in the local culture — exposure to what locals see for norms, exposure to locals’ behaviors for social learning, and interaction with locals for conditioning.” (p 640)

[Defining cultural metacognition …]

“Cultural metacognition: epistemic self-evaluation in intercultural matters, such as in planning for interactions, monitoring one’s assumptions, and updating one’s knowledge from experience” (p 641)

[Interpreting new cultures against existing cultural knowledge requires flexible adaptivity …]

“Expatriates also use their second-culture knowledge to interpret locals’ behavior. Again, this carries risks: Drawing inferences from generalizations can lead to erroneous conclusions and can make people feel unfairly stereotyped. The best resolution of this dilemma seems to be mindful use of cultural generalizations: The managers nominated by peers as most interculturally competent are not those who eschew generalizations entirely, nor those who apply stereotypes inflexibly, but rather those who actively update their generalizations on the basis of interactions (Ratiu 1983).” (p 641)

[Value of cultural metacognition …]

“Higher cultural metacognition is associated with greater trust and creative collaboration in intercultural relationships (Chua et al. 2012). High cultural metacognizers make more accurate judgments about culturally traditional counterparts in international negotiations (Mor et al. 2013). Mor & Morris (2013) found that high cultural meta-cognizers apply cultural generalizations in a contingent manner, depending on the stereotype congruence of the target’s initial behavior. When an outgroup target’s initial behavior accords with a generalization-based expectancy, high cultural metacognizers become more likely to apply the generalization in their judgments. But when the target’s initial behavior does not accord with the expectancy, then high cultural metacognizers become less likely to apply the generalization.” (p 641)

[Further defining of polycultural stance …]

“… the polyculturalist image of plural cultural influence, not the culturalist image of categorical cultural influence.” (p 641)

[“Intercultural Interaction And Cultural Change” …]

[Externalities affecting culture …]

“Guns, germs, laws, and money are mechanisms of influence that have [page break] greatly shaped the cultural map, and it is a mistake to ignore these factors when understanding modern cultural patterns.” (p 641-642)

[Intercultural contact does not directly lead to assimilation …]

“… cultural change from intercultural contact is not an automatically assimilative group process; it is a variable-speed and -direction process driven by psychological and political dynamics. Second, intercultural contact happens in many ways beyond the intermingling of neighboring communities.” (p 642)

[Many forms of intercultural contact besides interpersonal …]

“Exposure to another culture does not necessarily mean contact with its people. For instance, Stürmer et al (2013) measured contact with the foreign not only by interactions with foreigners but also by engagement with foreign languages, media, cuisine, music, religions, cultural festivals, and even travel magazines. Such exposure to foreign artifacts and practices has increased with globalization; thus, increasingly, intercultural contact goes beyond intergroup contact.” (p 642)

[Self-stereotyping may demean one’s self …]

“Self-stereotyping refers to a process in which people from a stigmatized group describe themselves in terms of the dominant group’s stereotype of them or even use pejorative labels from the dominant group to address each other.” (p 644)

[Defining secular, stylistic, and sacred artifacts …]

“Secular/ stylistic/ sacred content: secular practices serve practical ends such as medicine and transportation; stylistic practices express personal or collective identity such as arts or sports; sacred practices involve moral domains such as family, divinity, and nationality” (p 645)

[Secular versus sacred values …]

“Lal (2000) distinguishes material beliefs, related to practical ends, from cosmological beliefs, related to the meaning of life and relationships, and argues that people are more receptive to foreign ideas in the practical sphere than the cosmological sphere. Atran & Ginges (2012) propose that some norms and values are sacralized, such that they cannot be traded against other ends in decision making. … Past theory suggests that, generally, borrowing is more likely in the secular (e.g., salami) or stylistic (e.g., origami) domains than in the sacred (e.g., polygamy) sphere. However, we propose that this is moderated by emotional prejudices toward the other culture as a whole.” (p 645)

[Cultural markers support affective responses …]

“The Fiske framework tells us that low-warmth/high-competence cultures evoke envious prejudice. Envy involves recognizing the other culture’s achievement yet also resenting it — a mix of admiration and anger, an impulse to borrow and also to attack. How the ambivalence resolves itself may depend on the domain of cultural inflow.” (p 646)

[Defining cultural capital …]

“Cultural capital: cultural tastes, proficiencies, and practices that signal higher social status, sought out for goals of social access and social exclusion” (p 647)

[Traditions arose as solutions to problems which may no longer exist …]

“National traditions are mostly novel solutions to novel problems, historians tell us, masquerading as ancient traditions.” (p 649)

[Industrialization of culture, invention of tradition …]

“The early modern era was a fertile season for the forging of cultures as institutions such as the ideological apparatus of the nation state — compulsory schooling, standing armies, and nationwide radio and newspapers — enabled transmission of beliefs about the past and of perceptions that these beliefs were shared by the entire population, an imagined community (Anderson 2006). The invention of tradition reveals something about the intersection of psychology and culture: People celebrate that which they were led to believe is their tradition, perhaps because of evolved propensities for learning and enacting culture. However, cultural researchers must avoid being duped by invented traditions and ignoring the recent forces shaping cultures in favor of ancient ones.” (p 649)

[“Lay Beliefs And Implied Ideologies, Policies, And Behaviors” …]

