Culture and Psychology - The History of Complicated Interrelationship and Future Perspectives

Course leader: Dr Vladimer Lado Gamsakhurdia
Home Institution: Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University

Course pre-requisite(s): Basic knowledge of psychology or cultural anthropology would be desirable.


Course Overview

This course aims to introduce students to the fate of the concept of culture in the history of psychology. Course consists of the history of cultural studies in psychology and parallel tendencies developing in anthropology in order to grasp the context and adequate perspective on the topic. One of the main topic will be the consideration of different perspectives on the role of culture in the personality development and life in general. Students will learn main terms and approaches to cultural research in contemporary psychological science and possible ways for further development. Theoretical questions will be discussed through the consideration of practical examples from various research of diverse cultures from all over the world.

Objectives of the course:
➢ Acquaintance with theories/models concerning the meaning of interaction and interconnection between personality and culture
➢ To learn the role and place of the term of culture throughout the history of psychological science and anthropology
➢ To learn various ways of conceptualization of the term of culture in modern-day social science
➢ To get acquainted with the critical perspective on the positivistic stance in scientific psychology
➢ To get acquainted with practical examples of the importance of culture for humans’ mental processes and life in general

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge – student will:

➢ Know main theories and models concerning personality and culture interaction
➢ Know main conceptual models of the term of culture
➢ Know the role of the term of culture throughout the history of psychological science
➢ Know methodological limitations and problems of strict positivistic methodologies in psychology
➢ Know the influence and meaning of culture on various aspects of humans’ lives

Knowledge in practice:

➢ Students will become aware of the nature of sociocultural grounding of humanity and the importance of contextual factors
➢ Course will widen viewpoints and show the ethnocultural diversity of our planet
➢ Students will gain knowledge of main concepts of Cultural psychology
➢ Students will learn main objectives and research focus of Cultural psychology
➢ Students will have general knowledge on the methodology used in Cultural psychology
Deduction ability student will be able to analyze obtained information and to make consolidated arguments.

Ability to communicate – students will be able to argue and present their position efficiently

Ability to study – students will:
➢ Analyze data critically
➢ Generate innovative ideas
➢ Integrate new theoretical approaches and principles


- Professional ethics will be promoted
- Respect to personality and their right to confidentiality
- Respect to cultural diversity and tolerance to differences

Course Content

1. Second psychology, historical foundation of cultural psychology as a complement to the positivistic mainstream (Wundt, Comte, Mill).
2. The first attempts to identify culture as a variable in psychology.
3. Personality, society, and culture – personal and social identity formation across cultural diversity
4. Main disciplines studying interrelation between personality and culture – historical and contemporary perspectives
5. Main concepts related to cultural research in social sciences
6. Culture as a system of meanings – cognitivist point of view
7. The psychoanalysis and culture
8. Psychoanalytical perspectives from anthropology and psychology (on culture)
9. Contemporary cultural psychological perspective on culture and its relation to personality. Processual regularities and mechanism of its running.
10. Constructive theory of culture and personality.
11. Intersubjectivity
12. Internalization and externalization of cultural content.
13. Cultural-historical activity theory
14. Mediation
15. Culture and learning processes
16. personality and sociocultural changes
17. Facing modernization
18. Main mechanisms for adaptation to new challenges in the globalized world.
19. Methodology in a new key. Critics of positivism and new view on research methods.
20. Future perspectives on culture and psychology

Instructional Method

A. Lecture.
B. Group activities (at class).
C. Recitation, discussion, and permanent interaction.
D. Role playing.

Required Course Materials

1. “Proposals for a second psychology”, Emily D. Cahan and Sheldon H. White, American Psychologist, 1992
2. Introduction, A Companion to Psychological Anthropology: Modernity and Psychocultural Change, Edited by Conerly Casey, Robert B. Edgerton, 2005, 2007
3. Culture and Identity, Charles Lindholm, 2007
4. Culture and Identity: Peirce, G. H. Mead, Hallowell, and Goffman, Culture and Identity, Charles Lindholm, 2007
5. Chapter 6, The Human Challenge, William A. Haviland, 2008
6. Cultural psychology, what is it? Richard Schweder, Essays on comparative human development, 1990
7. Geertz, Clifford (1973). The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man. In Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures
8. Introduction, Culture and psychology - Reader, Jody Benet
9. Introduction, Why Do Men Barbecue, Richard A. Schweder, 2003
10. Introduction and 1 chapter, Acts of meanings, Jerome Bruner, 1990
11. Cultural Meaning Systems, D’Andrade, Roy (1984), In Shweder and Le Vine (eds.),
Culture Theory,
12. Invitation to cultural psychology, Jaan Valsiner, 2013
13. Introduction, once and a future discipline, 1996
Cultural-Historical Approaches to Designing for Development (Cole & Engestöm, in The Cambridge handbook of sociocultural psychology, 2007)
14. Materials prepared by the lecturer.


Evaluation system: Positive level of grades: 91-100 points – excellent 81-90 points – very good 71-80 points – good
61-70 points – acceptable 51-60 points – enough Less than 51 – fail (as it is a summer school and there wont be opportunity to make up)

Evaluation components: A. Participation in discussions - 28 %. Two percent is given for being active at each meeting.
B. Written assignment, 1 reflection paper - 20 %. Students must prepare a reflection paper at the end of the second week. Topics will be assigned by lecturer based on learnt material. C. 3 Quizzes - .45 %. One quizz at the end of each week. (15 % is allocated for each quizz) D. Attendance - 7 %