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Take this vignette as an example:. During the school year, she developed a close relationship with two Native American students, Joseph and Laurence. She frequently talks with them about the benefits of getting an education—opportunities for college, a lucrative career, and ultimately a better life—and teaches them strategies for completing homework and improving study skills. Despite Mrs. To top it off, their attendance is poor.

Read reaches out to the parents. They shed light on how the presumed neutrality of the majority group perspective can undermine motivation and performance. When Mrs. Her approach feels culturally congruent for students in the majority, but not for the many minority students who endorse cultural norms of interdependence e. This vignette is not simply an example of cultural congruence or incongruence. A more socioculturally grounded approach, however, reveals that Mrs. Choosing this path has implications for how they are likely to be seen by their Native community.

This contemporary reality stems from a time in history when the U. Government forcibly removed generations of Native American children from their families and placed them in boarding schools. While these acts may be well intentioned, in many cultural contexts they do not constitute respect. In the example above, the teacher perceives that she is acting respectfully, while the Native American students perceive the same behavior as not caring and as disrespectful because she is not inquiring about family.

The defining variable is whether the behavior is congruent or incongruent with the cultural understandings of the individual. The initial studies examine what university administrators expect from college students and what college students expect for themselves. The researchers then conducted a longitudinal study of the effects of cultural matching or mismatching on academic performance for the first two years of college.

In other words, these individuals are evaluated by how closely they resemble the majority group, rather than by their own motivational model. The study revealed that the Native American role model with an interdependent message i. Offering the culture congruent Native American motivational message reinforces the viability of that particular way of being in a highly consequential educational environment. What this study reveals is that in an increasingly diverse society, like the United States, acknowledging and including other ways of being is an essential feature of alleviating disparities.

The core theoretical and methodological premises of cultural psychology provide researchers and educators road maps for understanding and alleviating social inequities. First, in terms of theory, cultural psychology shifts the source of behavior from the individual to the interplay between the individual and the context. However, the interdependent welcome message alleviated the performance discrepancy between these two groups. The studies conducted by Stephens and colleagues revealed that discrepancies in motivation or performance need not be interpreted as the result of deficient or inferior minds, but instead may reflect a mismatch in the cultural context.

Students are advantaged when the university culture matches their own cultural background and disadvantaged when the university culture does not match. These studies provide a road map for reverse engineering the social and cultural contexts of schools and universities and reveal that in some cases only small changes to the context are needed to yield positive effects.

Once we understand how a given cultural context is influencing behavior, we can change the context to provide more equitable educational opportunities for people from diverging cultural backgrounds. Cultural psychology is guided by two primary assumptions. First, in contrast to cognitive science, cultural psychology acknowledges the powerful role that cultural contexts play in understandings of self and identity. Second, in contrast to anthropology, a cultural psychological approach utilizes a combination of qualitative e.

The objective is not to characterize individuals within a given cultural context, but to make salient the influence of cultural contexts on patterns of ideas and behaviors. What cultural psychology offers anthropology and cognitive science is an alternative venue for exploring the diversity of human functioning and a road map for leveling the proverbial playground.

The issue is not simply that the behaviors of those in the cultural mainstream i. In contrast, cultural psychology assumes that individuals are both a product and a producer of their social and cultural environments. This approach takes a more holistic view of individuals and cultural contexts, and as such offers viable avenues for developing successful interventions.

Research developed from a cultural psychological approach has the potential to produce more comprehensive theories of human behavior and an educational system that effectively teaches to all students. By expanding our ability to understand cultural differences in cognition, motivation, and emotion, researchers and practitioners can better work to alleviate a broad range of social inequities.

The author thanks Hazel Rose Markus and Nicole Stephens for reading and providing comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. Volume 4 , Issue 3. The full text of this article hosted at iucr. If you do not receive an email within 10 minutes, your email address may not be registered, and you may need to create a new Wiley Online Library account. If the address matches an existing account you will receive an email with instructions to retrieve your username. Topics in Cognitive Science Volume 4, Issue 3. Indeed, personal change, such as bereavement or divorce, still occurs for some members of society.

However, in the event of a personal change, the social or normative structures are not disrupted, mainly because the collective social support system remains functional and people can rely on that support in case they experience changes in their individual lives. This is also consistent with the findings of Albert and Sabini who argue that changes occurring in a supportive environment or in a peripheral element of society are perceived as less disruptive than those occurring in a non-supportive environment because the strain upon society is attenuated.

Consistent with previous research, stability can be defined as a situation where an event, regardless of its pace, does not affect the equilibrium of a society's social and normative structures nor the cultural identity of group members. The event, may, however, impact an isolated number of individuals. An example that might clarify this definition of stability is the event of an election.

Although many people can get excited and seem to be affected by this event, an election does not necessarily bring about a rupture in a society, even if it involves a change of political party. The core elements of society remain stable and citizens resume their activities without feeling their lives have been overly disrupted by the election and its outcome. If, for instance, supporters of the defeated party feel sad and hopeless about the defeat, plenty of other citizens will be available to help them cope since most of them will not be affected by the change of government.

However, in a different context, the event of an election may trigger DSC; for example, when it leads to a social revolution. In contrast with stability, a context where there is inertia involves a situation that does affect a large number of people, if not most of the people composing a society. Inertia is defined as a situation where an event, regardless of its pace, does not either reinstate the equilibrium of a society's social and normative structures or clarify the cultural identity of group members. Here, the example of Belarus is used, a country where the population has been in a state of inertia since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Lukashenko has been the president of the country since Under his autocratic rule, Belarus is known as the last dictatorship in Europe. Many Belarusians are longing for a more democratic and open society, yet the country remains in inertia. Buchanan et al. Inertia is seen as an undesirable situation where constructive change is not possible because the organization or the group does not have the capacity e.

These authors also argue that when a change is implemented, its sustainability requires managers and staff or community members to share the same objectives. Uncertainty about the future must be minimal. Accordingly, one can assume that the criteria underpinning sustainability in the event of a change are already absent in a society that has stagnated due to inertia. Therefore, inertia in a society such as Belarus constitutes a context where the population is uncertain about the future and does not share the same long-term goals as its government.

There is a desire for positive social change, but the actual structure of the society makes it difficult for any change to be implemented and be sustained. Indeed, for a positive change to be maintained, it must have the support of individuals in power since they have the appropriate resources to address society's problems. Unsurprisingly, sustainability of such a change is threatened by an autocratic style of governing Buchanan et al.

In sum, inertia differs from stability. In the case of inertia, most members of society desire a change from the actual state of their group, but are unable to properly sustain change due to a lack of collective social support and an unclear cultural identity. The slow pace is necessary for incremental social change to occur. Moreover, at least one of the other three characteristics needs to occur. One of the most cited examples of incremental social change is technological innovation e.

Often, there is no social structural rupture associated with the wide use of technology and normative structure as well as social support remain intact. Given its incremental nature, this type of social change does not instantly produce conflict between old and new behaviors. For instance, when television was introduced, people bought it without knowing the consequences of the implementation of this new technology in their life Becker, ; Macionis et al.

Today, in retrospect, we know that buying a television set entailed a plethora of new behaviors that altered our society and our way of living. The long time span that is typical for incremental social change makes its outcomes unpredictable and unintentional. The cell phone is a particularly good example of incremental social change. When it came onto the buyer's market, only a few exclusive people possessed one. However, over the years, it became increasingly normative to have a cell phone and, today, it is almost inconceivable not to have one.

Furthermore, when cell phones were first marketed, they were used mainly for business rather than for social purposes, which is the current primary use Aoki and Downes, In the same vein, other technological changes, such as the emergence of personal computers Kiesler et al.

Such technology does not represent a DSC, but a social change nonetheless as it has modified the way people interact with one another in an incremental manner. As the change occurs for a relatively long period of time, there is consistency in the pattern of change, which allows social structures to adapt and, thus, to remain intact Nadler and Tushman, Individuals experiencing incremental social change are therefore able to adapt, given that the collective social support is not altered. For example, there is support for people that have yet to possess a cell phone; if they want to buy one, but do not understand how it functions, there are plenty of people that can help them adapt to this new technology.

Even if technological change is conceptualized here as an incremental change, it is possible that technology is used to provoke a DSC, for example by instigating an important social revolution Rodriguez, Despite technology being the most adequate example, other incremental changes can be observed in other aspects of society such as in medicine. Indeed, advancement in medicine such as effective birth control Goldin and Katz, was also the cause of a profound incremental social change.

The example of contraception is crucial as the pill deeply affected gender roles in society by empowering women by giving them the capacity to control their sexuality. The pill had not only direct positive effects on women's career investments, but also on the opportunity of attending school longer. The pill forever changed women's involvement in our societies and the repercussions of this incremental social change still echo to us through struggles for gender equality, but also in the form of women actively involved in every level of the modern workplace, including higher managements and governmental position.

