Psychology Prof Studies Power of Socio-Cultural Influences
Oct. 29, 2012
Dr. Jinkyung Na wants to learn more about how people think, and how that viewpoint is shaped by their cultural and social environments.
Dr. Jinkyung Na
Na joined the faculty of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) this fall as an assistant professor of psychology. He will teach social psychology during the spring term.
“Since the University is growing, this provides many opportunities for us to grow together,” he said.
Na previously worked as a research associate in the BBS-affiliated Center for Vital Longevity (CVL). Na received his Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in psychology from Seoul National University in South Korea. He earned a PhD in social psychology from the University of Michigan.
Na said he anticipates collaborating with multiple colleagues as new research projects develop. He already is working closely with Dr. Denise Park, co-director of CVL and Distinguished University Chair, on the interaction between age and culture in cognition.
Basic psychological processes such as cognition, emotion and motivation are fundamentally shaped by socio-cultural contexts, Na said.
“The diversity of the UT Dallas student population, in ethnicity, socio-economic status, etc., allows me to investigate interesting socio-cultural variations in these processes,” he said.
Na’s research examines the dynamic interplay between culture and the human mind.
“Whether we recognize it or not, all of us are under the enormous influence of culture,” he said. “We absorb and eventually internalize culturally sanctioned beliefs and values. The effect of culture can be revealed in various occasions ranging from a simple and mundane habit to a complex problem like resolving social conflicts.”
Na said his research is designed to investigate the powerful effects of culture through a variety of methods, ranging from survey and behavioral observation to brain-mapping technology.
In one line of research, he is looking at how culture motivates a person’s behaviors, as well as the interpretation of another person's behaviors. He also has examined how cultural differences at the group level are translated into individual differences.
“Although social contexts can be narrowly defined, such as the person you are interacting with at any point, the nature or meaning of social contexts you are in is essentially determined by culture,” he said. “So I think that my interests in social contexts led to interests in cultural differences.”
Dr. Bert Moore, dean of BBS, said Na will be a valuable addition to the school’s research and teaching faculty.
"Dr. Na brings to the school expertise in examining cultural variation in cognitive and social processing,” Moore said. “In an increasingly diverse and mobile society, these interests are important additions to our research programs and the training of our students. Recently his interests have extended to examining the underlying brain processes for these cultural differences. We are very pleased to have him join our programs in psychological sciences."
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