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International or global psychology is an emerging branch of psychology that focuses on the worldwide enterprise of psychology in terms of communication and networking, cross-cultural comparison, scholarship, practice, and pedagogy. Often, the terms international psychology, global psychology, and cross- cultural psychology are used interchangeably, but their purposes are subtly and importantly different: Global means worldwide, international means across and between nations, cross-cultural means across cultures. In contrast, the term “multicultural” is more often used to refer to ethnic and other cultural differences existing within a given nation rather than to global or international comparisons. This entry focuses predominantly on international psychology.
Definitions and Scope of International and Global Psychology
International psychology is concerned with the emergence and practice of psychology in different parts of the world. It advocates committed involvement in worldwide policy-making organizations such as :
- International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS: it includes 71 national psychology associations), the [
- International Association of Applied Psychology (IAAP),
- International Association of Cross-Cultural Psychology (IACCP)
- International Council of Psychologists (ICP),
as well as regional organizations such as :
- European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA: it includes 31 national psychology associations),
- Sociedad Interamericana de Psicología (SIP), and many others.
In contrast, the term “global psychology” is more frequently used to refer to the worldwide investigation of global issues and phenomena of interest from a psychological and psychocultural point of view. Examples include the investigation of subjective well being, identification and treatment of mental health problems, the psychological dimensions of family systems, gender roles and gender-typed behavior, childrearing practices, cognitive and emotional functioning, international attitudes, value systems, intergroup conflicts, threats to the natural environment, societal transformation and national development, the struggles of disempowered groups (such as women, children, and immigrants and refugees) as seen in global perspective.
Cross-cultural psychology may be defined as the comparative study of behavior and mental processes in different cultures. It aims to measure the psychological phenomena across cultures and looks for patterns, generalizability, and culture-specific differentiation. An example would be the investigation of child-rearing practices and their psychological consequences among distinctly different groups. Cross-cultural psychology focuses on the relationship between psychology and culture (such as language, traditions, and socialization practices) and how it affects individual human functioning. In this respect, cross-cultural psychology constitutes one important element of global psychology. Cross-cultural psychology emerged during the 1960s-1970s as a separate field of study with a definite identity; it is thus older than the more general field of international psychology, which is only now emerging as a distinct discipline.
The Oxford English Dictionary (1993) defines global as, “…pertaining to or involving the world, worldwide” (p.1101) and international as, “Existing, occurring, or carried on between nations…Agreed on by many nations; used by, or able to be used by (the people of) many nations” (p. 1397). At present the term international psychology is in wider use although Stevens and Gielen (2007) have proposed the preferential usage of the term global psychology in order to underline the increasingly global nature of psychological phenomena and problems together with their scientific investigation and efforts to ameliorate them. More generally, the emergence and intensification of an international psychology movement is part and parcel of the broader process of globalization in the economic, technological, sociocultural, political and ecological spheres. It reflects and makes use of the increasingly global flow of information, ideas, and peoples.
Some of the major foci of international psychology include:
- The worldwide study of psychological processes and phenomena (e.g., Gielen & Chumachenko, 2004; Hofstede, 2001).
- Macro-level interventions and policy making, for example, international efforts to reduce HIV infections based on psychological research (Wessells & Dawes, 2007).
- Micro- level interventions, for example, counseling and psychotherapy, school psychology, and interventions in organizations (e.g., Pedersen, Draguns, Lonner, & Trimble, 2002).
- International networking and international psychology organizations and conferences, such as IUPsyS, IAAP, IACCP, EFPA, SIP, and APA’s Division 52 – International Psychology (Merenda, 1995).
- Pedagogy and expansion of psychology curricula, for example, rewriting the history of psychology from a global point of view, together with corresponding changes in the curriculum (Brock, 2007; Marsella, 2007).
- Establishing shared training standards, professional regulations, and codes of ethics (Pettifor, 2007).
A Brief History of International Psychology
Modern scientific psychology had an international dimension from its beginnings in the late 19th century. Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920), for instance, the father of scientific psychology, supervised approximately 190 doctoral students from at least 10 countries. Similarly, the First International Congress of Physiological Psychology in 1889, in Paris, included more than 200 participants from 20 countries. Although psychology developed first in Europe, it soon began to prosper in the United States as well. Altogether, modern scientific psychology remained a predominantly western enterprise till well after World War II. During the 1930s many prominent psychologists from Germany and Austria emigrated to the United States. As a result of these developments, psychology in the United States assumed worldwide leadership, but also grew increasingly monocultural, monolingual, and ethnocentric in character (see David and Buchanan, 2003, for a timeline of important events in the history of international psychology). However, there is now an increased awareness among many U.S. psychologists that U.S. psychology must take into account global developments in order to fully represent the world of psychology. For instance, the American Psychological Association established in 1997 an International Psychology Division (Division 52), which already has close to 1,000 members.
