Multicultural Psychology, Its History and Importance

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 5
Words: 1123
Reading time:
5 min
Study level: Master


Generally, psychology can be defined as a branch of science that studies the functioning of the human mind and how it affects human behavior, feelings and thinking. In other words, Multicultural psychology can be defined as the study of human mind relative to human behavior. Psychology is a broad field of study and in order to make it simpler, general psychology has been subdivided into different specialties. It is worth noting that the human mind is quite complex and thus results in diverse behavior among human beings (Lena, 2004).This paper highlights on a unique and newly established specialty in psychology knows as Multicultural Psychology.

Multicultural psychology can therefore be defined as a branch of psychology that studies or examines how culture affects the actions, feelings and thinking of people. The study also evaluates the human behavior putting more emphasis on the cultural factors that affect how human beings behave. The branch of psychology analysis what is perceived to be an acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior by people from different societies.

It is worth noting that every sub-group among human beings has its definite behavior that is determined by the culture, norms and values of those people. The study of behavior diversification among human beings constitutes the topic under study in multicultural psychology. Since culture affects the inner functioning of human beings such as thinking, multicultural psychology therefore studies the difference among people from different backgrounds and how it is manifested in their behavior (Lena, 2004).

Human beings belong to different cultural backgrounds and this means that they are subjected to different social cultural factors that affect their behavior. Consequently people from different parts of the world tend to think and feel differently when it comes to behavior. The behavior of the Asian people is totally different from that of the Africans or the Americans. This is simply because they belong to different cultural backgrounds.

With the concept of globalization, the world has become a small world and people from different parts of the world mingle freely in their daily activities (Lena, 2004). However, there is need to study how the cultural backgrounds of these people affect their behavior. This has therefore led to the establishment of multicultural psychology.

A brief history of Multicultural Psychology

Although multicultural psychology a study does not have a deep history, the concept is as old as psychology itself. There is no clear and sufficient literature to accurately tell the root cause of multicultural psychology. Scholars argue that although multicultural psychology does exist, there are no theories to explain its history and development completely. The study shows that the history of multicultural psychology originated from counseling and psychology fields. Professionals in psychology and counseling found it necessary to study how the cultural diversity affected behavior of their patients and this led to the study of multicultural psychology as sub-specialty of psychology (Lott, 2009).

The history of multicultural psychology is dated to as early as 1879 when psychology was started by Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig Germany. Wundt and is friends wanted to measure how the functions of the human mind such as imaginations, reactions, attention, sensations, perceptions and emotions affect human behavior. The intention was to determine why it was difficult to analyze the behavioral difference between people from different societies.

During those early days, there was immense discrimination in psychological researches. The psychologists of the time were biased in their studies and they only involved the white people and the middle class European- Americans males. Additionally, psychological studies involved only males. The rest of the members of the society were considered inferior and consequently not fitting for psychological studies. According to the racial discrimination facing psychological studies in the 19th century, there was a need to study how cultural backgrounds affect the thinking and behavior of people (Moghaddam, 2008).

During the early days multicultural psychology was studied as ethnic psychology and racial psychology. The idea was to determine why people from different racial backgrounds and ethnic groups behaved differently. The intention was to come up with a lasting solution to the discrimination facing humanity in different parts of the world. The study also aimed at establishing appropriate strategies to effective counseling and behavior balance among people from different social backgrounds especially when brought together. Psychologists of the 19th century studied the minds of individuals from racial and ethnical backgrounds in order to determine their behavior.

The conclusion made by these psychologists was that the minority races were mentally deficient. These findings were not globally accepted and it was necessary to carry more studies and this give birth to multicultural psychology (Lott, 2009).

Before the year 1930, there were no black psychologists. It is from1930 when black students started to take graduate courses in psychology. During this era, tests by white psychologists indicated that black American and Indian children were inferior and were not as smart as those of the white society. The civil unrest that existed in Europe and America in the early 20th century made the black scholars to form their own organization of black psychologists.

Other minority groups from different parts of the world followed the example of black Americans and formed their own associations. By the 1960s several associations of psychologists from minority groups were formed and the biased white psychologists had to accommodate their thoughts too. During the last years of the 20th century, psychologists from minority societies such as those from Africa, South America, Asia and Middle East.

The field of psychology was split into different specialty in order to accommodate the views of scholars from different cultural backgrounds (Lena, 2004). Subsequently, a distinct field of study was established to study the impact of culture on behavior. This branch of psychology is regarded as Multicultural Psychology.

Why Multicultural Psychology specialty was necessary

From the above brief analysis of the relationship between culture and behavior, it is evident that human behavior is greatly influenced by their cultural backgrounds. It is therefore clear that psychologists cannot study the human behavior in a global society without evaluating how cultural diversity among the world population affects human behavior (Hall & Gordon, 2009). Therefore there is a need to study psychology from a cultural point of view in order to come up with a clear strategy when establishing a global standard behavior.

The study of multicultural psychology has also improved multicultural counseling. Introducing a specialty of multicultural psychology in the higher education learning institutions has given counselors an opportunity to study the role of culture in determining the human behavior. Additionally, the establishment of multicultural psychology has improved the study of psychology. Students intending to specialize in cultural studies can also study multicultural psychology to improve their understanding of the relationship between culture, behavior and the human mind.


Hall, N., & Gordon, C. (2009). Multicultural Psychology. Houston, TX, United States: Prentice Hall.

Lena, H. (2004). Issues in Multicultural Psychology. MA, United States: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Lott, B. (2009). Multiculturalism and Diversity: A Social Psychological Perspective. MA, United States: John Wiley & Sons.

Moghaddam, F. M. (2008). Multiculturalism and intergroup relations: psychological implications for democracy in global context. Washington, DC, United States: American Psychological Association.