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Universals

Universals cover the range from total inclusiveness (e.g., all people eat, communicate, and die) to some shared behavior (e.g., belief in witchcraft or living in deserts or having children) to total uniqueness (e.g., engaging in an unprecedented pattern of child-rearing or playing a game found nowhere else). However, even such a simple three-part synopsis would be difficult to apply to all configurations of human behavior. This entry summarizes some difficulties associated with the concept of psychological universals.

Throughout psychology’s history, most of which is grounded in a Western academic tradition, it has been assumed that topics or concepts studied in the laboratory or during fieldwork are de facto universal and therefore universally valid whenever or wherever they are applied. Suppose, for example, a psychologist developed a ...

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