Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

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Over the past decade, findings from cultural neuroscience have demonstrated that functional neural processes vary significantly across populations. These findings add a new dimension to the well-established literature describing cultural differences in human behavior. Although these findings are informative for understanding complex relationships between social and neurobiological processes, they also have significant implications for psychiatric research. Neuropsychiatry already co-considers the relationship between brain and social world; however, its research findings notoriously underrepresent diverse cultural, ethnic, and gender groups. Considering that psychiatric patients across cultures exhibit different behavioral presentations and symptom distributions, they may exhibit equally different functional neural processes as well. Increasing representation of diverse patient groups in neuropsychiatric research would allow potential differences to be investigated and understood. Although cross-cultural comparisons may be the most direct means of accomplishing this goal, such studies must be carefully constructed to avoid reinforcing stigmas or stereotypes when working with sensitive patient populations. For example, hypotheses and inclusion criteria must avoid reliance on stereotypes or conflation of geographic boundaries with cultural boundaries. These pitfalls point to deeper problems with current approaches to culture-brain research, which lack operational definitions of ‘culture’ more generally. After outlining these issues, solutions to these methodological problems will be presented and an operational definition of culture for neuropsychiatry will be proposed.

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