Ethnocentrism is a type of bias where we use our own ethnic or cultural group as a basis for judging other groups. The tendency is to view our own beliefs and customs as superior and those of other groups as strange.
As this is how we construct the world it makes it impossible to avoid being ethnocentric. On the other hand, cultural relativism is the ability to view the beliefs and customs of others within the context of their culture and not one's own.
In psychology, many studies are conducted in the USA or the UK. This means they represent an individualistic 'western' view point.
64% of psychological researchers are from the US. In some texts, 90% of studies have US participants. Samples are predominantly white, middle class and often university students making them unrepresentative of the world's population.
Collectivist/ non-western cultures have different values- the group (family, tribe or village) is more important than each individual and so emphasis is on obedience and responsibility; individualistic cultures (US and much of Europe) value achivement and competitiveness- this can mean findings may not apply across different cultures.
Cross- cultural research aims to see whether behaviour is innate or culture specific.
Innate behaviour is universal rather than unique to a specific culture and supports nature rather than nurture as it can be seen in 2 or more groups who have had no contact with each other.
The ethnocentrism demostrated in research leads to problems in psychology.
There is a lack of balance in research, with most being conducted on American and European samples. The ideas based on this research may be inappropriately applied to different cultural groups because researchers find it difficult to recognise or understand the differing experiences and behaviours of people from groups which differ from their own.
Smith and Bond (1993) analysed the research presented in a range of introductory psychology textbooks.
They found that the work that was reported came almost exclusively from the USA and Europe yet the findings or theories are assumed to be relevant to humans worldwide on the basis that fundamental psychological processes are unaffected by culture. However, this is a misassumption based on an ethnocentric bias.