Multicultural psychology is the systematic examination of human behavior, cognition, and affect in situations where individuals interact with others from different cultural backgrounds. While culture is largely an external factor, as it influences events and interactions, it also influences a person’s internal processes, or how one understands and interprets those events.
One of the difficulties with multicultural psychology is that the term “culture” is frequently used in many different ways. Occasionally, culture refers to ethnicity or nationality, while at other times it is used to describe various types of music, art, dance or even food. Psychologists have struggled to come up with a standard definition of culture that satisfies, but a general statement regards culture as the values, beliefs, and practices of a group.
Multicultural psychology distinguishes between broad and narrow definitions of culture. A narrow definition of culture, which is more than likely what most people think of when hearing the term, limits culture to notions of race or ethnicity. Broad definitions of culture include various demographic or status identities, and allows the individual to belong to more than one culture at the same time. Multicultural psychology, therefore, seeks to understand what occurs when individuals from different cultures interact with one another.