Implications of an Emerging Integration of Universal and Culturally Specific Psychologies

Gregory T. Smith, Nichea S. Spillane, Agnes M. Annus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Psychological researchers increasingly recognize that human behavior reflects a complex interplay of universal human capacities, cultural responses to unique histories and circumstances, and individual differences. Many psychological processes appear to reflect culturally specific instantiations of universal capacities. Current integrative research focuses on further clarifying definitions of universality and on refining methods for identifying universal and cultural components of psychological processes. In this article, we consider implications of this emerging integration. To illustrate possible implications for psychology, we apply it to the study of psychopathology. We report on formal models that explain why some cultures embrace dysfunction among members. We then use the integrative framework to describe methods for determining whether putative disorders bring universal or contextual life dysfunction and to clarify etiological models of three disorders. Models of psychopathology can be more informed and precise if they include careful consideration of both universal and cultural influences on behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-233
Number of pages23
JournalPerspectives on Psychological Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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