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Lecture 3

Week 3 - Methods in Cultural Psychology .docx

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Igor Grossmann

Week 3: Methods in Cultural Psychology Overriding Themes - Studying psychological phenomena is challenging in general –much more so when studying it cross-culturally - We have trouble accessing our own psychological states, never mind trying to study someone else’s Whom To Study? - Choosing which cultures to study depends on the research question - Process-oriented approach: If the goal is to see if X (e.g., individualism) shapes Y (e.g., preference for uniqueness), then find two cultures that vary on X - If the goal is to see universality of X (e.g., theory of mind), then find two cultures that are maximally different on many dimensions o Similarities between them suggest high level of universality Issues with Comparing Cultures - Researchers must understand cultural norms and practices of the cultures being studied, especially in relation to the psychological phenomenon in question o If not, researchers risk drawing conclusions based on faulty information and assumptions - Such understanding is accomplishing through use of ethnographies, foreign collaborators, and immersion in culture of interest o Combination of these methods is ideal - Researchers need to watch for methodological equivalence o Methodological equivalence: in cross-cultural research, the concern with making sure participants from different cultures understand the research questions or situations in equivalent ways o I.e., ensure methods are understood in identical ways across cultures o E.g., some cultures may not understand process of completing psychological surveys - May require researchers to use slightly different methods with different cultures (especially drastically different cultures) - Researchers avoid many of these problems by primarily targeting university students in industrialized societies in cross-cultural research o Generalizability: the degree to which research findings about the particular samples studied can be applied to larger or broader populations  Do findings apply to non-student populations in industrialized societies?  What about in subsistence cultures? o Power: the capability of a study to accurately detect an effect to the extent that one exists  A reflection of how well-designed a study is  Since university students in industrialized societies share many similar experiences, cultural effects may become diluted  Such comparisons are conservative and less powerful 1 Issues with Cross-Cultural Surveys Translations - Translation of materials is important in cross-cultural research, but can be problematic o Many psychological terms cannot be directly translated - E.g., Got Milk? (Tienes Leche?) o Wrong translation o Social roles for milk providers o Newest development –orientation towards biculturals - If a bilingual collaborator is available, he/she can decide whether translated materials are appropriate - Another alternative is back-translation o Back-translation: a method of translating research materials form one language to another whereby a translator translates materials from Language A to Language B and then a different translator translates the materials back from Language B to Language A  The original and twice-translated versions in Language A are then compared so that any discrepancies between them can be resolved Response Biases - Psychological surveys are usually done using number scales - Example: 2 - Different cultures have different tendencies or biases when responding to surveys o Moderacy bias: tendency to choose numbers toward midpoint of scale o Extremity bias: tendency to choose numbers toward the ends of the scale o These biases can be controlled for by using forced-choice questions (e.g., Yes/No)  But hard to detect nuances and smaller differences - Another counter-active measure for such biases is standardization –to standardize, average a participant’s score on a measure (usually all questionnaire measures in a set) o Then derive a standardized score (z-score) for each response a participant gives, based on his/her personal average o This creates a standard distribution curve for each participant, with z-score of the average at 0 o Scores > average have + z-score o Scores < average have – z-score - This process forces everyone to have the same average (i.e., 0) and creates the same distribution for everyone’s scores, thus getting rid of moderacy and extremity biases - This does not allow conclusions based on differences in averages between groups/cultures (e.g., Chinese more introverted than Americans) - This does not allow conclusions based on patterns of groups’ responses (e.g., Chinese more introverted than extraverted, opposite for Americans) - Acquiescence: response bias referring to the tendency to agree with most items on a measure o This bias can be neutralized by reverse scoring half of the items  Half of the items is numbered normally, while the other half is numbered such that large numbers actually indicate strong disagreement - Reference group effect: one’s response to questions may depend on the group that one is using for reference o E.g., how does one respond to the item “I am tall”?  Asking somebody is they are tall/thin would thus depend on their reference group  To control for this, questions on measures should be as objective and concrete as possible, which could be achieved by:  Providing specific scenarios as questions  Soliciting quantitative responses (e.g., frequencies of specific behaviour)  Using behavioural and physiological measures (height, BMI) - Deprivation effects: tendency for people (or cultures) to value what they would like, not what they have o E.g., Americans value “humility” more than Chinese, Chinese value “choosing one’s own goals” more than Americans o No clear solution for this bias, except to interpret results with caution 3 Issues with Cross-Cultural Experiments - Experimental designs allow us to draw stronger inferences with our data - Such designs entail the manipulation of an independent variable to determine its effect on a dependent variable o Manipulation = researchers creating two or more levels or conditions of independent variable - Independent variable: in an experiment, the variable or condition that the experimenter manipulates in order to examine its effect on the dependent variable - Dependent variable: in an experiment, the variable or measure affected by manipulation of the independent variable - Alas, culture is not an independent variable that can be manipulated easily, but other variables have been manipulated in cross-cultural studies - Two types of manipulations: o Between-groups manipulations
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