The Foundation for Psychocultural Research

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The Foundation for Psychocultural Research (The FPR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles that supports and advances interdisciplinary research and scholarship at the intersection of psychology, culture, neuroscience, and psychiatry, with an emphasis on cultural factors as central, not peripheral.


The FPR was founded in December 1999 with a gift from Robert Lemelson,[1] a documentary filmmaker and psychological anthropologist on the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

Dr. Lemelson is a research anthropologist in the Center for Culture and Health at the Jane & Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at UCLA. His research interests include Southeast-Asian studies, psychological anthropology, and transcultural psychiatry, with an emphasis on interactions between personal experience, culture, and mental illness in Indonesia and the United States. Dr. Lemelson supports the UCLA Indonesian Studies Program, which was created in 2008 as part of UCLA's Center for Southeast Asian Studies within the UCLA International Institute. He also supports the Lemelson Anthropology Scholars Program at UCLA. He is the founder and CEO of Elemental Productions, an independent documentary film production company.


The FPR is a key supporter of the FPR-UCLA Center for Culture, Brain, and Development (CBD) and the FPR-Hampshire College Program in Culture, Brain, and Development. The FPR CBD programs foster integrative, cross-disciplinary research that focuses on how culture and context interact with brain development.

In keeping with the goal of bringing together culture and neuroscience to address a common set of issues, Dr. Robert Lemelson and the FPR have expanded the funding of the FPR-UCLA CBD to include a new program for Culture, Brain, Development, and Mental Health (CBDMH).

The primary objective of the new program, which is co-directed by psychological anthropologist Doug Hollan of UCLA and cultural psychologist Steve López of USC, is to establish a strong program in cultural psychiatry, with an emphasis on integrating neuroscience and social science perspectives. The research initiative is based around ongoing, sustainable field sites and programs in various locations across the globe. A training component is embedded within each of the ongoing research projects.

In addition, through a series of workshops and conferences, the FPR brings together scholars, researchers, and clinicians with overlapping interests to think across disciplinary boundaries.

Several participants from these meetings have contributed papers to two major volumes that are important integrative contributions to the fields of developmental psychobiology, cultural and biological anthropology, and the study of psychological trauma: Understanding Trauma: Integrating Biological, Clinical, and Cultural Perspectives (Cambridge University Press, 2007), edited by cultural psychiatrist Laurence Kirmayer (McGill University), Robert Lemelson, and physician/neuroscientist Mark Barad (UCLA), and Formative Experiences: The Interaction of Caregiving, Culture, and Developmental Psychobiology (Cambridge University Press, 2010), edited by biocultural anthropologist Carol M. Worthman (Emory University), developmental psychobiologist Paul M. Plotsky (Emory University), child psychiatrist Daniel Schechter (Université de Genève), and FPR project director Constance A. Cummings.[2][3]

A third volume (Revisioning Psychiatry: Cultural Phenomenology, Critical Neuroscience, and Global Mental Health), which is in progress, is based on the FPR’s 4th interdisciplinary conference, Cultural and Biological Contexts of Psychiatric Disorder: Implications for Diagnosis and Treatment, which was held at UCLA in January 2010.[4][5]

New Conference on Mixed Methods[edit]

Participants in the FPR’s first interdisciplinary workshop at Ojai in June 2001 advocated mixed method approaches that could recognize and help integrate multiple levels of analysis – from biological processes like postpartum olfactory learning, to psychological concepts like attachment, to social, cultural, economic, and political conditions affecting mother-infant interactions – as well as the variation in human environments, behaviors, and experiences (FPR, 2001). Today it is widely recognized that many lines of research on culture, mind, and brain can no longer be neatly separated. Some questions run together, thanks to our growing understanding of the genome and its epigenetic states, the biological roots of human sociality, and the mutual constitution of cultures and selves, as well as the complex interactions between the physical, cultural, and social environments underlying health and illness. The fifth FPR-interdisciplinary conference on Culture, Mind, and Brain: Emerging Concepts, Methods, Applications took place at UCLA on 19–20 October 2012. The two-day conference was organized with the support of the International Cultural Neuroscience Consortium.

The aim was to highlight emerging concepts, methodologies and applications in the study of culture, mind, and brain, with particular attention to: (1) cutting-edge neuroscience research that is successfully incorporating culture and the social world; (2) the context in which methods are used as well as the tacit assumptions that shape research questions; and (3) the kinds and quality of collaborations that can advance interdisciplinary research training. The meeting is designed to appeal to a wide academic audience of biologists, neuroscientists, psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, epidemiologists, and those in related fields interested in learning about mixed-methods research at the intersection of culture, mind, and brain. The twenty-nine speakers included psychologist John Cacioppo, anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann, and neuroscientist Stephen Suomi.

Over the next decade the FPR is in a unique position to make central contributions to our understanding of the interactions between culture, neuroscience, psychiatry, and psychology, as well as to the ongoing debate regarding the conceptual integration of rapidly emerging neuroscientific knowledge (from relatively simplified lab scenarios) in our efforts to address issues of fundamental clinical and social concern.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Kirmayer, L. J., Lemelson, R., & Barad, M. (2007). Understanding trauma: Integrating biological, clinical, and cultural perspectives. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  3. ^ Worthman, C. M., Plotsky, P. M., Schechter, D. S., & Cummings, C. A. (2010). Formative experiences: The interaction of caregiving, culture, and developmental psychobiology. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  4. ^ FPR-UCLA 4th Interdisciplinary Conference, Cultural and Biological Contexts of Psychiatric Disorder, January 22–24, 2010, Los Angeles, CA.
  5. ^ Kirmayer, L. J., Lemelson, R., & Cummings, C. A. (forthcoming). Revisioning psychiatry: Cultural phenonomenology, critical neuroscience, and global mental health. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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