In other words, the gradual nature of incremental social change makes it a profound change in society that neither disturbs the social structure nor the collective social support system. Although this definition is based on previous sociological work Parsons, ; Rocher, , it is adapted here according to the four characteristic of DSC. As with incremental change, DSC induces fundamental transformations in society. However, the shift occurs at a much more rapid pace, provoking a break with the past.

Some authors have highlighted this sense of discontinuity by referring to DSC as the disintegration of a previous social order or as the break in a frame of reference Golembiewski et al. Accordingly, DSC can be conceptualized as a complete rupture in the social structure that marks the end of one period and the beginning of another one, or where a type of society is transformed into another Tushman and Romanelli, ; Kohn et al.

Other researchers, such as Rogers , also see rapid social change as intertwined with the social structure. More specifically, Rogers states that rapid social change can threaten social structure by surpassing the adaptive capacities of individuals. Unsurprisingly, DSC is the most disruptive type of change not only for the social structure but also for the majority of society members experiencing it, i.

As DSC entails a re-definition of values, norms and relations, individuals can no longer rely on their habits and routine; they need to learn new skills and new definitions and more challengingly, unlearn the old ways of doing things Nadler and Tushman, ; Tomasik et al. Consequently, DSC is described as a painful and confusing experience for individuals Hinkle, ; Lapuz, ; Nadler and Tushman, ; Kohn et al. If I return to Zoia's example, it is clear that all the people in Kyrgyzstan and in the Former Soviet Union were affected by the breakdown of the Soviet Union.

Zoia is not the only one who lost all her savings: the vast majority of people lost their savings within a matter of days. In terms of social support, whom could she have relied on if all of her friends were also in the same situation? Regarding to the fall of the former Soviet Union, Goodwin argues that older people were inclined to receive less social support in part because the majority of the population, including family members, were struggling with several jobs just to provide themselves with basic needs.

Furthermore, elderly citizens could not even rely on formal social services because the collapse of the former Soviet Union caused a decline in formal state support, which left them no time to rebuild their retirement income. This illustrates the rupture in the structure of society that can be found when a DSC occurs as well as the effect on the majority of ordinary group members who cannot rely on collective social support. Social scientists agree that social changes are not only intensifying but also defining today's world.

For the present paper, my aim was to initiate a conversation about the psychology of social change. Thus, I briefly reviewed the major perspectives of social change in both sociology and psychology. Research conducted in both fields and their subfields have remained in distinct silos with no effort made toward aggregating their findings.

This has unfortunately resulted in the absence of an encompassing approach in the current literature of social change: social change has never been integrated into a single perspective that would define or contextualize DSC within the spectrum of different social contexts. More importantly, social change has not been conceptualized so that micro processes, macro processes, and the important relations between them are addressed.

As a result, the typology of social change introduces different social contexts e. The present paper then offers a first step toward unifying the variety of theories of social change which are currently isolated from each other.

Cultural Psychology: A Perspective on Psychological Functioning and Social Reform

The typology of social change I am suggesting is an emerging concept; thus, I invite debate with the hope that the views presented here will stimulate others to contribute to a needed understanding of DSC within an individual perspective. More importantly, based on such a typology of social change, theoretical models could be suggested as they might offer a guide to understanding the consequences of social change. For instance, such theoretical models could answer these three questions: Are the different social contexts associated with one-another?

What makes a society move from one social context to another e. What is the role of the different characteristics of DSC? So far, answers to the three questions raised above were left lingering and the different characteristics of DSC were not arranged in a sequential way nor were they identified as key movers of one state of society to another. In Figure 1 , I offer a theoretical model that integrates the social contexts and the characteristics of DSC as a first step toward a psychology of social change.

As seen in Figure 1 , neither a slow nor a fast pace event will influence the status quo in both stability and inertia. There will therefore be no break with the past and so no rupture in the social and normative structures. Thus, in these two social contexts, if an event were to occur rapidly, the current situation of a group or society would remain unaffected by it; that is why pace is not the only characteristic important to define DSC. For example, if a plane crashes, which is a rapidly occurring dramatic event, it does not necessarily affect an entire community. Also, in a state of stability, when a fast—or slow—event takes place, because the normative and the social structures are unaffected, there is no direct threat to the group's cultural identity.

Similarly, when an event occurs in a state of inertia, there is no additional threat to the society's cultural identity, because the normative and social structure are unaffected. In contrast, in a state of incremental social change, slow-occurring events, if profound enough, will gradually change the social and normative structures, as well as threaten or change cultural identity.