[“Table 2 – Ideologies and policies associated with the three paradigms” (p 650) …]

Paradigm Universalism Culturalism Polyculturalism
Ideology Colorblindness Multiculturalism Interculturalism
Policy Establish equality through uniform criteria and treatment Preserve multiple cultures, side by side, with no group most central Stimulate intercultural contact
and dialogue
As a perceiver Suppress thoughts about ethnicity Acknowledge the other’s culture Recognize the other’s plurality
As an actor Drop ethnic habits Act authentically through hewing to pure traditions Recombine strands of culture to renew them

[Universalism ignores culture as a driver of human psychology …]

“Universalism holds that cultural, ethnic, and racial identities are superficial and unimportant to understanding inner psychology. This scientific paradigm guided research programs that disproved prior scientific and lay beliefs about racial differences.” (p 650)

[Ignoring difference doesn’t make it go away …]

“However, colorblindness proved not to be a panacea. Perceivers who avoid discrimination in their conscious decisions (hiring an employee) can nonetheless be prejudiced in their implicit judgments (assigning credit or blame for everyday outcomes).” (p 650)

[Othering, “the standard is often that of the dominant ethnic group” …]

“Colorblind means that everyone is held to one standard, but the standard is often that of the dominant ethnic group (e.g., France’s policies toward immigrants) or of a strong organizational culture that fits more comfortably for people of some ethnic backgrounds than others.” (p 650)

[Multiculturalism also not ideal …]

“In the past decade, however, support for multiculturalism has dramatically receded in Europe as unassimilated ethnic communities increasingly become sites of discontent and violence (Brubaker 2001). Ideals of cultural authenticity and policies of cultural preservation are increasingly seen as threats to liberal dialogue and civic identity.” (p 651)

[Defining interculturalism …]

“Interculturalism: policy of encouraging interaction and dialogue between the different cultural communities in a society, valuing cross-pollination” (p 651)

[Multiculturalism favours boundaries, superficial cultural habits …]

“… multiculturalist policies are not always comfortable; they require drawing ethnic boundaries that do not always clearly exist, and not every group can be recognized. Subgroup identities are discouraged because they threaten the power of a group. From an activist perspective, celebrating cultures as authentic categories with independent origins in antiquity has several political limitations. First, it ignores the political character of cultural patterns, the way that a group’s habits and ways of life have been shaped by interactions with other groups such as colonialism, slavery, war, and institutional discrimination. Second, fetishizing contemporary habits as an integrated cultural system enshrines cultures to a museum rather than seeing within them the potential for change. … In reality, people from one culture may not genuinely value some aspects of another culture, but in an ideology where judging other cultures is forbidden, the only solution is keeping one’s distance. In many cases, multiculturalism has resulted in separate, unequal, and noninteracting communities.” (p 651)

[Multiculturalism and stereotypes …]

“… research suggests that even when multiculturalism decreases prejudice, it may increase stereotyping. Wolsko et al. (2000) showed that multiculturalist primes (as opposed to colorblind primes) increased positivity toward ethnic outgroup members but also increased stereotyping and use of category information.” (p 651)

[Cultural hybridity is core to polyculturalism …]

“Polyculturalism concurs with culturalism that human hearts and minds are guided by cultural identities and legacies; however, people have partial and plural engagements with cultures and, in part for this reason, cultures interact and change. Prashad (2001) argues that polyculturalism implies an endorsement of cultural learning and adaptation. The policy implied is termed ‘interculturalism.’ This ideology recognizes individuals as culturally complex, dynamic, and malleable. It is suspicious of claims to cultural authenticity that are based on purity and critical of ethnic chauvinism. Whereas multiculturalism involves policies to preserve ‘traditional’ cultures, interculturalist policies celebrate hybridity as a generator of culture.” (p 651)

[UNESCO reassesses its notions of culture …]

“An organization that has reassessed its mission through the intercultural lens is UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). Decreeing world heritage sites is not the only way to support cultures; at worst, it can amount to sanctifying reconstructions of history that legitimize current regimes. State-sponsored sites of ‘cultural preservation’ often reduce the complexity of the past to exaggerate its continuity with the present, legitimizing current regimes and practices.” (p 652)

[Cultural essentialism, closed-mindedness versus creativity …]

“Tadmor et al. (2013) found that priming ethnic essentialism reduces creativity, with the relationship mediated by closed-mindedness, a subscale of NFCC. Lowered creativity among believers in essentialism/singularity is consistent with Appiah’s (2006) arguments that multiculturalist injunctions to act ethnically authentic can limit people from more creative cosmopolitan lifestyles.” (p 652)

[A mix of approaches and understandings of culture are socially useful …]

“It is not clear that interculturalism can replace the political functions served by multiculturalism in mobilizing collective action and garnering resources for cultural communities (Meer & Modood 2012). So just as the three scientific paradigms have guided valuable research programs, all three ideologies — colorblindness, multiculturalism, and interculturalism — are valuable political frameworks that advance valuable ends. Culturally diverse liberal societies need all three.” (p 653)

Selected Notes

  • 3. Although prior research had primed the concept of collectivism and observed an effect on judgments related to collectivism (see Oyserman & Lee 2008), Hong et al. (2000) captured the frame-switching process through priming visual images and observing semantically unrelated shifts in adherence to cultural norms.

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