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Psychology - Issues and debates - culture bias Cheat Sheet (DRAFT) by

Culture bias - 16 marks

This is a draft cheat sheet. It is a work in progress and is not finished yet.


Culture bias is the tendency to judge all people in terms of our own cultural assump­tions. There are two different types of culture bias .....


Alpha bias = The tendency to exaggerate the differ­ences between different cultural groups. For example we would expect indivi­dualist societies are more likely to not be conformist as they are less concerned with the norms of the group. However, Tokano + Osaka reviewed 15 Studies that compared the US (indiv­idu­alist) and Japan (colle­cti­vist) in terms of conformity and found that in it out of the 15 studies the answers were very similar. This therefore suggests that the differ­ences between indivi­dualist and collec­tivist cultures are exagge­rated.


Beta bias = The tendency to ignore or minimise the differ­ences between different cultural groups. For example, biological changes since the Stone Age have been so minimal so any new behaviours must be based on cultures failing to recognise these cultural differ­ences may lead to bias causing misund­ers­tan­ding, aggression and superi­ority. However, Cyril Burt believed that IQ was based on genetics - he believed white people had a geneti­cally higher IQ than black people. However the IQ test is Beta bias because western cultural norms are needed to score highly.


It is important we consider culture bias in psychology because if we don't it leads to misund­ers­tan­ding, acts of aggres­sion, superi­ority and bias. For example, the way we diagnose mental health disorders may be bias. Such as abnorm­ality is a behaviour that is statis­tically rare. However, what is statis­tically rare in western cultures may not be in other Cultures. For example, twice as many Maoris in New Zealand and Aborigines in Australia are admitted to mental hospitals. This may be due to culture bias in mental health diagnosis.


A real danger of culturally bias research is that it can create or reinforce stereo­types. An infamous example of the damage that can be done by psycho­logists was the US army IQ test which was used before the first world war. The tests showed that European immigrants fell slightly below white Americans in IQ and African Americans were at the bottom of the scale with the lowest mental age. The data from these tests had a profound effect on the attitudes Americans had towards certain groups of people. This movers because it helped create and extend Stereo­types which have lasted decades concoming ethnic groups. which has led to ethnoc­ent­rism, and has impacted education in the US ever since.


One way to counter ethnoc­entrism (which is the belief that our own ethnic group is superior to others) is to encourage indigenous psycho­logies. which is the develo­pment of different theories in different countries For example, Afroce­ntrism is a movement. whose central propos­ition that all black people have their roots in Africa so psycho­logical theories about such people should be centred on African values. Afroce­ntrism disputes the view that European values are univer­sally applicable to human behaviour and believes it can actually devalve them. This matters because it has led to theories being developed which are relevant to the life and culture of people from african descent Therefore, it allows us to contex­tualise the behaviour of groups and appreciate differ­ences whilst acknow­ledging simila­rities.


This is an emic approach which emphasises the uniqueness of every culture. However, the issue with this approach is that it means the findings tend to be signif­icant only to unders­tanding behaviour in that culture. On the other hand an etic approach seeks universals of behaviour. This may be, however, risking marking broad assump­tions that are not true. This can be avoided by using indigenous resear­chers in each cultural setting. David Buss et al looked at mate prefer­ences across 33 countries but used local resear­chers to ensure accurate transl­ations. This matters because he found universals of behaviour - such as in every single country males wanted a woman who was younger and females who wanted a man older. Therefore, the etic approach allows resear­chers to invest­igate potential universal behaviour while avoiding cultural bias.


There is a problem with research methods in psychology as they are culturally bias. For example, Smith and Bond found that 66% of Studies were American, 32% were European, and only 2% of studies came from the rest of the world when surveying a European textbook. Also, Heinrich found that 67% of studies used American psychology students as partic­ipants. This matters because Psychology findings are not only unrepr­ese­ntative on a global scale but also within western culture. There is a pressing need for more research with samples from different cultural groups. Therefore cultural biases in psycho­logical research methods should be dealt with by simply using studies with samples from different Cultural groups.