For a DSC to occur, a fast event needs to take place. If that event has enough impact—therefore not in a state of stability or inertia—, it will rupture the social structure and the normative structures. As shown by many different DSC contexts, there are three possible scenarios when it comes to the rupture of these two structures: 1 the social structure ruptures first, which later leads to the rupture of the normative structure e.

An example of the first scenario would be the latest presidential elections in the United States. The recent proclamation of Donald Trump as president carries the potential for political transformations as well as changes in the United States' economic structure rupture to social structure. The leadership of Trump's administration can carry major structural change that would then lead to a rupture of the normative structure. At this point, there are indications that this new governance social structure may very well affect the normative structure.

The result of the battle culminated in the French losing most of their economical structural powers to the English and the start of a decline of education. Consequently, the French mentality and behaviors were modified. This rupture in the normative structure led to the African-American Civil Rights Movement which, in turn, brought about changes to the social structure e. This movement against racial inequality, segregation and discrimination instigated the Civil Rights Act of , which banned any type of segregation based on race, color, religion or sex, as well as other changes in federal legislation.

The breakdown of the Soviet Union is an example that can be used to illustrate a simultaneous rupture of the social and normative structures. This event caused major transformations in the economic, political, and social structures rupture to social structure. Simultaneously, a large proportion of the population found themselves in a great economic crisis, which led to disruptions in their usual behaviors and habits, such as working multiple jobs instead of just one rupture of normative structures.

When the normative and the social structures are ruptured regardless of the order in which this occurs , cultural identity will be threatened. There will be a global sense of confusion, ambiguity, and lack of clarity that might motivate individual group members to change their identification with their group. Depending on society's and the individual's abilities to cope, there are two possible outcomes: stability or inertia.

If the society in which DSC has taken place is able to develop coping and adaptation mechanisms—both at the individual and societal levels—stability might be restored. Stability would then be achieved when the social and normative structures however different are brought back to functionality and when cultural identity is clear and no longer under threat. In contrast, if the society and individuals are not able to develop coping mechanisms, society might enter a state of inertia.

In inertia, even though a society in a state of inertia is no longer going through major social changes, the need or desire for change still lingers Sloutsky and Searle-White, This can be due to a DSC that did not, in the end, really change the way a collectivity is ruled or how its citizens are treated Moghaddam and Crystal, ; Moghaddam and Lvina, Knowing about the range of different social contexts such as stability, inertia, incremental change, and DSC as well as the specific characteristics of DSC, has the potential to guide researchers in terms of assessing DSC and its impact on the psychological well-being of ordinary group members.

Specifically, after establishing a clear typology of social change, including potential theoretical models, it is now possible to move on to the second step of the psychology of social change. In this second step, we need to address whether and how different coping mechanisms determine mediate, moderate the influence of DSC on psychological well-being.

This question goes hand in hand with the work of Norris et al. They concluded from more than 60, participants that such events have negative repercussions on participants' lives. In most of the research they report, social support, economic status, and age were the identified factors that may be associated with a better adaptation to social change.

In accordance with Norris et al. The four characteristics I have identified have the potential to become pivotal in meeting this objective. In sum, the link between social change and well-being is still unclear e. Such an investigation could eventually guide us in designing concrete interventions to help people adapt to the challenges of DSC Rogers, ; Vago, The concept of resilience emerges from the literature as potentially useful for understanding people's coping mechanisms.

Resilience is defined as the act of bouncing back in the face of adversity Bonanno, For the specific example of DSC, resilient individuals would be those who have been able to maintain their normal functioning and adapt themselves to adverse situations Masten, ; Curtis and Cicchetti, ; Luthar, ; Masten and Powell, Research has shown that a significant number of people are able to adapt to challenging personal situations e. However, resilience has mostly been studied within the context of personal changes such as the death of a loved one or a personal trauma Bonanno, Similar to a personal change, this variation in reactions may be due to individual differences in resilience.

This highlights the need to consider this variable within the psychology of social change. More concretely, the literature on resilience may prove to be important when linking people's perceptions of the characteristic of DSC to the various paths of recovery e. To illustrate collective resilience, let us consider the case where the normative structure of a society is dissolved and its cultural identity is threatened.


Individuals in this situation would no longer have guidelines and values to individually cope with DSC. Moreover, every individual affected by the change would be in the same negative situation. Consequently, individuals might need to find ways to collectively adapt to the transformations. The processes associated with resilience may thus differ in situations of personal vs.

