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Eye on Psi Chi: Winter 2004
International Psychology:
Past, Present, and Future

John D. Hogan, St. John's University (NY)
Uwe P. Gilen, St. Francis College (NY)

The world is rapidly changing. The web, e-mail, and fax machines have brought about a level of international communication that was unthinkable even a dozen years ago. Financial markets are swayed by events in every part of the world. An incident in remote Afghanistan may have severe repercussions in New York City. All around us, every day, there is evidence that the world's institutions have adopted an international focus. If psychology is to thrive, it must join that movement.

Past and Present
Psychology in the United States once had more of an international focus. Because its origins were found mostly in Europe, it initially reflected those beginnings. Although a few of its early leaders were "self starters" ”notably William James' ”a substantial number of them were educated in Europe, and for many years a European degree was more highly prized than a U. S. degree.

Even after American psychologists stopped receiving European degrees, many of them considered it important to complete their doctoral education with some international travel and contact. And, of course, scores of important ideas from correlation coefficients to psychoanalysis, including the very idea of psychology as an empirical science, originated in Europe, not in the United States.

Virtually from the beginning, American psychology began to take on a flavor of its own. The traditional psychology of Wilhelm Wundt and others did not travel well across the ocean. Compared to European psychology, American psychology was less philosophical, more practical, and more quantitative. As it began to develop its own research problems, it also developed its own point of view. When the volume of American publications began to increase, the interest in European work experienced a parallel decline.

Ideas were still brought in from Europe, of course. It was during one such event--the Ninth International Congress of Psychology held at Yale in 1929--that Psi Chi was born. In the 1930s and during World War II, the great influx of European psychologists had a powerful effect on American psychology. However, after World War II, the focus for psychologists in the United States was on psychology at home. As a result, American psychology became increasingly isolated. Today, most of us read only native publications (Draguns, 2001), which include few non-U. S. authors, and we are concerned almost exclusively with national professional issues.

Clearly, our isolationism and ignorance of advances in other countries have been a detriment to the development of our own psychology. A striking example is found in the work of Jean Piaget. Although his work was well known to most European psychologists in the 1930s, there was only a brief flurry of interest in his work in the United States, and then he was largely forgotten. When we finally rediscovered him in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the effect on our research and thinking was extraordinary. At one point in the 1970s, he was cited by almost 40% of all the articles published in the three major U.S. developmental journals.

Many other examples could be used. Some of the early German work in lifespan development is still not well known in the United States and certainly not cited. The French tradition is known only a little more. We seem to have ignored completely the whole European child-study movement in the early part of this century. Reminders of that movement have come back to us recently in the work of Lev Vygotsky, a theorist some regard as the most important developmentalist of the 1990s, even though he died in 1934. If we had been more exposed to European psychology, perhaps we would have come to Vygotsky's work a little sooner. Even today, there is a French psychologist who some regard as the equal of Piaget—Henri Wallon. For various reasons, including his Marxist outlook, he is almost totally unknown here.

As a result of this kind of isolation, we psychologists in the United States know surprisingly little about the characteristics and progress of psychology in other countries. Up until now, we seem to have been content with that. The reasoning seems to be that since the United States is the dominant force in psychology around the world, our limited time is best devoted to a consideration of our own national psychology.

Some commentators have suggested that it is precisely because we have been so successful that we can afford to isolate ourselves from psychology in other parts of the world. But that attitude must change, and there is already some indication that the change has begun.

APA's most widely read journal, American Psychologist, has taken the lead by printing an increasing number of articles on international psychology. At the same time, cross-cultural psychology has become a thriving and internationally oriented enterprise. The number of psychologists outside the United States has been rapidly increasing and long since passed the number of psychologists in the United States. Clearly, international events and forces for globalization are leading American psychologists to cooperate increasingly with their colleagues abroad.

The Future of Global Psychology
Current Psi Chi members will have a powerful impact on the course of American psychology in the 21st century. In this context, it is encouraging to note that many Psi Chi members are becoming interested in the global and cross-cultural aspects of psychology. Here are a few tips about how to nourish such interests.

