Cultural Diversity And Western Theory

Topics: Sociology, Psychology, Clinical psychology Pages: 6 (4090 words) Published: April 26, 2015
Commentary on Cultural Diversity
Across the Pacific: The Dominance of
Western Theories, Models, Research
and Practice in Psychology
Lisa Stewart
Consultants Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand [Iwi Affiliations: Te Ati Haunui-a-Paparangi, Nga¯ Puhi, Tuwharetoa]


he three featured articles in the December 2010 section on cultural diversity across the Pacific address important cultural issues in psychology. Berry (2010) applied these issues to intercultural relations and acculturation, Furnham (2010) to culture shock, and Marsella and Yamada (2010) to psychopathology. The common theme among these articles was the Western-centric dominance of psychology’s research, theories, models and practice, in part because of structural discrimination such as ethnocentric curricula, policies and teaching methods within academic institutions. In Aotearoa New Zealand, including matauranga

knowledge) and kaupapa Maori
philosophy) within
curricula for clinical psychology has started to address that Western-centric dominance, but more importantly, resulted in more culturally safe and responsive psychological services being provided to Maori

users of those services. The present commentary suggested that including and integrating more ¯
cross-cultural and indigenous knowledge into the tertiary curricula of applied psychology fields, such as clinical, industrial-organisational, and coaching psychology would be one way to counter the Westerncentric dominance.

Keywords: cultural diversity, discrimination, dominance, ethnocentric, indigenous, Maori ¯

One of the common features of countries across the
Pacific is ethnic and cultural diversity. Many of those
countries share a long history of colonisation resulting in deculturation and often poorer socio-economic, health and employment outcomes for indigenous peoples. Many of those negative outcomes persist today, but are no longer limited to indigenous peoples. Increasingly, other minority cultural groups are feeling the impact of living in countries that are often Westerncentric in terms of the predominance (and assumed superiority) of Western systems of government and

power, social structures and standards, economic systems, academic institutions, research methods and topics, and language.
In that context, psychological research and services
have an important role to play; for example, understanding the processes of acculturation, the processes of culture shock, the experience of racism, prejudice and discrimination in society as well as in employment, and the poorer mental health and general wellbeing outcomes for those of

non-Western cultures. However, other disciplines such as
sociology, human development and learning, and sociocultural anthropology (to name a few) also shed important light on these issues.
Until relatively recently, the research, theories, models
and practice in psychology and other disciplines has been
almost exclusively Western-centric; indeed, such Westerncentric psychology continues to dominate in our teaching institutions and therefore our practice. In more recent
years, as researchers and practitioners from indigenous
and minority cultures have come through the ranks and
gained academic qualifications, some of that dominant
space has been claimed back, resulting in research, theories, models and practice from a non-Western world view. Consequently, the limitations of a largely Western psychology (and other disciplines) when working with diverse ethnic and cultural groups is being increasingly recognised

as poorer socio-economic, health and employment outcomes for minority groups, including indigenous peoples, persist.

Address for correspondence: Lisa Stewart, M¯aramatanga Consultants Ltd, PO Box 334-054, Sunnynook, Auckland 0743, New Zealand. Email:

JOURNAL OF PACIFIC RIM PSYCHOLOGY, Volume 6, Issue 1 pp. 27–31. c The Authors 2012. doi...

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