Chapter 4: Methods for Studying Culture and Psychology
Culture is hard to study
We don’t even know our own brains that well. We might not really know how we feel etc.
Two main goals of cultural Psych
Demonstrate similarities across cultures
Or to demonstrate cultural difference.
Considerations for Conducting Research across cultures
What Cultures should we study?
What NOT to do:
Shotgun approach. Can you think of why?
No theory to guide you, probably have a hard time finding any kind of result.
1. Based on theoretical variable under investigation
Eg: Testing relationships and collectivism? Then find a collectivist and individualist country!
2. Take two WIDELY different countries
Used to test Universality.
Eg: Does everyone around the world have the same degree of ToM? Make Meaningful Comparisons Across Cultures
What steps should a Psychologist take to ensure that the research findings provide a fair contrast
of the cultures under study?
1. Develop Some Knowledge About the Culture Under Study
Remember the whole Indian Dinner story? Oy oy oy.
How does one go about learning about cultures?
1. Read existing texts/Ethnographies
(Books written by Anthropologists with extensive interaction with the culture)
2. Find a Collaborator from the culture.
Get him involved with your research
Should be like, another Psychologist or something.
3. Immerse yourself in it first hand.
Time consuming and costly.
2. Contrasting Highly Different Cultures VS Similar Cultures.
Problems when evaluating highly different cultures…
Selfreports/Questionnaires might not work. Just think about it.
Having your methods perceived in identical ways across cultures. You want that!
Sometimes, though, we just have no choice but to use two different procedures. We lose some
control. But it’s kinda worth it.
Most studies are between…
Industrialized societies because it makes it easy.
North Americans and East Asians are the most compared. College students
Problems with Generalizability? Does the College Student represent his society very well?
Students across the world might be remarkably similar. We should get a diverse range of sample
ages and classes.
Problems with Power of the studies. Is your design sensitive enough to pick up on the differences
between cultures? Especially if they are all students?
Culture = Independent variable
Effect – Dependend Variable.
Conducting CrossCultural Research with Surveys
Translation of Questionnaire Items
Keep all materials in original language, and test only with bilinguals
People might not be perfect in their second language.
The language we’re thinking in can greatly affect how we think!
STUDY: Language and sitting distance P120
Solution 2. Translation
Some words don’t translate well. Translation in General is very difficult.
Get a bilingual Primary Researcher on your side! Get him as involved as possible! He’ll know if the
subtle nuances are being detected! Even better if you have more than one, so you can discuss and debate the tricky translations.
Solution 3. Outside translation and Back Translation
Get a guy to translate it from English ▯ Zembabway. Then get another guy to translate it from
Zembabway ▯ English. Close? Then a reliable translation.
Literal meaning might be preserved, but translation could be awkward. And think of how literal
translations of idioms would be! “Piece of cake”?
Bad enough in one culture, but can vary between cultures, creating more problems
Response Styles describe how people will respond independent of the content of the question.
Moderacy and Extremity Biases
Strongly Disagree 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Strongly Agree
Some cultures will be inclined to be moderate (Eg African Americans), others will be inclined to be
extreme. (European Americans or, even moreso, East Asians)
Furthermore, East Asians have less moderacy bias when writing in English! Makes sense given
what we said before.
Average, and then score is based on Standard Deviation. Put each culture on a curve!
Problem: Expects the average level of response is identical across both cultures.
Less problematic if we are looking at MANY personality traits
More problematic if we are looking at one or two specific ones.
Talketiveness, for example. Both cultures would be equated to the same level of talkativeness, so
you’re not even learning anything. In short, best when looking for PATTERNS of response, not AVERAGE LEVEL of responses.
Pronness to agree naturally.
Different cultures vary on this bias
East Asians tend to be more holistic, so when they answer the question “I am introverted”, they
might also answer “I am extroverted”
Half of the questions are reverse scored!
Reference Group Effects
You tend to compare yourself to people of your culture. So when you say “I am tall” on a
Objective questions “I am over 5 feet tall”
Concrete Questions “I would cancel plans for a friend” VS I am helpful”
Change response format to something more concrete
“I am helpful”
“Agree (Subjective) OR 1020% (More concete!)
Make a choice between response alternatives
I am helpful OR I am kin