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Cory Hersh

PSYC 240
Critical Reflection 1:

If I were to say that my life experience to this point as a white, relatively

wealthy, heterosexual male from the suburbs outside of Cleveland, Ohio has been

drastically different from that of someone of a different race, social class, home

town, or sexual orientation, no one would bat an eye. Of course our experiences

have differed! Who we are and how we view the world are both strongly influenced

by our backgrounds. It seems odd then that a multicultural approach to psychology

has only recently (relatively) begun to be explored and utilized. It would certainly

be extremely nice and convenient for researchers sake if humanity-wide

generalizations could be made following research, however that goal in and of itself

discounts a lot of what makes us human in the first place. Although we may be the

same biologically, the human experience varies widely from person to person,

especially if there is a cultural difference. It is of the utmost importance that, from

here on out, culture should be a central focal point to all psychological science and


Psychology has always been focused on studying human behavior and

feelings. In other words, it is the study of how people think, act and feel (Mio, 3).

Yet, what it has failed to do so often is measure such things with regard to how they

may be affected my culture. In part this is due to the fact that, in its infancy,

psychological study was attempting to keep up with the natural sciences and be

taken just as seriously. Rand B. Evans article talks about how scientific instruments

were in vogue for psychological study and measurements were what researchers

were after. Psychologists attempted to incorporate scientific elements and

measurements as much as they could in order to match up with the other sciences
and findings of the time. This desire to be equal with other sciences and

incorporating scientific tools, however, may have also led to the eventual inequality

of psychological study. At its worst, we know that measurement led to the Eugenics

movement, in which people were ultimately forced into sterilization based on the

notion that they were unfit to pass on their genes. Although based loosely on

Charles Darwins idea of survival of the fittest, eugenics as a whole have

obviously been discredited as both incorrect and inhumane (Mio, 32). Moreover,

while psychology as a study never intended to persecute anyone based on

differences, the desire to be on an equal playing field with other natural sciences

may have set the groundwork for psychologys somewhat narrow viewpoints

throughout the years.

In order for psychology to become more inclusive and more applicable to

members of different cultures, several things must be done. First and foremost,

psychologists need to be comfortable with a dynamic definition of culture. Mio and

colleagues define culture as the values, beliefs and practices of a group of people,

shared through symbols, and passed down from generation to generation.

Although I had never thought to question the definitions in a textbook before, our

discussion on why this definition is problematic in class really got me thinking about

just how systematically unfair a lot of the available knowledge is. Because culture

is always changing, no definition can truly encompass its meaning. For example, a

culture can exist within a single generation and it also does not need to be shared

through symbols. Although the definition may have been an attempt at providing

an all-encompassing view of the word, it is still limited, just as the study of

psychology has been for a long time.

Another thing that must change is the amount of information being published

and generalized to a larger body of people than it should actually be addressed. In

class, we read and discussed an article by Dan Jones that outlined a very prevalent

issue in psychological publications. He writes, WEIRDos (western, educated,

industrialized, rich, and democratic) arent representative of humans as a whole

andpsychologists routinely use them to make broad, and quite likely false, claims

about what drives human behavior (NewsFocus, 1627). Of course, because much

of the research in the United States is done at Universities, it is convenient to

gravitate towards the student body for participants in research studies. However,

what Jones argues is absolutely true in that student bodies are, in actuality,

probably one of the least representative populations one could study due to just

how weird their makeup actually is relative to the rest of the nation. It is

important to note, however, that we did discuss that these findings are still

meaningful. That meaning just may not be as generalizable as previously thought.

We still have plenty of great knowledge regarding collegiate students in the United

States, which is another culture entirely.

It is also important that the guidelines outlined in the American Psychological

Association article, Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research,

Practice, and Organizational Change for Psychologists be implemented and

enforced. All psychologists will deal with a diverse clientele in a variety of settings

and, as such, it is important that they have an understanding of multiculturalism as

well as the training necessary to engage members of cultures different from their

own. It is both interesting and extremely troubling that, as we discussed in class,

there is no real way to enforce the guidelines in actual practice, even though their

value to psychological study can be immense. For example, the knowledge of ones
own biases that have developed based on how they were taught and what culture

they are from could impact a study in a huge way. If psychologists are forced to

check their own biases and understand themselves before studying others, lots of

study biases can be avoided. It is also important that psychologists know that

having biases is a completely normal occurrence. In fact, the article talks about

how normal mental processing causes people to group and can lead to stereotyping.

As Ngozi Adichi so beautifully stated in her Ted Talk, the problem with stereotypes

is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story

become the only story.

The article goes on to suggest that multiculturalism should be included in the

education of other psychologists as well as in psychological practice. It seems

almost like common sense to me that such a perspective should be included in

everything, but as I have seen over only a short two weeks in this class, that is

almost definitely not the case. I believe that part of my willingness to believe that

psychology was further along in its integration of multicultural values is my

participation in the Education program at Bucknell. Throughout my education

major, I have had many classes teach about how ever child needs different things to

learn and how all children matter equally, no matter how intellectually gifted or not.

We have also been taught to think about what has gone on in a childs life or what

happens at home that may cause poor educational performance. As such, my

worldview has been changed by the progressive nature of education practices to

think that other studies are just as far along.

My education classes and experiences have also previously introduced me to

Gardners eight intelligences (Mio, 65). His model is something that I completely

buy into and think is an important representation of not only the differences in
cultures, but simply the difference between two people. Separating intelligence into

categories takes away the harmful procedure of labeling kids based on high and low

intelligence when measured on a different scale and instead, focuses on what they

are good at. A child who may have previously been labeled as an underachiever

due to his inability to pay attention, can instead be labeled as a musical or artistic

genius due to his/her creativity. This relates to multicultural psychology in such a

huge way because it explains just how much a picture can change depending on

what lens you look through. Thus, a study done that is said to be generalizable to a

large population may need to be revised due to its lack of an inclusive research

participant body.

Currently, the world is entertaining some extremely high tensions between

people of different cultures, especially here in the United States. With President

Trumps new executive order regarding an immigration ban on several Muslim

countries as well as the seemingly ever-growing fear of people who are different,

the need for multiculturalism and its integration into the field of psychology has

never been higher. It is important that psychologists attempt to understand as

much as they can about different cultures and how they affect human thoughts,

feelings and behavior so that they can teach the rest of the world. Ralph Waldo

Emerson said, fear always springs from ignorance, and my hope is that with

increased emphasis on culture in psychological study, there will be less ignorance

regarding culture. In order for people of all different backgrounds to get along and

live peacefully, there must be understanding and that is why multicultural values

and study should be at the core of psychology.