Cross-Cultural Psychology (PSY 351)
This upper-level course combines concepts and research from two fields: cross-cultural psychology and cultural psychology. While both focus on culture, cross-cultural psychology has retained many of the theories and research methods that were originally developed in mainstream Western psychology and is more focused on making comparisons across cultures. Cultural psychology tends to take a more holistic approach to understanding culture and is more likely to use methods aimed at thoroughly understanding a particular cultural context rather than comparing features across contexts. The course is organized around examining the relevant literature from both of these fields according to each of the major psychological research domains (e.g., cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, etc.). Throughout the semester, classes include lectures, discussions, and in class activities and films. For each class activity or film, students are expected to complete a reflection paper describing how the activity relates to the course material and to their own experiences.
As a final project, students are asked to conduct a participant observation project in which they are to attend and systematically observe a community event or activity that relates to a culture that is unfamiliar to them. They are then to both describe the experience and their observations and to reflect on their own cultural views and norms in relation to what they observed. In the past, several students have pointed to this experience as an important one for their journey in considering how cultural differences play out in the world around them.
Culture-Related Films Shown in This Course
Abnormal Psychology (PSY 371)
This is an intensive online course that explores issues related to abnormal psychology and mental health, with a strong focus on issues of cultural context. The course textbook, Understanding Abnormal Behavior (Sue, Sue, Sue and Sue, 2013), approaches understanding psycho-emotional and behavioral issues through an examination of four interacting dimensions: biological factors, psychological factors, social (family and relationship) factors, and sociocultural factors. Each of these dimensions interact with and contribute to psychological disorders in differing ways. In addition to a cultural emphasis in textbook material looking at sociocultural factors related to abnormal psychology, I include supplementary material about diverse approaches to understanding culture and abnormal psychology, including some non-Western and indigenous perspectives.
Students are expected to read the course material, listen to or watch a multimedia assignment related to the week's topic, and participate in weekly discussion boards. In addition to keeping up with class assignments and discussions, students will also complete a final paper discussing research related to a psychological disorder of their choice. Small step-by-step research assignments each week are intended to provide a scaffolding for students to learn how to write a high-quality research review paper in APA style. For many students these assignments are their first exposure to the process of writing a scholarly literature review so I also make sure to give them weekly individual support and feedback on their work and progress.