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Culture Bias and Sub-Culture Bias

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Culture Bias and Sub-Culture Bias

Culture is a central aspect of society that affects the daily lives of nearly every human being in the world. It is evident in our daily habits, our customs and beliefs, the knowledge we pass on, our art and passions, and in our language and forms of expression. Each generation passes on different values and concepts of a culture, which is open to culture bias and sub-culture bias as well as change.

So, what is culture?

Culture is a set of ideas, customs, traditions, and behaviours upheld by a group or society that determine everyday behaviours and practices.

A subculture is a group within a larger culture with a set of customs, beliefs, behaviours, etc., that distinguish it from the larger culture in which it lives.

An example of a culture is a society in England, and subcultures within that larger culture are people from different ethnic backgrounds, such as:

  • British mixed ethnic background.
  • British, Black, African, or Caribbean backgrounds.
  • British Asian.

Culture Bias and Sub-Culture Bias [+] People of different cultural backgrounds [+] StudySmarterPeople of different cultural backgrounds, Flaticon

What is cultural and sub-cultural bias?

Cultural and subcultural bias are essential factors to consider when conducting and interpreting research. The following section defines the two types of bias.

Cultural bias

Cultural bias is when someone applies their cultural assumptions to other cultures to understand a phenomenon. They interpret the world through the lens of their own culture and ignore the differences. Those who deviate from the ‘norm’ are considered strange or abnormal.

Another term for this is ethnocentrism. Ainsworth’s Strange Situation is a good example of ethnocentrism, an imposed etic.

An example of cultural bias in research is when researchers generalise their findings to the entire population even though the sample consists of white British children. For example, research on white British children concluded that all children become more aggressive after acting out violent experiences. These findings are culturally biased because they assume that all children behave the same way and do not consider the role culture plays in behaviour.

A significant problem with much older psychological research is that white, middle-class adult males, mainly from the US, dominated the studies. It would not have been a problem in itself if the study generalised their findings only to white, middle-class American adult males. However, many of these studies claim that their results apply to everyone.

Sub-cultural bias

Subcultural bias is similar to cultural bias but focuses more on biases in groups within a culture.

An example would be researchers investigating discrimination in areas of poverty. The research may exhibit subcultural bias if it does not consider discrimination against ethnic minority people living in those areas.

Ethnocentric emic and etic approaches

When we look at research on different or similar cultures, we must consider whether it is an etic or emic approach.

In an etic approach, we study human cultures based on universally valid concepts or constructs applicable across cultures. Thus, researchers elaborate and apply a theory to all cultures, assuming that behaviours are common to all people.

In an emic approach, we study human culture by interpreting the behaviours and practices that occur in a particular culture and evaluating those behaviours through the lens of that culture, with differences among cultures.

Let us look at this through an attempt to study British culture. If a researcher from Germany were to attempt to explore the behaviours and practices of British culture and then compare and apply them to their own cultural rules, it would be an etic approach. If they studied British culture by interpreting British behaviour and culture in their cultural context, that would be an emic approach.

Berry (1969) explained that there are problems with adopting an imposed etic approach in psychology, as it is often suggested that concepts are universally applicable or labelled as such. Usually, a study is conducted in a specific culture and technically uses only emic constructs within that particular culture.

What are the cultural bias characteristics?

We can identify several factors in the research to understand if the study results in cultural/subcultural bias.

Ethnocentrism vs cultural relativity

Ethnocentrism is when someone generalises their cultural values to other cultures based on assumptions and stereotypes or imposes cultural values on others. In research, results are then generalised to other countries even though the sample tested is from a different country.

Cultural differences are not considered, and what is found in one country may not be the same in another. An example of a cultural difference that can affect research is differences in diagnosing mental illnesses.

When research shows evidence of cultural relativity, it is a sign of good research.

Cultural relativism is research that is examined based on understanding the participant’s culture (beliefs, values, and behaviours influenced by the cultures in which participants live). It is the view that we must understand cultural behaviours and principles through the lens of that culture rather than another one.Researchers should consider the cultural context.

Research findings demonstrating cultural relativity are highly reliable and generalisable to the intended audience.

Individualistic vs collectivist society

When conducting research, it is essential to consider the differences between societies. There are individualistic and collectivistic societies, and these societies have distinct differences in their cultural practices. In psychological research, it is clear that our environmental factors, including our culture, influence human behaviour. If researchers do not consider cultural differences in their study, they may misinterpret, misunderstand or base the research on assumptions, prejudices, and stereotypes.