  • Join APA Division 52 (International Psychology) as a student affiliate for a mere $10.00. You don't even have to be an affiliate of APA! In exchange, you will receive an excellent newsletter four times a year and be part of a thriving and highly active division that is increasingly represented at the yearly APA conferences. To download a membership form, go to: http://orgs.tamu-commerce.edu/div52/membership.htm.
  • The International Affairs Office of the American Psychological Association, in collaboration with the Committee on International Relations in APA Psychology (CIRP), publishes the newsletter Psychology International four times a year. You can download it from www.apa.org/international. To receive printed copies free of charge, contact Sally Leverty at sleverty@apa.org.
  • Peruse international psychology journals such as European Psychologist, Asian Journal of Social Psychology, Applied Psychology: An International Review, and the International Journal of Psychology.
  • Every year the Committee of International Relations in Psychology (CIRP) presents the APA Award for the International Advancement of Psychology to an outstanding American or international psychologist. Awardees are given the opportunity to sum up some of their work in invited addresses, which are subsequently reprinted in American Psychologist. Examples include Kagitçibasi (1995), Marsella (1998), and Draguns (2001). Perusing these addresses helps one to better understand some of the important issues, empirical findings, and theoretical frameworks infusing recent work in international psychology.
  • Take a course in cross-cultural psychology. If your department does not offer one, suggest that such a course would be an excellent way to broaden and strengthen its curriculum.
  • Expose yourself to overviews of psychological topics that incorporate international perspectives and cross-cultural materials. Excellent examples include Jeffrey Jensen Arnett's (2004) overview of adolescence from a global perspectives, Peter B. Smith and Michael Harris Bond's (1999) discussion of social psychology across cultures, and Harry W. Gardiner and Corinne Kosmitzki's (2002) highly readable introduction to the study of lives around the world.
  • Consider participating in (or launching) a research project with international or multicultural implications. This may be accomplished in a variety of ways. Spending one or more semesters overseas is the most exciting way to pursue such an interest and may lead to collaboration with someone overseas. Not only may you be able to form bonds with future international psychologists that could last a lifetime, but such a course of action is also a wonderful way to spread your psychological wings and fly. Other students have formed overseas connections via e-mail and through the newly established International Student Psychology Organization (www.psychologystudents.org). Library research on international and cross-cultural topics is also a possibility, using, for instance, UNESCO and UNICEF publications; a combination of anthropological, sociological, and psychological sources; and so on.
  • Consider the possibility of future international research opportunities as you are thinking about graduate school. Look for faculty listings of graduate schools on the internet, find the publication lists and curricula vitae of faculty members if available, and also consider the institutional backgrounds of authors of cross-cultural and international articles you are encountering. If your future mentor in graduate school is actively involved in international research, chances are that you, too, may be able to pursue such a course.
  • Additional tips may be found in the articles by Russo and Takooshian (Eye on Psi Chi, Spring 2002) and Stevens (Eye on Psi Chi, Fall 2002).

The psychology of the future is likely to be more global and culturally inclusive than the psychology of today. Students need to begin preparing for that future. In the end, they will not only help to shape psychology, but also to shape the world.

References and Sources of Additional Reading
Arnett, J. J. (2002). The psychology of globalization. American Psychologist, 57, 774-783.

Arnett, J. J. (2004). Adolescent and emerging adulthood: A cultural approach (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education/Prentice Hall.

David, H. P., & Buchanan, J. (2003). International psychology. In D. K. Freedheim (Ed.), Handbook of psychology: History of psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 509-553). New York: Wiley.

Draguns, J. G. (2001). Toward an international psychology: Beyond English only. American Psychologist, 56, 1019-1030.

Gardiner, H. W., & Kosmitzki, C. (2002). Lives across cultures: Cross-cultural human development. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Gielen, U. P. (1994). American mainstream psychology and its relationship to international and cross-cultural psychology. In A. L. Comunian & U. P. Gielen (Eds.) Advancing psychology and its applications: International perspectives (pp. 26-40). Milan, Italy: FrancoAngeli.

Gielen, U. P., Adler, L. L., & Milgram, N. A. (Eds.). (1992). Psychology in international perspective: 50 years of the International Council of Psychologists. Lisse, Netherlands: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Hogan, J. D. (1995). International psychology in the next century: Comment and speculation from a U.S. perspective. World Psychology, 1 (1), 9-25.

Kagitçibasi, Ç. (1995). Is psychology relevant to global developmental issues? Experience from Turkey. American Psychologist, 50, 293-300.

Marsella, A. J. (1998). Toward a "global community psychology": Meeting the needs of a changing world. American Psychologist, 53, 1282â€"1291.

Overmier, B., & Overmier, J. A. (Eds.). (2003). Psychology: IUPsyS Global Resource. Hove, UK: Psychology Press.

Rosenzweig, M. R. (1992). Psychological science around the world. American Psychologist, 47, 718-722.

Sexton, V. S., & Hogan, J. D. (Eds.). (1992). International psychology: Views from around the world. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Smith, P. B., & Bond, M. H. (1999). Social psychology across cultures (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Wedding, D., & Stevens, M. (Eds.). (in press). The handbook of international psychology. New York: Brunner-Routledge.


John Hogan is professor of psychology at St. John’s University, NY. He received his PhD in developmental psychology from Ohio State University. His major areas of interest are the history of psychology, international psychology, and developmental psychology. The author of more than 150 chapters, articles, and book reviews related to those topics, he was the co-editor of two books, including International Psychology: Views From Around the World (with Virginia S. Sexton). He is the historian of the Eastern Psychological Association and is historian and member-at-large on the Board of APA Division 52 (International Psychology). He is also a former Eastern vice-president and historian of Psi Chi.

Uwe P. Gielen is Professor of Psychology and Executive Director, Institute for International and Cross-Cultural Psychology at St. Francis College, New York City. He received his doctorate from Harvard University in 1976. He has served as President of both the Society for Cross-Cultural Research and the International Council of Psychologists. His ten edited/co-edited/co-authored books cover areas such as moral develpment, international family therapy, cross-cultural psychology, and psychology in the Arab countries. given lectures, workshops and paper presentations in 29 countries.

Copyright 2004 (Volume 8, Issue 2) by Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology



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