During the last three to four decades, especially, psychology has expanded worldwide and assumed a global presence. Stevens and Gielen (2007) estimate that the total number of psychologists has surpassed 1 million. This estimate is based on local definitions of what it means to be a professional psychologist: in most countries the prerequisite is a master’s degree or diploma in psychology, whereas in some others (e.g., Brazil) a bachelor’s degree and a period of supervised practice enable one to gain admission to a licensing examination. The global estimate includes well over 300,000 psychologists in Europe, at least 200,000 in Latin America, and 277,000 in the United States. In addition, psychology has gained ground in East and Southeast Asia and is increasingly visible in some Muslim countries such as Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, and Iran (Ahmed & Gielen, 1998; Stevens & Wedding, 2004). In sub-Saharan Africa, psychology is well developed in South Africa, but less present in the other regions. For more detailed information, see the edited volume by Stevens and Wedding (2004) which includes analyses of the status of psychology in 27 countries located on all inhabited continents.
In general, psychology as a discipline has prospered in well-to-do and individualistic countries and cultures but it is frequently considered an unnecessary luxury in the poorer regions of the world where the treatment of physical health problems by allopathic and indigenous healers is likely to take precedence over the identification and treatment of mental health problems (Leung & Zhang, 1995).
Perhaps the best measure of trends within international psychology is within its organizations, through new membership, conference topics, and cooperative research across borders. For example, the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsyS) has seen an increase of new member countries from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and Latin America in the past ten years; membership in such organizations represents a desire and need in these countries for networking, training, accreditation, expansion of scientific research, and international recognition (Stevens & Gielen, 2007).
Trends in global psychology point to the sustained growth, specialization, and feminization of psychology, and the emergence of contextually sensitive paradigms.
The number of psychologists, psychology students, and psychology programs worldwide continues to grow, proving that one of the goals of globalization is being met. However, much work is still to be done in order to bring psychology to underdeveloped areas, and to increase the resources and development of the field in countries where it has already taken hold (Adair & Kağitçibaşi, 1995).
Specialization is a growing trend, with each nation focusing specializations on its own needs and goals. Also, communication within these specializations is being facilitated through the World Wide Web and the emergence and growth of specialized international organizations and journals in many subfields of psychology. Although access to the Internet is often limited in less developed countries, it has nevertheless improved in recent years.
Feminization in psychology is another trend, as women are beginning to dominate the field in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. A trend within this trend is the continued dominance of male psychologists within business and academia, whereas women tend to work more in school, counseling, and clinical settings.
Finally, with the globalization of psychology comes the demand for more culturally sensitive paradigms. Traditionally, psychology was taught in the Western context, reflecting the norms, values, and data of those particular regions. Increasing awareness that this psychology does not address global issues and therefore does not apply to some cultures has led to the call for indigenous psychologies, or at least an alternative psychology to the mainstream, reductionistic paradigm which may be applied to most, if not all, cultures (Kim, Yang, & Hwang, 2006). Prominent centers of indigenous psychology include Mexico, the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Professional Regulations and Ethical Standards
Many countries around the world have professional regulations for the practice of psychology. “With some exceptions, the existence of professional regulation reflects the level of development of professional psychology in that country. A profession needs to establish an identity and credibility before there is something to be regulated” (Pettifor, 2007, p. 312). In the 31 European countries represented in EFPA, a major effort is underway to unify the basic academic curriculum as well as other requirements underlying the training of psychologists. One of the goals is to establish a European Diploma in Psychology comparable to a Master’s level university education of six years duration that includes supervised practice.
Some countries that currently have no regulation of the profession include: India, Iran, Japan, Kenya, Kuwait, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Several of these countries are working toward licensing legislation, and several have developed ethical standards of practice to guide. At present a considerable number of national psychology associations have adopted a code of ethics such as, for instance, APA’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. EFPA has adopted several codes of ethics in recent years, and the five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) adopted a unified code of ethics in 1988, which they revised in 1998 to be more consistent with EFPA’s meta-code (Pettifor, 2007). Moreover, IUPsyS, IAAP, and IACCP are now working jointly toward a Universal Declaration of Ethical Principles of Psychologists through an Ad Hoc Joint Committee chaired by Janel Gauthier, Canada (see ww.iupsys.org for copies of the draft Declaration and various pertinent committee reports). It is hoped that the Declaration will be ratified in 2008 by the three sponsoring organizations.
The scope of scientific psychology and its practice have expanded enormously from its early beginnings in the 19th century to today. This holds true for all post-industrial countries and increasingly for some modernizing nations such as Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, and Turkey. In contrast, psychology remains much less visible in the poorer countries and especially so in their rural areas. The expansion of psychology into the nonwestern world has led to an increasing awareness of the role of cultural factors in psychological functioning together with repeated calls to “indigenize” psychology (Kim, Yang, & Hwang, 2006). International contacts among psychologists as well as joint research and applied projects across national and geographic boundaries have prospered thanks to the rapidly evolving technologies of transportation and electronic communication. Consequently, one may safely predict that the cross-cultural, global, and international dimensions of psychology will become more prominent in the foreseeable future.
