Frameworks for Understanding Cultural Variations in Behaviors, Beliefs, and Communication: Implications for Students from Diverse Backgrounds

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Services for students with impairments are typically based on the values, beliefs, and communication patterns of dominant, mainstream populations. If services for students and their families from culturally/linguistically diverse backgrounds are to be considered acceptable and effective, they must be designed to account for these cultural variations. Anthropologists and psychologists have developed constructs to explain key behavioral and belief dimensions along which cultures vary, e.g., individualism/collectivism, power distance/hierarchical relationships, analytic/holistic cognition. Researchers in cultural neuroscience are investigating the neurophysiological and neurogenetic associations with these variations in behaviors/beliefs as a means of understanding the mutual influence of cultural and genetic factors on mind, brain, and behavior. This presentation will describe (a) frameworks for understanding cultural variations in values, beliefs, and communication styles, (b) neurophysiological/neurogenetic relationships to these cultural variations in behaviors and beliefs, and (c) implications of these cultural variations on the assessment and intervention of students from diverse backgrounds.

Learning Outcomes—at the end of this session, participants will be able to:

  • Describe constructs of cultural variations in behaviors, beliefs, and communication
  • Describe the influence of cultural and genetic factors on mind, brain, and behavior
  • Explain the implications of cultural variations in communication style on the assessment and intervention of culturally/linguistically diverse students


This professional development webinar was presented by Dr. Carol Westby for speech-language pathologists in Virginia. It was funded by the Virginia Department of Education and hosted by Dr. Kimberly Murphy, Old Dominion University.

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