A2 - Psychology - Cultural bias in psychology

  • Created by: jkav
  • Created on: 05-06-16 22:37

Cultural bias in psychology

Cultural bias occurs when people of one culture make assumptions about the behaviour of people from another culture based on their own cultural norms and practices. Traditional psychology is characteristed by theoretical and research biases that reflect the culture of Europe and the US. Both researcher and participants have tended to come from within this cultural background, yet much of the psychology derived from this background is represented as a universal description of human behaviou.

Examples of cultural bias

Why is cultural bias an issue?

Hare-Mustin and Maracek (1988) suggested that before being able to decide if there are cultural differences one must consider the extent to which any research (thory r study) is biased. Only then can the 'truth' be disentangled from the way psychological research has found it.

Alpha and beta bias

Hare-Mustin and Maracek proposed that there are two different ways that theories may be biased. Alpha bias refers to theories that assume there are real and enduring differences between cultural groups. Beta biased theories ignore or minimise cultural differences. They do this by assuming that all people are the same and therefore it is reasonable to use the same theories/methods with all cultural groups.

An example of alpha bias A distinction is often made between individualist and collectivist cultures (e.g. the US and Japan respectively). For instance, we would expect members of individualist cultures to be less conformist because they are less oriented towards group norms. To assess the validity of this view, Takano and Osaka (1999) reviewed 15 studies that compared the US and Japan in terms of individualism/collectivism. Suprisingly, 14 of the 15 studies did not support the common view.

An example of beta bias Psychologists are intrested in comparing the intelligence of different groups of people and use IQ tests to do this. However, these tests are devised by Western psychologists who assume that their view of intelligence applies to all cultures equally. The result is that, when such tests are used on non-Western cultures, they may appear less intelligent. Such tests are described as an imposed etic.


Ethnocentrism refers to the use of our own ethic or cultural group as a basis for judgements about other groups. There is a tendency to view the beliefs, customs and behaviours of our own group as 'normal' and even superior, whereas those of pther groups are 'strange' or deviant. The opposite of ethnocentrism…




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