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The main tenet of cultural psychology has been and in most cases still is that mind and culture are inseparable and mutually constitutive, meaning that people are shaped by their culture and their culture is also shaped by them.
Yet, does culture indeed act as some kind of agent? It is the most pressing problem in this field of research: is culture just a label, sometimes an excuse, then merely a metaphor? Or does it really ‘do’ something, influencing people’s behavior for example? Gerd Baumann has argued: "Culture is not a real thing, but an abstract and purely analytical notion. In itself «it» does not «cause» behavior, but denotes an abstraction from it, and is thus neither normative nor predictive but a heuristic means towards explaining how people understand and act upon the world." More on this issue in section 9.
As Richard Shweder, one of the major proponents of the field, writes, "Cultural psychology is the study of the way cultural traditions and social practices regulate, express, and transform the human psyche, resulting less in psychic unity for humankind than in ethnic divergences in mind, self, and emotion."