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Psychol Bull. 2005 Sep;131(5):763-84.

Psychological universals: what are they and how can we know?

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Bristish Columbia, Canada. ara@psych.ubc.ca

Abstract

Psychological universals, or core mental attributes shared by humans everywhere, are a foundational postulate of psychology, yet explicit analysis of how to identify such universals is lacking. This article offers a conceptual and methodological framework to guide the investigation of genuine universals through empirical analysis of psychological patterns across cultures. Issues of cross-cultural generalizability of psychological processes and 3 cross-cultural research strategies to probe universals are considered. Four distinct levels of hierarchically organized universals are possible: From strongest to weakest claims for universality, they are accessibility universals, functional universals, existential universals, and nonuniversals. Finally, universals are examined in relation to the questions of levels of analysis, evolutionary explanations of psychological processes, and management of cross-cultural relations.

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