The Right Representation - Deepstash

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How knowledge about different cultures is shaking the foundations of psychology

The Right Representation

Normally, studies conducted to understand human behavior have participants representing the wider human population, which may be true in a certain geography but isn't accurate when we take into account other cultures and demographics.

More than 90% of the participants in psychological studies originate from countries that are Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (W.E.I.R.D) which is neither a random sample nor a real representation of the human population.

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The positive impact of forgiveness
The positive impact of forgiveness

Forgiving someone can reduce our stress levels, risk of heart disease and mental illness. It can prevent cognitive decline in later life, help you earn more money, and be happier.

Forgiveness is part of every culture, but how we choose to offer forgiveness are affected by our cultures and our personal psychologies.

Forgiveness should be culturally appropriate

Individualists use forgiveness to relieve a burden and clear their conscience while collectivists use forgiveness to preserve social harmony, even if the individual still feels resentment towards their transgressor.

Western countries like the US or the UK tend to have more individualistic cultures, meaning personal gain is put before helping the wider group. In collectivistic cultures like Asia and Africa, the group is put first.

Two separate types of forgiveness
  • Decisional forgiveness is colder, cognitive, and analytical. The collectivist is concerned with what is the best thing for everyone else.
  • Emotional forgiveness is offered to satisfy an emotional need and is more common in individualistic people.

The separate types of forgiveness are sometimes used to explain the difference between collectivistic and individualistic approaches.

The beginning of positive psychology

The story of positive psychology started just 20 years ago with Martin Seligman, head of the American Psychological Association. The idea he considered was: What if every person was encouraged to nurture his or her character strengths, rather than being scolded into fixing their shortcomings?

He reorientated the entire discipline of psychology away from mostly treating mental illness and toward human flourishing, then used his authority to promote it.

Personal transformation

The term “positive psychology" was coined by Abraham Maslow in 1954. Martin Seligman used this term to promote personal change through the redemptive power of devotional practices like counting your blessings, gratitude, forgiveness, and meditation.

It is expressly designed to build moral character by cultivating the six virtues of wisdom, courage, justice, humanity, temperance, and transcendence.

Not a science

Martin Seligman insists on the value-neutral purity of the research on positive psychology. Yet even its fans say it seems to have some of the characteristics of a religion.

Philosophers such as Mike W. Martin say positive psychology has left the field of science and entered the realm of ethics. Science is a factual enterprise, not promoting particular values.