Static models of culture’s influence have given way to a dynamic view, which identifies not only differences across cultures in people’s judgments and decisions, but also the situations and conditions in which these differences do or do not appear. Theory and evidence developed from a cognitive psychological perspective underlie this dynamic approach, including research emerging from the “dynamic constructivist” and “situated cognition” models. In the present review, we focus on findings that confirm the utility of this cognitively oriented approach, and briefly discuss the advantages and complementary nature of the “social collective” and neuroscience approaches to understanding culture.
Social science research has often implicitly assumed that the findings identified using a population within a single country generalize to all populations. The research summarized in this article calls this assumption into question. The danger of making this assumption is increased by virtue of the fact that the range of countries sampled by behavioral scientists is quite narrow — 96% of psychology studies have used participants from Western industrialized countries, though these countries represent only 12% of the world’s population. Moreover, this over-sampled group is not at all representative of the rest of the globe. In some cases, long-standing theories developed using Western ideals and subjects have been overturned (for example, our understanding of the importance of free choice and self-determination to well-being). These and other findings testify to the importance of examining critically the extent to which psychological “universals” actually deserve that status. The research we have reviewed provides evidence of this importance and hopefully will stimulate further research that will permit insight into cultural differences in consumer behavior.