Cultural Psychology


Culture unfolding from and being enfolded in individual minds

Principal Metaphors

  • Knowledge is … culturally conditioned scope of possible action and interpretation
  • Knowing is … culturally conditioned action
  • Learner is … culture-shaping agent and agent-framing culture
  • Learning is … participation
  • Teaching is … co-participation




Cultural Psychology is founded on the tenet that mind and culture are inseparable. It thus focuses on how cultures reflect and shape individuals’ psychologies, and how individuals’ psychologies reflect and shape cultures. It is motivated in part by the relatively recent popular realization that most psychological research has been W.E.I.R.D. – that is, based on Western, Education, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic populations – and has thus not been adequately attentive to variations in, for example, social values, reasoning strategies, and modes of categorizing. Cultural Psychology has particular relevance for Developmental Discourses.


There are relatively few condemning criticisms of Cultural Psychology, although there are several generalized anxieties that are typically linked to methodological difficulties (e.g., self-reporting data is an easy and popular approach to collecting lots of information, but its unstable and can be very misleading). Consequently, a major concern with Cultural Psychology is the risk of overstating cultural differences that were previously ignored or understated. Another is the risk of essentializing or stereotyping – that is, of imposing broad and general trends (e.g., western sensibilities trend more toward individualism, and eastern more toward communalism) onto subgroups or even individuals.

Authors and/or Prominent Influences

Richard Shweder

Status as a Theory of Learning

While it does not typically define itself as such, Cultural Psychology can be properly described as a theory of learning.

Status as a Theory of Teaching

Cultural Psychology is not a theory of how to teach, but it does afford insight into broad cultural tendencies toward particular conceptions and modes of teaching.

Status as a Scientific Theory

Cultural Psychology is subject to regular criticisms related to its methodologies. It is, however, attentive to its frames and grounding metaphors, and substantial empirical evidence is being gathered to inform it.

Map Location

Please cite this article as:
Davis, B., & Francis, K. (2019). “Cultural Psychology” in Discourses on Learning in Education.

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