References and Recommended Readings
- Adair, J. G., & Kağitçibaşi, Ç. (1995). National development of psychology:Factors facilitating and impeding progress in developing countries [Special issue]. International Journal of Psychology, 30(6).
- Ahmed, R. A., & Gielen, U. P. (Eds.). (1998). Psychology in the Arab Countries. Menoufia,Egypt: Menoufia University Press.
- Bauserman, R. (1997). International representation in the psychological literature. International Journal of Psychology, 32, 107-112.
- Brock, A. C. (Ed.). (2007). Internationalizing the history of psychology. New York: New York University Press.
- David, H. P., & Buchanan, J. (2003). International psychology. In D. K. Freedheim (Ed.), Handbook of psychology: History of psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 509-533). New York: Wiley.
- Gielen, U. P. (Ed). (1995). World psychology (Vol. 1). New York: Secretariat of the International Council of Psychologists.
- Gielen, U. P., & Bredenkamp, J. (Eds.). (1997). Psychology in the German- speaking countries [Special issue]. World Psychology, 3(3-4). Available online at
- Gielen, U. P., & Chumachenko, O. (2004). All the world’s children: The impact of global demographic trends and economic disparities. In U. P. Gielen & J. L. Roopnarine (Eds.), Childhood and adolescence: Cross-cultural perspectives and applications (pp. 81-109). Westport, CT: Praeger.
Gilgen, A. R., & Gilgen, C. K. (Eds.). (1987). International handbook of psychology. New York: Greenwood Press.
- Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions, and organizations across nations (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Kim, U.,Yang, K.-S., & Hwang, K. K. (Eds.). (2006). Indigenous and cultural psychology: Understanding people in context. New York: Springer.
- Leung, K., & Zhang, J. (1995). Systemic considerations: Factors facilitating and impeding the development of psychology in developing countries. International Journal of Psychology, 30(6), 693-706.
- Liu, J. H., & Ng, S. H. (2007). Past contributions, current status and future prospects for Asian social psychology [Special issue]. Asian Journal of Social Psychology, 10(1), 1-7.
- Marsella, A. J. (2007). Education and training for a global psychology. In M. J. Stevens & U.P. Gielen (Eds.), Toward a Global Psychology: Theory, Research, Intervention, and Pedagogy (pp. 333-361). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Merenda, P. F. (1995). International movements in psychology: The major international associations of psychology. World Psychology, 1, 27-48.
- Pawlik, K., & Rosenzweig, M. R. (Eds.). (2000). International handbook of psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Pedersen, P. B., Draguns, J. G., Lonner, W. J., & Trimble, J. E. (Eds.). (2002). Counseling across cultures (5th ed.). Thousands Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Pettifor, J. L. (2007). Toward a global professionalization of psychology. In M. J. Stevens & U. P. Gielen (Eds.), Toward a global psychology: Theory, research, intervention, and pedagogy (pp. 299-331). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Rosenzweig, M. R. (1999). Continuity and change in the development of psychology around the world. American Psychologist, 54, 252-259
- Sexton, V. S., & Hogan, J. D. (Eds.). (1992). International psychology: Views from around the world. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
- Stevens, M. J., & Gielen, U. P. (Eds.). (2007). Toward a global psychology: Theory, research, intervention, and pedagogy. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Stevens, M. J., & Wedding, D. (Eds.). (2004). Handbook of international psychology. New York: Brunner-Routledge.
- Wedding, D., & Stevens, M. J. (Eds.). (2007). Psychology: IUPsyS global resources [CD-ROM] (8th ed.). Hove, UK: Psychology Press.
- Wessells, M. G., & Dawes, A. (2007). Macro-social interventions: psychology, social policy, and social influence processes. In M. J. Stevens & U. P. Gielen (Eds.), Toward a global psychology: Theory, research, intervention, and pedagogy (pp. 267-298). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Zeitlinger. Davis, J. M. (1995). Advancing international psychology: Knowledge dissemination of ICP. International Psychologist, 36, 3-4.
Representative Journals and Newsletters
- Applied Psychology: An International Journal (IAAP)
- Asian Journal of Social Psychology (Asian Association of Social Psychology/Japanese Group Dynamics Association)
- European Psychologist (EFPA)
- International Journal of Psychology (IUPsyS)
- International Psychologist (ICP)
- International Psychology Bulletin (APA Division 52)
- Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology (IACCP)
- Revista Interamericana de Psicología/Interamerican Journal of Psychology (SIP)
- American Psychological Association Division 52 (International Psychology)
- International Association of Applied Psychology
- International Union of Psychological Science
- International Association for Cross-Cultural Psychology
- International Council of Psychologists
- Sociedad Interamericana:de Psicologia
- Society for Cross-Cultural Research
- European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations
- St. Francis College: Institute for International and Cross-Cultural Psychology
- Western Washington University: Institute for Cross-Cultural Research
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