Cultural issues in psychological research


Culture and obedience: We used the terms ethnocentric, alpha bias and beta bias and talked some length about why psychologists conduct cross cultural research in psychology. I shared some PowerPoints (see the culture and obedience link) which you may or may not have looked at, now is the time to check these out ūüėČ if you haven’t already. We talked about the work of Geert Hofstede on cultural dimensions such as individualism/collectivism and power distance. We also discussed terms such as filial piety as a cultural value and the Japanese concept of Amae, which has no direct English translation but covers various meanings linked to the love/respect developed for one’s parents initially, but¬†also extends¬†to cover love/respect of those in authority. In English the words associated with this sort of concept are all rather negative connotation, denotes the value we place on the belief that we should aspire to be autonomous¬†rather than bound to act as others wish, whereas in Japan, the concept has a positive connotation as conformity is seen as highly desirable and source of esteem from others. We talked about possible hypotheses relating to obedience in cross cultural studies but discovered that in many cultures the world over, obedience rates are very high. We touched on the idea that alpha bias may led us to think people might be different in obedience levels based on cultural differences but the reality is that they are not. We also discussed that potentially the cross cultural studies that were done used an imposed etic, i..e the Milgram paradigm, was designed in US culture and therefore may not be fully applicable to other cultures meaning the results returned were not really valid either. We briefly mentioned the book called “Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother” which looked at Chinese parenting¬†and the way that the idea of children disobeying their parents is incomprehensible in this culture.


Talked about how the Chinese government banned the sale of Nintendo in order to control the use of video games which might promote values that would subvert core Chinese values.


Cultural Issues in Diagnosis: Considered the difficulty of practitioners may have in making valid diagnoses when assessing service-users who are from a different cultural.  background. The DSM 5 has taken this into consideration for the first time and gives advice in Section 3. DSM 4TR included culture bound syndromes. Looked at cultural differences in the manifestation of schizophrenic symptoms. Looked at hoe New York and London psychiatrists differ in the diagnosis given to service-users presenting with the same symptoms, (Cooper).

Further Reading:

turn to culture A useful article with a set of reading comprehension questions A Turn to Culture questions

Further Viewing:

A documentary about schools in Syria, made before the conflict, distressing to read the video’s summary which describes the “relative calm” of Syria compared with Iraq. This is a fab documentary to help you get to grips with cultural differences in every day life:¬†

Practice Questions

Evaluate how issues of ethnocentrism may influence psychological understanding. You must use research evidence from at least two different areas of psychology in your answer (16)