_________________________________________________________________ VOLUME 1, ISSUE 7 PSYCHNEWS INTERNATIONAL Nov-Dec 1996 _________________________________________________________________ SECTION A: EDITORIAL -------------------------------------------------------- THE POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGICAL CONSEQUENCES OF MULTICULTURALISM Paul B. Pedersen While much has been written about the negative consequences or tolerating the political necessity of multiculturalism less has been written about the positive psychological consequences offered by reframing psychological interventions into a multicultural (broadly defined) perspective. Multiculturalism is probably one of the most important --- and most frequently misunderstood --- psychological constructs of this generation. The confusion about how the multicultural construct is defined has led to articles which include multiple contrasting/conflicting definitions of culture even within the same page! By defining culture broadly to include ethnographic, demographic and affiliations (both formal and informal) with each individual having multiple orthogonal cultural identities any one of which may become psychologically salient within any given situation. Reframing psychological interventions into a multicultural perspective offers several unique advantages. First, since all behaviors are learned and displayed in a cultural context accurate assessment, meaningful understanding and appropriate intervention requires that each person's behavior be interpreted from within that person's cultural context. Second, a multicultural perspectives provides the advantage that two persons or groups from different cultural backgrounds can disagree without one necessarily being wrong if they both share the same positive values but express those values in culturally learned different behaviors. Third, each of us is surrounded day and night by thousands of "virtual culture teachers" we have accumulated during our lifetime who whisper advice in our ear and who shape our decisions in ways that give us our identity. The multicultural perspective helps us better understand our own identity. Fourth, just as a healthy environment requires genetic diversity in our gene pool, the health of our social environment depends on the diversity of our culturally learned assumptions. The multicultural perspective increases our bandwidth of potentially useful choices for our decisions. Fifth, the danger of a monocultural perspective is that we become culturally encapsulated into our own self-reference perspective and our interpretation of the world becomes an artifact of our own encapsulated perspective. The multicultural perspective protects us from this encapsulation. Sixth, we are moving toward a future which by definition is different even beyond our imagination. The multicultural perspective provides us the opportunity to rehearse adaptive functioning which will save us when we arrive at this unimaginably different future. Seventh, by maintaining a balance of cultural perspectives in which questions of ethics, morality and social justice are defined and perceived differently we are more likely to achieve a state of "fairness" between and among our competing multicultural interests. Eighth, multiculturalism makes our lives more complicated by requiring us to manage both similarities and differences that unite and divide us at the same time in an application of the quantum metaphor. The multicultural perspective protects us against simplistic mechanistic explanations of human behavior or reductionism in defining the complicated criteria of social constructs. Ninth, by taking a multiculturally inclusive rather than an exclusive perspective, we open ourselves to learning and growth in ways that enhance quality of life, increasing synergy and enhancing discovery through interaction with people different from ourselves. Tenth, culture is the foundation for spiritual meaning in each context and the multicultural perspective provides the enhanced advantage for better understanding each of our incomplete perspectives of spiritual reality by linking our perspective with others. Eleventh, each cultural identity group working with other cultures in a multicultural context provides part of an organizational structure for building a coherent society in which groups can be different while sharing the same loyalties. The multicultural perspective helps us work effectively within and between small and large organizations. This brief review of advantages offered by taking a multicultural perspective does not weaken or distract from theories of psychological intervention but rather strengthens each of them by making culture a central rather than a marginal aspect.