Chentsova-Dutton, Y. E., Chu, J. P., Tsai, J. L., Rottenberg, J., Gross, J., & Gotlib, I. H. (2007). Depression and emotional reactivity: Variation among Asian Americans of East Asian descent and European Americans. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 116, 776-785.
This study comprises a four-group quasi-experiment comparing depressed and non-depressed East Asian and European Americans. The researchers used a multi-method approach, with psychophysiological, facial coding, and subjective self-report measurements of emotional response to film clips. Results were consistent with the Cultural Norm Hypothesis, that depression involves a deviation from cultural norms regarding emotions. The study demonstrates how well-known and putatively universal findings on mental health do not necessarily hold in other cultural contexts. At the same time, they demonstrate how more general hypotheses that incorporate cultural norms can help explain observed cross-group differences.
Fanny Cheung (Chinese University of Hong Kong) is a clinical psychologist who takes a cross-cultural psychology perspective on assessment of personality and psychopathology, especially in Chinese contexts. In this study, she describes with her co-authors the construction of a comprehensive assessment instrument based in the Chinese cultural context. They then validate the instrument in a large sample of Chinese clinical patients, showing expected differences between diagnostic groups and clinical vs. forensic vs. community samples. The study demonstrates how one can go from indigenous constructs to psychometrically valid clinical instruments.
Joseph Gone (University of Michigan) is a clinical psychologist who focuses on the mental health of indigenous peoples. This study takes a mixed-methods approach, combing qualitative and quantitative techniques. Specifically, it demonstrates how semi-structured interviews combined with thematic content analysis can be used to generate rich data about a culturally-specific treatment setting. In addition to presenting specific results, the paper presents a vision of how the gap between evidence-based treatment and culturally sensitive therapies might be bridged.
Hinton, D. E., Chhean, D., Pich, V., Um, K., Fama, J. M., & Pollack, M. H. (2006). Neck-focused panic attacks among Cambodian refugees: A logistic and linear regression analysis. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 20, 119-138.
Devon Hinton (Harvard University) is a cultural psychiatrist interested in how culture shapes anxiety disorders, especially panic disorder and PTSD. His research has demonstrated how just as American cultural beliefs surrounding heart attacks contribute to the catastrophic misinterpretation of chest pain, and hence to a loop that culminates in a panic attack, a similar pattern can be observed for Cambodians with neck pain. This study uses regression methods to study the influence of mind-level factors on a culturally-shaped symptom presentation and also uses mediation and moderation to help explain differences between patients with and without neck-focused panic attacks.
Janis Jenkins (University of California, San Diego) is an anthropologist interested in the subjective experiences of patients with different psychiatric disorders, living in different cultural contexts. This study used structured and semi-structured interview methods to yield both qualitative and quantitative data. Strikingly, nearly half the overall sample did not mention the illness when describing their life situation in detail – their scripts for describing distress focused much more on whether or not one was living a good and desirable life rather than incorporating psychiatric labels. This study demonstrates how mixed methods can be used to uncover cultural scripts.
Kim, H. S., Sherman, D. K., Sasaki, J. Y., Xu, J., Chu, T. Q., Ryu, C., Suh, E. M., Graham, K., & Taylor, S. E. (2010). Culture, distress, and oxytocin receptor polymorphism (OXTR) interact to influence emotional support seeking. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 15717-15721.
Heejung Kim (University of California, Santa Barbara) is a cultural psychologist interested in how culture shapes basic psychological processes. This collaborative interdisciplinary study is one of the few to integrate culture, mind, and brain in the same design. Here, brain is represented by a genetic polymorphism that affects oxytocin receptors. The research team found that neither genetic/brain variation nor cultural variation is sufficient to explain a clinically important phenomenon at the mind-level; namely, emotional support seeking from important others.
Brandon Kohrt (George Washington University) has doctoral degrees in medicine and anthropology from Emory University and is currently a psychiatry resident at GWU. He conducts research in Nepal using both qualitative and quantitative methods, including ethnography, medical examinations, psychophysiological measurement, and subjective self-report. In this study, he shows that Nepalese patients with symptoms consistent with ‘somatization’ are also much more likely to have physical conditions that could account for these somatic symptoms. The study highlights the importance of considering both physical and psychological causation.
Mauss, I. B., Butler, E. A., Roberts, N. A., & Chu, A. (2010). Emotion control values and responding to an anger provocation in Asian-American and European-American individuals. Cognition & Emotion, 24, 1026-1043.
Iris Mauss (University of California, Berkeley), Emily Butler (University of Arizona), and Nicole Roberts (Arizona State University) are research psychologists in affective science with interests in how culture shapes emotional responding. This paper shows how an in vivo lab experience can be used to study anger response, as measured by physiology, behavioral observation, and subjective self-report. Importantly, patterns of cultural variation depended on the assessment method used; observed differences were partially mediated by the extent to which participants valued emotional control.
Jeanne Tsai (Stanford University) is a clinical psychologist and affective scientist who takes a cultural psychology perspective on emotions and emotional disorders. In this study, cultural contexts are extended to their religious manifestations. Importantly, culture is considered both as ‘in the head’ and ‘in the world’, with one study based on subjective self-report and the second and third based on analysis of sacred texts and contemporary religious texts, respectively. This paper demonstrates how a single line of research can assess culture in multiple ways.
Weisz, J. R., Weiss, B., Suwanlert, S., & Chaiyasit, W. (2006). Culture and youth psychopathology: Testing the syndromal sensitivity model in Thai and American adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74, 1098-1107.
John Weisz (Harvard Unviersity) is a clinical psychologist whose extensive research on child and adolescent psychopathology includes several cultural studies. Bahr Weiss (Vanderbilt University) is a clinical psychologist interested in how culture shapes symptom expression in children. This study tests the Syndromal Sensitivity Model, which posits three processes linking culture and symptom presentation, in Thai and American youth samples. Results confirmed previously identified Thai-specific syndromes, demonstrating how cultural processes shape them in predictable ways.
Charmaine Williams (University of Toronto) is a professor of Social Work who focuses on race, culture, and disability in psychiatric settings. This study starts with the International Pilot Study of Schizophrenia and its finding, well-known to cultural psychiatrists, that outcomes are significantly better in ‘the Third World’ as compared with ‘the Western World’. She uses a qualitative method, discourse analysis, to critically examine the literature that followed publication of these findings, demonstrating that much of the resulting discourse served to maintain assumptions of ‘Western’ superiority.