Cross-Cultural Studies

You may have already considered cross cultural studies at other point in your course. However in Paper 2 Clinical it is important that you are able to to demonstrate why clinical researchers might choose a cross-cultural design and how this might help them to explore a certain topic. Before getting to this, you need to remind yourself of the key features of cross cultural studies:

ccstudies-clinical 2018

So let’s have a think about cross-cultural studies in clinical psychology:

Luhrmann et al (2015)

This study looks at the experience of hearing voices in three different cultures and uses interviewing to gather qualitative data:

The differences in the people’s experiences demonstrate that culture impacts the ways that the experience of hearing voices is interpreted and has interesting implications for the biological explanation of schizophrenia.

Make sure you can describe, apply and evaluate the use of cross-cultural studies. The PowerPoint gives plenty of useful information about why these are used in psychology.

Useful terms:

  • Cross-cultural versus cultural psychology
  • Ethnography or the ethnographic approach
  • Emic and Etic
  • Alpha and Beta Bias
  • Ethnocentrism
  • Eurocentrism
  • Afrocentrism

Further Reading

Psychological research not always universal; studies should involve more cross-cultural collaboration, says researcher:

You should take some time out to watch this AWESOME documentary about the cross cultural research of Margaret Mead and how her work was trashed by Derek Freedman; its a fab documentary that’s raises countless useful issues for you, compelling viewing. Its in 6 parts , this is 1of 6 and you can easily follow the links on youtube to watch the rest.


Combating eurocentrism and imposed etics in cross cultural research

Psychologists have a moral obligation to challenge cultural bias, (Howitt and Owusu-Bempah, (1994).

There are a variety of ways through which this can be achieved:

  • Cultural relativism; recognising that there are no universal standards all behaviours are relative to the cultural context in which they originate.
  • Abandoning etic approach: inevitably biased; conduct all research using emic approach, start with Pp observation, gain qualitative data, uses local sources and researchers, (borrow methodology from ethnographic approach in anthropology)
  • Careful operationalisation of culture and further research into sub-cultures: operationalising culture as country can lead to erroneous conclusions since the findings may relate to one sub-culture only and this approach ignores the fact that within any culture there will be diversity and individual differences.
    • One psychology textbook verges on racism when it uses the term ‘African tribes’ collectively without quoting which tribes, thus implying that they are ‘all the same’. Howitt and Owusu-Bempah (1990)
  • Reporting individual differences within cultures as well as main effects across cultures.
  • Indigenous psychologies:
    • Many more countries are now actively producing psychological research within their own countries
    • Will provide a greater cultural balance in time
    • may provide greater insights into emic approaches which can be employed when carrying out overseas investigations
    • Yamagishi (2002) comment that there are now more social psychologists in Asia than in Europe.


  • Psychological knowledge and understanding pervades everyday life for everyone through mass media, shaping attitudes worldwide toward other cultures and ourselves
  • Disproportionate number of American and European psychologists in the first 100 years of Psychology means this knowledge and understanding is Eurocentric.
  • Tendency to assume that European, white culture is the norm and anything else is then compared to this
  • “Cultures that fall short of this arbitrary Eurocentric standard are frequently described as ‘primitive’, ‘underdeveloped’ or at best developing. Religion, morality, community spirit etc are ignored in this racist ideological league table”. Owusu-Bempah and Howitt (1994)
  • Afrocentrism movement are challenging the Eurocentric position in attempt t redress the balance and highlight the cultural bias in the majority of existing psychological studies and theories, underlining that much of Psychology does little to explain the experience of Black Africans.