Papers from the International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology Conferences

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During the last quarter of the 20th century, cross-cultural research established that the meaning of interpersonal behavior can be described in terms of a universal structure that includes, among others, the notions of association (affiliation), superordination (dominance), and intimacy. While researchers generally agree on most of these universal dimensions, little is known about their origins –the whys and the wherefores of these structures. An approach designed to explain the emergence of the meaning of interpersonal behavior is the focus of this chapter. This approach is based on the assumption that social behavior involves the exchange of material and psychological resources, a process guided by a number of natural constraints operating on human interaction. The chapter outlines this theoretical system and discusses the emergence of the primary features of meaning over long periods of time. It reviews formal analyses of information gleaned from literary documents of different historical periods and cultures, including the works of Homer, Hesiod, and Theophrastus, as well as other sources (e.g., medieval European literature). It concludes with a discussion of how this approach can account for various social-psychological phenomena and can lead to the development of a useful theory of culture for psychology.

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