Cultural Kaleidoscope: Learn about Cross-Cultural Psychology
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Cultural Kaleidoscope: Learn about Cross-Cultural Psychology


We live in a world, that is diverse. It has different colours, practices, and patterns which reflect the richness of cultures around the globe. Just like in a kaleidoscope, whenever we turn it, we see a new pattern, similarly, when we move from one place to another, we see a new culture altogether. A culture is a group of ideas, beliefs, values, and geographical areas people share over time. Every culture has its narrative and an individual’s culture influences the understanding of individuals about the world.

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The Rich Tapestry of Cross-Cultural Diversity

Just like an individual’s personality makes him/her distinct from others, similarly, the attitudes and customs of one culture make each place or country unique. All of us think and live differently. What is right in one culture, could be wrong in another.

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Culture is the product of the richness of one’s history, arts, politics, economics, education, religious practices, and much more. If we look through the lenses of a kaleidoscope, then the outer lenses are external aspects that affect the value systems of society like a country’s political system, religious practices, national identity, historical events, etc. On the other hand, the inner lenses represent an individual’s inner world including his thoughts, feelings, personality, and values which contribute to the making of the culture.

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Cultural Influences on Cognitive Processes

Culture is a significant factor in shaping an individual’s cognitive processes. Culture is made up of acquired meaning systems that are communicated through language and other symbol systems. It also serves directional, emotive, and representational purposes and can give rise to distinct cultural entities and perceptions of reality.

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Let us understand more clearly:-

Role of Schemas

Schema are the cognitive structures that organize the information stored in memory. They are the Mental representations of categories derived from knowledge, beliefs, and expectations. The brain stores information about specific parts of the world, such as people, events, and actions, in the form of schema. The social and cultural environment in which people live influences the information they experience. Because different people in different social and cultural environments experience different information, they have different schemas.

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There are three kinds of schemas:

  • Scripts: provide information about sequential events that happen in specific contexts.
  • Self-schemas: organize the information about ourselves.
  • social schemas: represent information about various groups of people.

Schemas include stereotypes and expectations that are acquired throughout life. External factors, including social and cultural elements, affect schemas, influencing what we store in our memory systems. The more ingrained a belief, value, or social role is, the harder it is for an individual to modify that schema since these internalized schemas direct how information is processed; this is true even in the case of new and compelling corrective information. Memory content provides a window into how cultural influences affect how individuals organize, collect, retrieve, or share information about events.

Individual’s Social experience

The culture is passed on through genetics as well as perceptual-cognitive modelling and observation of people, places, things, and spoken and visual symbols. An individual’s knowledge about the world designs the interpretive frameworks that direct their problem-solving and reasoning processes.

Role of context

Cognitive studies have long acknowledged that context plays a critical role in cognitive performance. The resulting cultural differences in cognition can be attributed to social and ecological factors. There is ample evidence in cross-cultural literature that collectivists, because of their interdependent view of themselves, tend to focus on contextual information and are driven by holistic dialectical modes of thinking. Individualists, on the other hand, are driven by their independent view of themselves tend to focus on focal objects, and are driven by analytical logical modes of thinking.

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Communication Styles Across Different Cultures

Communication is an essential part of human interaction. It is a way through which our emotions, needs, and motivations are expressed. Different cultures have different forms of communication. There is a significant difference in verbal as well as non-verbal communication. Different cultures could interpret the same thing differently and express it in varied ways.

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Let us understand how different communication styles more deeply:-

Western Communication Style:

If we look at the communication style of the West, mostly, in North America and parts of Europe, we will find that they focus more on individualism, confidence and direct forms of communication. As for their non-verbal communication as well, they like to make eye contact which is direct to exclude attentiveness. They also use gestures to indicate something, interpersonal touching is also common while communicating. People usually use and respect an assertive tone. Smiling indicates the happiness of individuals.

Eastern Communication Style:

On the other hand, if we talk about Eastern cultures, mostly found in East Asia or the Middle East, they focus more on group communication, peace, and indirectness. Non-verbal communication is more prevalent in these kinds of cultures. Eye- contact is minimized because it indicates intruding in someone’s space, pointing is considered disrespectful, interpersonal touching is found inappropriate, a smile is often used to hide one’s sadness, and the tone of voice is usually indirect.

While communicating with a person from a different culture, it becomes very important to keep all of these things in mind to convey our message correctly without any misunderstanding.

Navigating Cross-cultural challenges with empathy

As we have seen already, how diverse is the world, how different the cultures are, and how communication styles are so varied. What possibly could be the solution for such diversity so, that people can collaboratively work together without harming each other’s sentiments? The answer lies in one word which is called empathy.

Empathy can simply be defined as understanding the perspective and emotions of other individuals and stepping into their shoes to see their world. Its role in cross-cultural challenges is to establish healthy social interaction which leads to community welfare as a whole. Following are the ways through which people can navigate in such cultural diversity:-

  • Knowledge of cultural diversity.
  • Active listening
  • Adapting to their communication styles.
  • Avoiding communicating from a stereotypical mind
  • Respecting someone else’ culture
  • Building trust and rapport
  • Observing similarities and differences
  • Working on the positive building of relationships
  • Focusing on conflict resolution
  • Being open to feedback

In conclusion, cultural differences will always be there. It changes from one place to another, it affects not only the biology but also the psychology of an individual. Thinking and behaviour patterns are the results of one’s culture. Just like a rainbow is made from different colours coming together, similarly, we should all come together and celebrate our diversity. Shared understanding, mutual respect, and appreciation for each other’s culture are essential to building a collaborative and just world.

Read More: Adapting Perspectives: The Interplay of Acculturation and Assimilation

References +
  • Cultural Kaleidoscope – Transdisciplinary Design. (2009). Transdisciplinary Design. Pérez-Arce, P. (1999). The influence of culture on cognition. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology, 14(7), 581–592.
  • Gutchess, A., & Rajaram, S. (2023). Consideration of culture in cognition: How we can enrich methodology and theory. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 30(3), 914–931.
  • Untangling Cultural Influences on Human Cognition: Integrating Evidence across Cultural Contexts and Methodological Approaches. (n.d.). Frontiers.
  • Coniel, O. (n.d.). IB Psychology Notes – The cognitive level of analysis: Cognitive Processes – Discuss how social or cultural factors affect one cognitive process.
  • Emily. (2023, August 15). Mastering Cross-Cultural Conversations: Navigating differences with empathy. Aaron Hall.

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