Issues - Cultural Bias

Revision notes on Cultural bias

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Psychology Revision Unit 5 ­ Issues
Cultural Bias
Bias = A predisposition or prejudice leaning towards or against specific groups or individuals, men over
women for example.
Culture = Culture can be defined as the learned, shared behaviour between members of a society. Their
norms (accepted and expected ways of behaving), beliefs (explanations for things that happen) and
values (views of what is good and worthwhile / worth striving for).
Cultural bias = This occurs when a person's norms, values, beliefs and overall attitude towards
something clouds the objectivity of research.
Emic and Etic Constructs
Berry drew a distinction between an emic and etic construct.
Emic constructs are behaviours that are specific to one culture and so vary from one to another. For
example driving on the left hand side in Britain
Etic constructs are behaviours that are universal and present across cultures. For example when a
person is spoken to they respond.
He argued that in psychological research an emic construct is often mistaken to be an etic construct, and
imposed etic occurs.
Imposed Etic is when a culturally specific idea or behaviour is wrongly imposed on to another culture.
Cultural bias occurs when a researcher assumes that an emic construct is actually etic.
Cultural Bias in Studies
1. The Strange Situation ­ Ainsworth an Bell
It was created in the USA and conduced on American infants to come up with a scale / classification of
attachment. So to then use this same scale in other countries is in fact a form of imposed etic.
When conducted cross culturally 32% of Japanese infants were found to be insecurely attached, however
this can be explained in relation to cultural child-rearing norms in Japan, in which infants are almost never
left alone. So therefore the behaviour researchers observed may be down to this unusual situation and
extreme distress experienced as a result and may in fact not have anything to do with attachment types.
This imposed etic therefore reduces the validity and reliability of the strange situation study. It is not fair
to use American measures / concepts as guidelines to which other countries / cultures are benchmarked.
2. Intelligence Study ­ Cole et al
It was often argued that intelligence was an etic construct, but Cole's study found it was in fact emic.
He asked members of the Kpelle tribe in Africa and people in Western societies to sort familiar objects
into groups. The Kpelle tribe sorted them into functional groups i.e. a knife with an orange, because an
orange can be cut with a knife. Whereas people in Western societies tended to organise objects in to
specific categories i.e. tools, food, etc. thereby indicating that intelligence that was once thought to be
universal was in fact culturally specific.
This therefore changes the way results of intelligence studies across cultures can be perceived and used
in everyday life. This particular finding will help eliminate future bias, and prejudice towards particular

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Cultural Bias in the Research Process
Cultural bias may occur as a result of many things in cross culture research; as an imposed etic or a simple
problem in the methodology / procedure of the experiment.
Cross-cultural research is held back by observer bias, and the use of small samples that are often
Smith and Bond believed that there were many possible problems / flaws that could occur in the
procedure of cross-cultural research.
1.…read more

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Some people argue that ethnocentrism doesn't always indicate superiority / inferiority.
It is possible to recognise differences as nothing more than differences.
2. Moral Development ­ Kohlberg
Kohlberg suggested that his stages of moral reasoning were driven by biological changes in cognitive
maturity; and this is universal. Therefore he is saying that all individuals regardless of culture would
experience the same development process at the same age.
3. Psychodynamic theory
Psychodynamic theories have been criticised for their historical and cultural bias.…read more


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