Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 June 2012
This chapter addresses one of the main issues in cross-cultural psychology, and of this book: how can we conceptualise and empirically investigate the relationships between culture and human behaviour? This question assumes that culture and behaviour are distinguishable phenomena, each with a separate existence at its own level; this issue is addressed in this chapter. There is an even more fundamental level, that of the ecological context within which both culture and behaviour are situated and in which they develop. This level will also be addressed, by outlining ecology–culture–behaviour relationships within an ecocultural framework.
The ecological approach to understanding any phenomenon is to examine it in context. These contexts can be naturally occurring or human-made. Essential to this approach are the concepts of interaction and adaptation. Interaction implies reciprocal relationships among elements in an ecosystem; adaptation implies changes in these elements that increase their mutual fit or compatibility. These ideas have a long history in the natural sciences, but have only recently become part of the social and behavioural sciences. Of course, the common criticism of the human sciences following epistemological models from the natural sciences applies here: To what extent can we understand human phenomena using models based on non-human science? No convincing arguments to justify this way of understanding human beings are advanced here.