chapter  1
20 Pages

How we got here

A short history of psychology across cultures
WithAndrew Stevenson

This chapter provides an overview of the European philosophical ideas regarding the study of inhabitants overseas, including the demonising and romanticising in equal measure of ‘the exotic other’ by Greeks, Romans and Renaissance thinkers. The philosophical foundations of psychology across cultures are sunk deep in the history of European thought. Distinct though merging phases are decipherable in European philosophical traditions, and an examination of these phases reveals an evolving fascination with people from diverse places. Some aspects of this fascination have distinctly ethnocentric roots. Echoes of ethnocentrism in European and US writing lingered into the twentieth century. The chapter provides information on the historic precursors of research across cultures. The philosophical roots of research across cultures yielded their first large-scale empirical investigation in 1799. The Observateurs de l’Homme was an early attempt to compare different ‘forms of collective life’ based on objective observations, rather than on unsubstantiated conjecture.