What is the Difference Between International and Cross-Cultural Psychology?

International and cross-cultural psychology are two very broad concepts within the general subject of psychology, and while they are related, there are some important differences. Cross-cultural psychology is an older discipline and is less a branch of psychology than a method for investigating problems across cultures from a psychological perspective. International psychology is a branch within psychology that looks at universal psychological issues that apply to people throughout the world, regardless of culture. While many people use the two terms interchangeably, they describe different concepts, and in many ways, they encompass ideas opposite from one another.

Cross-cultural psychology was founded as a response to the North American dominance of scientific psychology in the early days of its development. Between the late 1880s and early 1930s, experimental psychology focused mainly on western culture and the United States in particular. Further investigation revealed that many of these theories didn’t hold when applied to non-western cultures, so the methodology of cross-cultural psychology began to take form. A separate branch of psychology, called cultural psychology, looks at the interrelationships between the various cultures of the world.

Major Concepts of International and Cross-Cultural Psychology

While international psychology focuses on the psychology of the people of the world as a whole, cross-cultural psychology takes a closer look at the people of diverse cultures, trying to understand the differences in personality traits, emotions and subjective well-being. International psychology is involved in global policy making, clinical practice, international psychology organizations, research and academic institutions and global psychological training. In contrast, cross-cultural psychology is not a field of psychology but an approach to understanding the psychology of all people from an unbiased point of view.

International psychology deals with the mental health of people from third-world countries and developing economies. These cultures have historically been underrepresented in psychological research because mental health has been seen as a luxury compared to the more pressing problems of nutrition and physical health in these places. However, without the concepts developed through cross-cultural psychology, attention to the mental health of people from developing nations wouldn’t be effective.

The knowledge that research performed during the formative years of scientific psychology doesn’t apply to non-western cultures has influenced the development of both cross-cultural and international psychology since the end of the second world war. These differences are important when studying the different values held by the various cultures of the world. For example, the nations considered to be the happiest aren’t necessarily the richest, and the study of subjective well-being takes into account these difference between happiness and wealth.

Difference Between Methodology and Field of Study

The field of international psychology includes organizations, fellowships, grants, societies and policy-making bodies, while the methodology of cross-cultural psychology is embodied by an approach to studying people without false, preconceived notions. International psychologists may use cross-cultural psychological methods to further their goals of studying the psychology of people all over the world, and researchers in other disciplines may also use these methods. International psychology developed as a distinct discipline after it was understood that cross-cultural psychology was necessary to study the mental health of people from diverse cultures.

Psychology is one of the most wide-ranging fields of science, and over the last 60 years, it’s been responsible for producing ideas that have changed the world. The difference between international and cross-cultural psychology is just one small detail in the dynamic science of psychology.