Social cultural Perspective

Social cultural Perspective

Social cultural Perspective

By Namra Sarwar

The social cultural perspective in psychology suggests that human behavior is influenced by social context, environmental cues, social pressures and cultural influences. Anyone who has attended a football game will recognize that human behavior is susceptible to influence of the crowd mentality. We are all shaped by the context of our environment and influenced by the perception of authority in our social order. Social psychologists suggest that these forces are very powerful and explain a great deal about the causes of human behavior and thought processes.


Socio-cultural psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology and is often also termed as social psychology. Sociocultural psychology studies the effect of social situations in terms of society as a whole and its role in shaping human behavior.

An important perspective that has emerged in psychology in recent years is termed the sociocultural perspective. Like social learning theory, the sociocultural approach is based on the assumption that our personalities, beliefs, attitudes and skills are learned from others. The sociocultural approach goes further, however, in stating that it is impossible to fully understand a person without understanding his or her culture, ethnic identity, gender identity, and other important sociocultural factors.

Social and Culture: What does a socio-cultural perspective imply?

As the name implies, two words are central to the socio-cultural approach on psychological issues: “social” and “cultural”. When something is social, it’s automatically interconnected and referred to other people. M. Weber, one of the most important sociologists in the first half of the 20th century, defined “social acting” in a way, that the sense of the action is related to others’ behavior (Weber, 1922). If I found a wallet lying on the street, I would bring it to the lost property office in anticipation of someone who’s searching for it. If I weren’t expect that, it wouldn’t be a kind of social behavior. So the relation to others’ behavior gives sense to my acting and initiates it, consequently it is social acting.

The meaning of the second word “culture” is a classical anthropological issue. Taylor (1874), a cultural anthropologist, defined culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society” (p.1; cited in Cole, 2005).

Thus, the socio-cultural perspectives on psychological issues mean a holistic research aim to understand the interconnections between the intra-psychological and the inter-psychological mechanisms. Consequently, the social community and the specific working culture at the workplace become essential for individual development and learning processes at work. Each community in a specific domain develops own ways of “tool” handling to fit in its environment.

Timeline Chart

Time period

Sociocultural Development

384-322 Aristotle: extolled the value of friendship


Plato: seeing ourselves reflects in others is often the best source of such understanding.

John Lock, David Hume and Adam Smith: emphasized the importance of “points of attachment offered by life with others.”


Herder, Fichte, Hegal: who stressed our dependence on social and material existence


Diderot, Rousseau: influence of social forces on our psychological live

early 20th century Sociocultural and relational thinking was common
middle of the 20th century

influential intellectual developments in sociology and anthropology that parallel the sociocultural psychology

past two decades

further developed sociocultural versions of human nature and social life


How sociocultural theorists explain abnormal functioning.

Because behavior is shaped by social forces, sociocultural theorists hold, to understand abnormal behavior of a person the social and cultural surroundings of a person should be examine. Sociocultural explanations focus on societal labels and roles, social networks, family structure and communication and cultural influences.

  • Societal labels and roles:

Many sociocultural theorists believe that abnormal functioning is influenced by the labels and roles assigned to troubled people. When people stay from the norms of the society, the society calls them deviant and in many cases mentally ill. Such labels tend to stick. Moreover, when people are viewed in particular ways, reacted to as crazy and perhaps even encourage acting stick, they gradually learn to accept and play the assigned role. Ultimately the label seems appropriate.

  • Social network and support:

Sociocultural theorists are typically concerned with the social networks in which people operate, including their social and professional relationship. How well they communicate with the others? Researchers have often found ties between deficiencies in social networks and a person’s functioning. They have noted, for example, that people who are isolated and lack social support in their lives are more likely to become depressed when under stress and to remain depressed longer than are people with warm friendships.

  • Family structure and communication:

Of course, one of the important social networks for an individual is his or her family. According to family system theory, the family is a system of interacting parts, the family members, who interact with one another in consistent ways and conform to rules unique to each family. The parts interact in ways that enables the system to maintain itself and survive a state known as homeostasis.

Family system theory holds that certain family systems are particularly likely to produce abnormal functioning in individual members. Some families have an enmeshed structure in which the members are grossly overinvolved in each other’s activities, thoughts, and feelings. Children from this kind of family may have great difficulty to becoming independent in their life. Some families display disengagement, which is marked by very rigid boundaries between the members. Children from these families may find it hard to function in a group or to give support.

  • Culture:

It refers to the set of values, attitudes, beliefs, history and behaviors shared by a group of people and communicated from one generation to the next. Theorists use the term multicultural perspective or culturally diverse perspective, to describe the view that each culture within a large society has a particular set of values, beliefs and that each culture has its own strengths and limitations, all of which help account for individual behavior.

In different cultures sever psychological abnormality is indeed more common among poor people than rich. Perhaps the special pressures of poverty explain this relationship. The higher rates of crime, unemployment, overcrowding and homelessness, the inferior medical care and limited educational opportunities typically experienced by poor may place great stress on them as they try to cope with everyday life.

Multicultural researchers have also noted that the prejudice and discrimination faced by minority groups may contribute to certain forms of abnormal functioning. The cultural differences occur not only within countries but across countries.


J.comer, (2001) Abnormal psychology.4thEd.USA.

Socialcultural perspective and psychology, (n.d). Retrieved from

Sociocultural Theory, (n.d).Retrieved from


November 18, 2015 / by / in ,
%d bloggers like this: