Cross- Cultural Psychologists holds the future to resolve the controversial issue of a cultural bias subsisting in Psychology today.

Cross Cultural Psychologists examine; “variability in behavior among the various societies and cultural groups around the world” (Smith & Bond 1998). This has become extremely influential to the controversial topic of cultural bias in psychology over the past few decades as it has changed psychologists views and ways of how they study culture today. Conducting cross cultural studies enables psychologists to compare their studies to others and test for cultural biases as well as the existence of variations within cultures. In today’s world there are hundreds to thousands of cultures and traditions which can be seen throughout the world and it is important not to generalize in terms of their similarities but highlight their uniqueness’s and distinctiveness. This bias has been seen throughout psychology in the past. Psychology has been dominated in the past by psychologists from America and the UK as well as other western societies making them blind to other cultures and biased to generalize their own culture to others (Moghaddam et al., 1993). In this comprehension i will talk about the existence of a cultural bias in psychology, the benefits of more cross-cultural studies and some future suggestions for research in the future.

A cross-cultural study was carried out by two researchers when they replicated a previous study using participants of a different culture to what was used previously in the original study. It is evident when examining the replicate study of the robbers cave carried out by Tyerman and Spencer (1983). Sherif et al. (1961) carried out the robbers cave experiment where a group of boys were originally put into two groups and were introduced throughout a camp trip competed and carried out in violent activities against each other. The replication of this study carried out by Tyerman and Spencer (1983) found, using English boy scouts, failed to find competitiveness or aggressiveness towards the other group. Therefore tradition and local cultures obtained from individuals play an important role in determining ones actions. In the future research being carried out on cultural psychological studies may be carried out using a multiple investigative studies. To understand variations in culture psychologists may have to travel throughout the world in order to gain participants for studies instead of settling for participants which as easier to locate.

One of the earliest cross cultural studies is that of Porteus. In 1937 he carried out experiments and tests on different cultural populations throughout the world. He compared the Bushmen in the Kalahari Australian Aborigines and other groups. He drew on certain factors within test performances and results which contribute to diversities found in different cultures. He noted and drew conclusions on education, language, intelligence, and performance, which were unique to the culture in question and could only be obtained from the influences of traditions and cultural existence. Studies such as Porteus created and marked the beginning of an increase in studies to emerge on cultural comparative studies. Psychologist began to study the comparisons between cultures and identify the psychological effects of various socio cultural factors (Cronbach & Drenth, 1972).

Once this was recognised a door was opened into recognising the counteractive measures which could be devised to rectify the problem of cultural bias. It was recognised that the construction of appropriate and distinguishable instruments, designs and psychometric control on bias could be used to test aspects of different cultures, designs. The use of various aspects of behaviour could be used to assess cross cultures and separate instruments had to be used to do so for specific populations (De Ridder, 1961). However this has not been followed in our modern society as psychologists still tend to be biased towards their own cultures and generalise accorss a domain of societies. In particular in America tests are applied to various cultures which are minimally changed. An increased awareness of such a cultural bias needs to be highlighted in order to rectify this controversy.

Culture is a diverse subject and can change over time. Cultures in the western world are thought of to evolve rapidly as there worlds around them are increasing and changing at a drastic rate. Traditional, western cultures also according to Gross (2009) are not influenced by the western world and culture evolves much slower. Contemporary research methods and research in future studies need to be altered to suit and integrate the traditions of individual cultures in order to avoid bias occurring. In particular studies have found that western psychologists have tended to

The advantages of cross cultural studies is that the ides of generalizing one culture to others as previously carried out will be highlighted and rectified through such an unambiguous process.

We are largely what we are because of culturally based learning” (Segall et al., 1999) Future studies could be carried out through multiple investigative studies in order to test their validity. I believe this can be rectified with multiple scientific investigations. Studies should not be published or considered reliable without being investigated by numerous scientists in order to deem them valid and sound.

In Conclusion despite the vast amount of information on cultural bias and cross cultural studies psychologist in their examinations and finding continue to assume that the same attributes account cross-culturally. Future research in the area seeking post hoc explanations by testing populations and individuals on invariance’s which have been derived from an experiments, theory or by looking at designs of past studies will highlight the greater presence of a post-gender bias and gradually help rectify this controversial issue in out societies to date (Poortinga & Van de Vijver, 1987).


Cronbach L. J., & Drenth, P. J. D. (Eds.) (1972). Mental tests and cultural adaptation. The Hague: Mouton.

De Ridder, J. C. (1961). The personality of the urban African

in South Africa: A Thematic Apperception Test study. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Gross, R. (2009). Themes, Issues and Debates in Psychology. Third Edition. (131,142)

Moghaddam, F.M., Taylor, D.M. & Wright, S.C. (1993) Social Psychology in Cross-Cultural Perspective. New York: W.H. Freeman & Co.

Porteus, S. D. (1937). Primitive intelligence and environment. New York: McMillan.

Poortinga,Y. H.,&Van de Vijver, F. J. R. (1987). Explaining cross-cultural differences: Bias analysis and beyond. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 18, 259–282.

Segall, M. H., Dasen, P.R., Berry. J. W. & Poortinga, Y. H. (1999) Human Behaviour in Global Perspective: An introduction to Cross-Cultural Psychology (2nd edn). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Smith, M. H. & Bond, P. B. (1998) Social Psychology across Cultures (2edn). Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall Europe.

Tyerman, A. & Spencer, C. (1983) A critical test of the Sherifs’ Robbers Cave experiment: intergroup competition and cooperation between groups of well-acquainted individuals. Small Group Behaviour, 14(4), 515-531.


~ by kathymellett8 on April 23, 2010.

4 Responses to “Cross- Cultural Psychologists holds the future to resolve the controversial issue of a cultural bias subsisting in Psychology today.”

  1. It is certainly the case that the vast majority of psychological research has been Western-centred, and far too little research has been conducted on other cultures. However, I believe that for the most part when researchers make generalisations about their findings, they are implicitly generalising only to the culture from which the population has been drawn. For example, although a researcher may speak of ‘predictors of depression’ in a general sense, I surmise that he/she expects that research to be applied only within the culture that the study has been conducted. If it was made explicit that the results of the research were intended to be applied in a different culture, I suspect the suggestion of cross-cultural validation would surface rather quickly. Therefore the question of cross-cultural validity is one primarily of application. Since the Western world is at present the culture in which psychological research is most often put to use, it is fitting that most research should be conducted within a Western cultural context.

    • I should add that it should be appropriate that as psychology becomes increasingly active in other cultures, the amount of research done within that culture will increase in proportion

  2. Cultural bias in psychology is an issue which is hotly debated but as you point out I think there is no doubt that there is still much to be done in the area. While awareness of the problem is a step in the right direction the discipline as a whole is sadly lacking in representativeness. Quite apart from the whole issue of instruments and measures used is that of researchers in the field. Emit and etic considerations are, of course, valid but as the vast majority of researchers are Western we are stymied until this imbalance is addressed far more vigourously than it has been to date. We cannot understand human nature if we study only a small percentage of it. We need more researchers from under represented cultures if we are to further our knowledge in any meaningful way.

  3. One of my friends quoted a Rudyard Kipling poem, that immediately popped into my head while reading this article. The opening line is, “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet”. This expresses the belief that an individual from the ‘West’ can never understand the cultures from the ‘East’. Although a proper psychology of all people from all cultures (and I have had to remove individual differences from this mythical psychology to get this far!) would be great, it would appear that even cross-cultural psychology may never achieve this. As you mentioned, culture changes rapidly across time, and it seems unfeasible for a person from one culture to fully comprehend another, especially as it is so fluid. I think that cross cultural psychology will possibly triumph in comparing cultures and civilisations to uncover what makes them unique, but never fully come up with a theory of what makes us human, there will never be one single component that is measurable in every person and culture. Intriguingly, traits and abilities that have long been held to be unique to humans, are being discovered in other species, e.g. planning in birds, linguistic vocabulary in chimps, and empathy in other species. So it is becoming increasingly difficult to define what makes us uniquely human, never mind generalising this across cultures!!!

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