I therefore believe it is important to explore whether the adaptation mechanisms are the same in a context of DSC where social support is not readily available. In order to speak of a real psychology of social change, we must be able to actually study social change and its consequences. On the one hand, correlational designs conducted in the field are necessary to capture people's firsthand experience with DSC. They are however limited by their design that prevents claims of causality.

They are also known to be demanding in terms of both human and financial resources, and may well be dangerous at times for researchers. Moreover, they require an intimate knowledge of the culture such as the language as well as contacts within the community to facilitate the research and collaboration process. On the other hand, laboratory experiments are necessary to establish the controlled conditions needed to understand associations between the characteristics of social change and the consequences. Indeed, social change typically entails various elements such as historical processes, a collective perspective, and associated cultural elements Moghaddam and Crystal, which must be taken into consideration in order to replicate their impact in an artificial setting.

For example, the impact of the Tohoku tsunami in Japan or the Syrian conflict cannot be recreated in their entirety in a laboratory; nor can all the characteristic of social change be taken into consideration in a laboratory study designed to assess the impact s of social change. However, if an array of studies using different characteristic of DSC were to be conducted or a combination of multiple characteristic , the convergence of the results would make us able to better understand and thereby predict the impact of DSC on individuals and communities.

At the very least in a laboratory, researchers can expose participants to imagined changes through a scenario or a video that would include, in the experimental condition, one or more of the four characteristics of DSC Pelletier-Dumas et al. If the scientific community accepts that experimental studies will not exactly mirror DSC, but instead test some of the characteristics in a large number of experiments, there is potential for laboratory experiments to bring an important contribution that would eventually allow a generalization to the real world for examples see Betsch et al.

The difficulties of conducting research on social change are, however, amplified by the challenge of obtaining ethical consent in a manner that allows for timely research. In terms of experimental manipulations of DSC, obtaining the ethical board's consent can be tedious. Indeed, according to some authors Kelman, ; Bok, ; Clarke, ; Herrera, ; Pittenger, deceiving participants is difficult to justify ethically. This objection on the use of deception can undermine any attempt to seriously study DSC, as deception can be a valuable methodological asset Bortolotti and Mameli, , especially with such an elusive subject.

Furthermore, research on new grounds require new techniques and methods on which ethicists can put limits, to ensure that they do not cause harm to participants Root Wolpe, As with any new technology, methods focused on inducing dramatic-like changes can be perceived as having unsuspected risks. In order to truly understand the interplay between individuals and their context, social psychological theories must take into account that we live in a constantly changing world.

Through increasing the focus on social change, we could combine, on the one hand, sociology's emphasis on the importance of social change with, on the other hand, psychology's emphasis on the importance of complex individual processes. As a result, my theoretical proposal aims at bringing together sociology, where social change is central, and psychology, where rigorous scientific methods allow us to study the psychological processes of individuals living in changing social contexts.

In general, more research on the concept of social change is needed so that we can help predict, prevent, and minimize the negative impact of social change. If psychologists and sociologists work together to move toward developing a psychology of social change, perhaps we could come to better understand and help people, like Zoia, who lost almost everything they had, consequently improving the quality of millions of lives experiencing DSC.

RdlS thought and developed the ideas, as well as wrote the article as sole author. Research assistants were paid to find and read the abstracts of all articles reviewed in this manuscript. The author declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. I wish to thank all my colleagues and the members of the Social Change and Identity Lab for their comments and help. They have heard me talk about social change for the last 10 years and have never stopped encouraging me to pursue these ideas.

These people continue to inspire me every day. I am grateful to the editor and the three evaluators for their insightful comments. Taylor for their help during different steps of the preparation of this manuscript. Finally, I want to thank Nada Kadhim who was patient enough to coordinate the material and the team—including me—at all stages. An event has the potential to bring social change Sewell, , be it incremental or dramatic. In contrast to social change, with the event, the disruption of the normal might only be temporary and not significant in time.

From my understanding of the literature, there are as many conceptions of social structure as there are scientists working on that concept. Here, the definitions often described normative behaviors or the roles of individuals rather than the role played by social institutions e. This duality lunched a debate in sociology that was reflected not only in Gidden's work but also in others sociologists that have devoted their writings to defining social structure e.

For example, Porpora reports four principal ways of conceptualizing social structure that reflect either of these conceptions. To add to that complexity, some researchers e. Because of the lack of clarity, or maybe because the definition of social structure points to different aspects of the social structure, scientists often avoid defining social structure in their papers, and thereby contribute to the general confusion.

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    Cultural Psychology: A Perspective on Psychological Functioning and Social Reform

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