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.