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Book Reviews   |    
Cultural Cognition and Psychopathology
Reviewed by M. Andrea Vidal, M.D.
Psychiatric Services 2001; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.52.8.1114-a
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edited by John F. Schumaker and Tony Ward; Westport, Connecticut, Praeger Publishers, 2001, 304 pages, $65

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America's changing demographics have generated a new set of political, economic, and social challenges in responding to the needs of an increasingly multicultural population. Far from maintaining total cultural relativism, psychology and psychiatry have grown more aware of the dynamic interactions between culture and cognition and of their intimate connection to psychopathology. Still, the editors of Cultural Cognition and Psychopathology contend, psychological thinking, traditionally rooted in the doctrine of individualism, has failed to incorporate the role played by internalized culture in the constructs and methods used by this discipline.

Drs. Schumaker and Ward, both authorities in the field, have assembled an international group of experts to produce the collection of well-researched, up-to-date, and broadly encompassing reviews that constitute this volume. The introduction, which serves as a road map for the chapters to come, sets forth the editors' goal of attempting "to bring together concepts of culture and cognition within the wider context of psychopathology."

The book's 16 chapters are divided into three parts. The first part offers a thought-provoking and comprehensive review of the historical and theoretical foundations of psychological thinking, examining its failure to account for cultural influences on human acquisition and manipulation of knowledge.

The second part of the book consists of nine chapters, each dedicated to a specific psychiatric disorder. From depression and anxiety to substance abuse and schizophrenia, the contributors meticulously review the literature and propose models that incorporate cultural variables in the development, phenomenology, and expression of psychiatric illnesses.

The chapters in part 3 emphasize the importance of cultural awareness in the assessment and treatment of individuals from different backgrounds. These chapters provide a framework that incorporates cultural cognition at the level of symptom formation, and they illustrate the social, political, and health perils of our society's continued reliance on individualism.

Cultural Cognition and Psychopathology is a valuable and timely contribution to the field of cultural studies. It provides a wealth of up-to-date and critically reviewed information. This volume is well worth a careful reading by mental health professionals and trainees as well as anyone else interested in this thought-provoking and often controversial area of knowledge.

Dr. Vidal is a fourth-year resident in the department of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.




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