Cross-Cultural Psychology

You are here

Course Information
Terms offered: 
Language of instruction: 



Cross-cultural psychology examines psychological phenomena in people from more than one cultural background. Studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity for deepening the understanding of another culture and at the same time learning more about your own culture. This course will provide you with a scaffolding for reflecting upon cross cultural experiences in an academic way. We will take the most influential ideas in cross-cultural psychology as a starting point and look at some cultural studies afterwards. Consequently you should learn about some principles of psychological research to help you with your own field study. In order to get some ideas we will go on an excursion, diving into another culture. We will then discuss some topics that have played an important role in cross cultural psychology, as they touch upon the underlying question of “culture specific or universal.” These topics are education, happiness, communication, morality and psychological development. Additionally you are asked to keep a journal of your encounters with Austrian culture.

P.S.: Don’t be afraid of the field study. It just gives you the framework for reflecting on another culture instead of analyzing it from a purely theoretical point of view.

Attendance policy: 

IES Abroad Vienna requires attendance at all class sessions, including field study excursions, internship meetings, scheduled rehearsals, and exams. Attendance will be monitored and unexcused absences will affect the student’s grade via the “Participation” component of each course’s final grade.

Excused Absences

  • Excused absences are permitted only when a student is ill, when class is held on a recognized religious holiday traditionally observed by the particular student, or in the case of a grave incident affecting family members.
  • To be granted an excused absence, the student must write an email to his/her professor in a timely manner stating the reason for the absence (and, if appropriate, how long they expect to be away) with a cc to Center administrative staff. In an emergency, the student may call Student Services or the Front Desk. If the student is unable to send an email (too sick, no computer), he/she may call the Student Assistant at the front desk (01/512 2601-11) who will then write the email described above and send it to said parties as stated above, with a cc to the student.
  • If a student is absent 3 consecutive days or more, he/she will need to obtain a doctor’s note and then submit this to the Registrar’s office.
Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Give an account of principle ideas in cross-cultural psychology;
  • Deal with the crucial questions in the field of cross-cultural psychology;
  • Appreciate the diversity and affinity of different cultures;
  • Compare psychological phenomena among different cultures, e.g. adolescence, morality and the idea of happiness;
  • Look closer at education as a cultural universal;
  • Bring important notions in cross-cultural psychology to life by relating them to their personal situation as students in Vienna;
  • Know in which ways multicultural competence can be enlarged;
  • Conduct a field study in order to test culture-related hypotheses.
Method of presentation: 
  • Lectures
  • Class discussions
  • Group work
  • Excursion
  • Student presentations
Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Class participation - 30%
  • Field study (presentation and paper) - 20%
  • Mid-term-test - 20%
  • Final exam - 30%

Field Study

Students are required to conduct a cross-cultural field study. However, there is no knowledge of psychological methods required. You will learn about basic principles in this course.

Final Exam

Students will have to complete a final exam that includes questions on the reading assignments, the field study, the excursion and a personal reflection of observations and class discussions.

Week Content Reading
1. Introduction: the basic ideas of cross-cultural psychology
  • Matsumoto (2002)
  • Mio (2006): chapter 1, pp. 1-32
  • Valsiner (2000): chapter 4: pp. 49-60
2. Famous-infamous studies in cross-cultural psychology and why we should regard ethnocentrism as a problem in psychology.
  • Banyard & Grayson (2000): pp. 159-164; 317-322
  • Deregowski (1972)
  • Gould (1982)
  • Sternberg (2002)

Psychological research as a way to approach cultural diversity.


Getting a basic methodological framework for doing some light research yourself.

  • Banyard & Grayson (2000): pp. 419-450

4. Excursion (TBD) with the aim of getting inspirations for the topic of your field study.  
5. Cultural differences and universals in nonverbal and verbal communication: social scripts; attribution and explanation, social representation.
  • Mio (2006): chapter 4: pp. 85-109
  • Wang (2002)
6. Midterm test  

How is the human psyche organized by culture? Adolescence as a crucial arena for cultural organization.


Kohlberg’s stages of moral development – are there moral differences between Americans and Europeans?

  • Crain (2004): chapter 7: pp. 151-173
  • Sunar (2002)
  • Valsiner (2000): chapter 13: pp. 271-300
8. Cross-cultural psychology looks at psychological phenomena in people from more than one cultural background. Intrinsically motivated behaviour as one example.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. & Csikszentmihalyi (1988): pp. 15-35
  • Sato (1988): pp: 92-117
9. Education as a cultural universal. Comparing parameters of education and their impact on psychological phenomena among different cultures.
  • Nakamura (1988): pp. 319-326
  • Stigler (1992)
10. How to increase your multicultural competence. Examining your biases, prejudices and stereotypes.
  • Brislin (2002)
  • Mio (2006): chapter 10: pp. 263-291
11. Presenting and discussing the ideas behind and the results of your field studies  
12. Final Exam  


Required readings: 
  • Banyard, P. and Grayson, A.(2000). Introducing Psychological Research. Second Edition, Palgrave: 2000; pp. 159 – 164, “Mis-measuring Intelligence”; pp. 317 – 322, “Why did the antelope cross the road?”
  • Banyard, P. and Grayson, A. (2000). chapter 20 Introducing Psychological Research. Second Edition, Palgrave; pp. 419-50, chapter 20, “Methodology: how does psychological research get done?”
  • Brislin, R. (2002). Encouraging depth rather than surface processing about cultural differences through critical incidents and role plays. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture.
  • Crain, W. (2004). Theories of development. Concepts and Applications. 5th edition, Prentice Hall, chapter 7, pp. 151-173.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. & Csikszentmihalyi, I (1988). Optimal experience. Psychological studies of flow in consciousness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; chapter 2, pp 15-35.
  • Deregowski, J.B.: (1972). “Pictoral perception and culture”. Scientific American, 202, 64-71.
  • Gould, S.J. (1982). “A Nation of morons”. New Scientist (6 May 1982), 349-352
  • Kohlberg, L (1968). “The child as a moral philosopher”. Psychology Today, 2, 25-30.
  • Matsumoto, D. (2002). Culture, psychology, and education. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture. Retrieved, June 22, 2009, from /~culture/introduction.htm.
  • Mio, J. S. et al. (2006). Multicultural Psychology: Understanding our Diverse Communities. Boston: McGraw-Hill
  • Nakamura, J. (1988). Optimal experience and the uses of talent. In: Csikszentmihalyi, M. and Csikszentmihalyi, I.
  • Sato, I.: Bosozuko (1988). Flow in Japanese motorcycle gangs. In: Csikszentmihalyi, M. & Csikszentmihalyi, I.
  • Sternberg (2002). Cultural explorations of human intelligence around the world. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture.
  • Stigler, J.W. & Stevenson, H.W. (1992). “How Asian teachers polish each lesson to perfection”. American Educator, Spring, 12-20, 43-47
  • Sunar, D. (2002). The Psychology of Morality. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture.
  • Valsiner, J.(2000). Culture and Human Development. London: Sage.
  • Wang, J. (2002). Knowing the true face of a mountain: Understanding communication and cultural competence. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture.