Cross-cultural Research Method
TYPES OF CROSS-CULTURAL RESEARCH (Print glossary)
Method Validation Studies
-Validity refers to whether or not a scale, test, or measure accurately measures what it is supposed
-Reliability refers to whether it measures it consistently.
Cross-cultural validation studies examine whether a measure of a psychological construct that
was originally generated in a single culture is applicable, meaningful, and most importantly
psychometrically equivalent (that is, equally reliable and valid) in another culture. They are
important to conduct before cross-cultural comparisons.
Indigenous Cultural Studies:
These studies are characterized by rich descriptions of complex theoretical models of culture that
predict and explain cultural differences.
-thus to understand mental processes and behavior requires an in-depth analysis of the cultural
systems that produce and support those processes and behaviors.
-Mesquita for instance, describes how cultural systems produce different concepts of the self, which
in turn produce different types of specific concerns. According to her framework, individualistic
cultures encourage the development of independent senses of self that encourage a focus on
personal concerns and the view that the emotions signal internal, subjective feelings.
Cross-cultural comparisons are studies that compare cultures on some psychological variable of
interest. Cross-cultural comparisons serve as the backbone of crosscultural research and are the
most prevalent type of cross-cultural study.
TYPES OF CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARISONS
There are four important dimensions that underlie and characterize different types of cross-cultural
1)Exploratory vs. Hypothesis Testing
-Exploratory studies are designed to examine the existence of cross-cultural similarities and
differences. Researchers tend to stay “close to the data” in exploratory studies.
PRO-The main strength of exploratory studies is their broad scope for identifying cross-cultural
similarities and differences, which is particularly important in under-researched domains of cross-
CON-The main weakness of such studies is their limited capability to address the causes of the
-Hypothesis-testing studies are designed to examine why cultural differences may exist. Thus
they make larger inferential jumps by testing theories of cross-cultural similarities and differences.
Unfortunately, the validity of these inferential jumps is often threatened by cross-cultural biases and
PRO-The focused search of similarities and differences in hypothesis-testing studies leads to more
contribution to theory development and explicit attempts to deal with rival explanations CON-but is less likely to discover interesting differences outside of the realm of the tested theory.
2)Presence or Absence of Contextual Factors
-Contextual factors may involve characteristics of the participants (such as socioeconomic status,
education, and age) or their cultures (such as economic development and religious institutions).
-From a methodological perspective, contextual factors involve any variable that can explain, partly
or fully, observed cross-cultural differences.
-Including such factors in a study will enhance its validity and help rule out the influence of biases
and inequivalence. (clarify)
3)Structure vs. Level Oriented
Structure-Oriented Studies:involve comparisons of constructs (e.g., is depression conceptualized
in the same way across cultures?), their structures (can depression be assessed by the same
constituent elements in different cultures?), or their relationships with other constructs (do
depression and anxiety have the same relationship in all countries?). Clarify by refering to glossary.
-Structure-oriented studies focus on relationships among variables and attempt to identify
similarities and differences in these relations across cultures.
Level Oriented Studies:involve the comparisons of scores (do individuals from different cultures
show the same level of depression?). Level-oriented studies ask whether people of different cultures
have different mean levels of different variables.
4)Individual vs. Ecological (Cultural) Level
-Individual-level studies are the typical type of study in psychology, in which individual
participants provide data and are the unit of analysis.
-Ecological- or cultural-level studies use countries or cultures as the unit of analysis. Data may
be obtained from individuals in different cultures,but they are often summarized or averaged for
each culture and those averages are used as data points for each culture. Or country data are
obtained from other sources (such as population statistics, average temperature or rainfall).
-Many cross-cultural researchers have come to realize that just showing a difference between two
cultural groups does not demonstrate that the difference occurs because of any cultural difference
between them. After all, differences between two cultural groups could occur because of many
factors, including and not including culture. Thus researchers became interested in identifying the
kinds of psychological dimensions that underlie cultures in order to better understand cultures on a
-The most-well-known ecological-level study of culture is Hofstede’s seminal work. Most recently, he
has reported data from 72 countries involving the responses of more than 117,000 employees of a
multinational business organization.
-This resulted in his well-known set of four dimensions, introduced in Chapter 1: Individualism versus
Collectivism, Power Distance, Uncertainty Avoidance, and Masculinity versus Femininity. Later
Hofstede incorporated a fifth dimension called “Long- versus Short-Term Orientation”, which was
derived from Bond’s work on Asian values.
-In recent years, individual- and cultural-level data have been combined in what are known as multi-
level studies. These are studies that use data from two (or even more) levels, and incorporate the
use of sophisticated statistical techniques that examine the relationship of data at one level to data
at another. For example, multi-level studies can examine how individual differences in performance on a cognitive task (level 1) may be related to personality traits of those individuals (level 2) and
how those personality traits may be related to cultural values or other ecological variables (level 3).
DESIGNING CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARATIVE RESEARCH
Getting the Right Research Question
-researchers should remember that the purpose of conducting research is to contribute to a body of
knowledge (the literature), and any consideration of research designs starts first with a
comprehensive and functional knowledge of that literature so that one understands what gaps in the
knowledge exist and what research questions should be addressed to contribute to that knowledge.
-Understanding why any study is to be conducted in the first place leads to questions about how to
conduct it, which is a discussion in the realm of research methodology.
-Questions related to methodology include: Is the study exploratory in nature or hypothesis testing?
Does it or should it include contextual variables? Is it structure oriented or level oriented? And what
is the level of analysis?
-it’s usually better to do something of limited scope very well than to try to conduct a study that
addresses too much not so well at all.
-the major challenges that faces cross-cultural researchers today concerns how to isolate the source
of such differences, and identify the active cultural (vs. noncultural) ingredients that produced those
differences. Researchers need to ask For example, is the source of the differences to be explained
cultural or not?
-Once the active cultural ingredients that produce differences are identified, there is a level of
analysis issue. Cultural variables exist on the group and individual levels. And studies themselves
can be entirely on the individual or cultural level, or involve a mixture of the two in varying degrees
with multiple levels. All levels of analysis have their own implications. when individual-level cultural
variables are incorporated in a study, researchers need to distinguish between them and non-cultural
variables on the individual level such as personality. Certainly a variable is not “cultural” just
because a researcher says so; there needs to be a well thought-out rationale that is based in theory
and data that supports the identification and distinction of such variables.
-Another question that researchers must face in designing studies concerns their theoretical model of
how things work. > it may be that cultural behaviour and psychological processes work in a top-
down or bottom-up fashion.
Designs that Establish Linkages Between Culture and Individual Mental Processes
-As mentioned above, a study that merely documents differences between cultures on some
psychological variable does not say anything about whether the source of the differences is cultural
-Thus most researchers have come to realize that it’s important to empirically establish linkages
between the contents of culture and the variables of interest in the study= Linkage Studies.
Two types of Linkage Studies: unpackaging studies and experiments.
1)Unpackaging studies are extensions of basic cross-cultural comparisons, but include the
measurement of a variable (contextual factor) that assesses the contents of culture that are thought
to produce the differences on the variable being compared across cultures. (clarify/glossary)
-cultures are like onions, for which layer after layer needs to be peeled off until nothing is left. -In unpackaging studies, “culture” as an unspecified variable is replaced by more specific variables in
order to truly explain cultural differences. These variables are called context variables, and should
be measured to examine the degree to which they can account for cultural differences. When
measured, researchers then examine the degree to which they statistically account for the
differences in the comparison. If the context variables do indeed statistically account for differences,
then the researchers are empirically justified in claiming that that specific aspect of culture—that is,
that context variable—was related to the differences observed. If they do not, then researchers know
that that specific context variable did not produce the observed differences. (clarify/glossary)
-Individual-Level Measures of Culture one of the more common types of context variables used
in research has been individual-level measures of culture. These are measures that assess a variable
on the individual level that is thought to be a product of culture.
-The most common dimension on the individual level is Individualism vs. Collectivism (IC)
-Because of the large emphasis on IC as a grounding theoretical framework of culture, scientists
have developed a number of ways to measure it on the individual level (in order to use it as a
-Triandis himself was a leader in this movement, producing many different types of individual-level
measures of IC. for example, developed the Individualism-Collectivism (INDCOL) scale to measure
an individual’s IC tendencies in relation to six collectivities (spouse, parents and children, kin,
neighbors, friends, and coworkers and classmates)
-Triandis refers to individualism and collectivism as idiocentrism and allocentrism, respectively.
Refer to glossary.
-Triandis and his colleagues developed measures that include items assessing a revised concept of
individualism and collectivism they call “horizontal and vertical individualism and
- In horizontal collectivism, individuals see themselves as members of ingroups in which all
members are equal also individuals are autonomous and equal.
-In vertical collectivism, individuals see themselves as members of ingroups that are
characterized by hierarchical or status relationships. Individuals are autonomous but NOT
-In 1997, developed a measure of IC for use on the individual level that assesses context-specific IC
tendencies in interpersonal situations—the IC Interpersonal Assessment Inventory (ICIAI). used it in
an unpackaging study examining American and Japanese cultural differences in judgments of
emotion. They showed that Americans and Japanese differed in how strongly they perceived facial
expressions of emotion.
More importantly, however, they also demonstrated that these differences were linked with
differences in individual-level measurement of IC. Point, unpackaging studies are very useful.
(Understand point being made about IC usage in Linkage studies)
Self-Construal Scales: individualistic cultures encouraging the development of independent self-
construals, and collectivistic cultures encouraging the development of interdependent self-
construals. This theoretical advance led to the development of scales measuring independence and
interdependence on the individual level, most notably the Self-Construal Scale
?-Using this scale, cultural differences in self-esteem were empirically linked to individual differences
on these types of self-construals, again exemplifying the utility of unpackaging studies.
Personality:Any variable that is thought to vary on the cultural level and that may be thought to affect psychological processes can be used as context variables. One such possibility is personality.
There are differences in aggregate personality traits across cultures. The United States, Australia,
and New Zealand, for example, are noted for their relatively high degrees of extraversion, while
France, Italy, and the French Swiss are associated with high levels of neuroticism.
Study measuring emotional regulation between United States and Japan: He also measured several
personality traits, and demonstrated that the personality traits known as extraversion, neuroticism,
and conscientiousness were linked to emotion regulation, and accounted for the cultural differences
in it. Thus, what were apparent “cultural” differences on a variable could be explained by differences
in aggregate levels of personality between the two cultures studied.
Cultural Practices: context variable that is important in linkage studies are those that assess
cultural practices such as child-rearing, the nature of interpersonal relationships, or cultural
-for instance, showed that Americans and Japanese differences in liking were linked to different
cultural practices. Americans liked others they thought were similar to them or shared their own
views. For Japanese, liking was related to familiarity and interdependence with others.
2)Experiments: are studies in which researchers create conditions to establish cause-effect
relationships. Participants are generally assigned randomly to participate in the conditions, and
researchers then compare results across conditions. Cross-cultural comparisons are generally
examples of what are known as quasi-experimental designs.) True experiments,
however, differ because researchers create the conditions and assign participants to those
Two types of experiments conducted in cross-cultural psychology: priming studies and behavioural
-Priming studies are those that involve experimentally manipulating the mindsets of participants
and measuring the resulting changes in behavior.
-researchers have attempted to manipulate mindsets supposedly related to culture in order to see if
participants behave differently as a function of the primed mindset.
-E.g In a study, American and Chinese participants were primed to think in either a private or
collective, group-oriented way. The findings indicated that, as expected, Americans as a whole
produced more individually oriented responses than the Chinese, while the Chinese produced more
group-oriented responses. But, the results also showed that the priming worked. Individuals who
were primed privately—that is, to think about how they were different from others—produced more
individually oriented responses, regardless of whether they were American or Chinese. Likewise,
individuals who were primed collectively—that is, to think about how they were similar to others—
produced more group-oriented responses, regardless of whether they were American or Chinese.
-Behavioral Studies: experiments involve manipulations of actual environments and the
observation of changes in behaviors as a function of these environments.
-Yamagishi (1986) used a questionnaire to categorize Japanese participants who were high trusters
and low trusters; all of the participants then participated in an experiment in which they could
cooperate with others by giving money to them, either with a sanctioning system that provided for
punishments or without such a system. The conditions, therefore, were the presence or absence of
the sanctioning system. The results indicated that high trusters did indeed cooperate more than low
trusters without the sanctioning system; when the sanctioning system was in effect, however, low
trusters cooperated more than did the high trusters. -replicated this study in the United States and compared American and Japanese responses. Found
same results ; when there was no sanctioning system, high-trusting Americans cooperated more
than low-trusting Americans.
BIAS AND EQUIVALENCE
-In designing and evaluating cross-cultural research, no concepts are more important than