These are signs of poor research and ethics.

Individualistic societies are more common in Western society. People who live in this type of society tend to place more importance on their personal goals and achievements. They value their independence and freedom of choice, and this is encouraged in their culture. Typically, individualistic societies strive for self-actualisation and tend to be more competitive to achieve their personal goals.

In collectivist cultures, on the other hand, people place more emphasis on the needs of the group and their community as a whole. They tend to be more reserved and traditional than individualistic societies. They are more interdependent, value conformity to prescribed roles, and work together. Eastern countries tend to form collectivist societies.

Different psycho-cultural factors tend to influence the two different types of cultures. This is the case when psychological and cultural factors influence personality.

Examples of psycho-cultural factors include conflict, cultural traits, and religion.

Cultural bias can become a problem when people do not consider that there are clear cultural differences between themselves and others, such as between whites and ethnic minorities or people living in the Western and Eastern worlds. Cultural bias is a consequence of cultural variation. This term refers to the idea that social practices, rules, beliefs, and behaviours differ across cultures in the world. Therefore, if the same study is repeated in a Western and an Eastern country, it is unlikely that the same results will be found.

What is inappropriate behaviour in one country may not be in another. In some countries, it is impolite to speak freely to elders, or it is mandatory to address them with an honorific title (in the East), while in other countries, this is not as strictly enforced (in the West).

Culture Bias and Sub-Culture Bias [+] Cultural variation [+] StudySmarterCultural variation, Pixabay

What are the issues of cultural bias in research?

Problems arise when research is culturally biased. These usually lead to problems with the reliability of the research. We can combat these by drawing a representative sample of the target population.

Problems of cultural bias in research

  • Results that are not generalisable indicate problems with reliability. Reliability depends on the replicability of the results. If these results are not applicable in other countries, they are only reliable if they were conducted in the original society in which they were first enacted.
  • Research has limited applicability to real life.
  • When research relates to severe issues such as treatments and is applied to other cultures or subgroups that are not generalisable, it can lead to serious health problems.

How can research limit cultural bias?

  • Cross-cultural research studying a phenomenon in multiple cultures ensures that the results are generalisable to the entire population.
  • Researchers should ensure that the sample they recruit is representative of subcultures within a culture.
  • Meta-analysis compare and contrast the results of different similar studies from other countries to determine if similar results have been reported.

Culture Bias and Sub-Culture Bias - Key takeaways

  • Cultural bias is when someone applies their cultural assumptions to other cultures to understand a phenomenon. Another term for this is ethnocentrism.
  • Subcultural bias is similar to cultural bias but focuses more on the biases of groups within a culture.
  • When conducting research, it is crucial to consider the differences between societies. There are individualistic and collectivist societies that differ significantly in culture.
    • There are distinct differences between Western and Eastern societies.
  • There are several problems with culturally biased research, and there are methods that the researcher can use to prevent cultural bias from influencing the research.

Frequently Asked Questions about Culture Bias and Sub-Culture Bias

Cultural bias is when someone applies their cultural assumptions to other cultures to understand a phenomenon. They interpret the world through the lens of their own culture and ignore the differences. Those who deviate from the ‘norm’ are considered strange or abnormal. Another term for this is ethnocentrism. Ainsworth’s Strange Situation is a good example of ethnocentrism, an imposed etic.

  • Ethnocentrism.
  • Language.
  • Appearance.

Understanding cultural bias and ensuring that research is not subject to it is essential because it ensures that:


  • Research is generalisable (the results indicate they apply to everyone).
  • It is applicable in real life.
  • It is not prejudiced or discriminative (against researchers ethical morals).

An example of a culture is a society in England, and subcultures within that larger culture are people from different ethnic backgrounds, such as:

  • British mixed ethnic background.
  • British, Black, African, or Caribbean backgrounds.
  • British Asian.

  • Gender.
  • Ethnic background.
  • Sexual orientation.
  • Socioeconomic class.

Final Culture Bias and Sub-Culture Bias Quiz

Question

What is another term for cultural bias? 

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Answer

Ethnocentrism.

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Question

Which of the following are examples of subcultures?

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Answer

British population.

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Question

What are the typical values of a collectivist society? 

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Answer

Put their needs before others in their society

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Question

What are the typical values of an individualistic society?

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Answer

Putting the needs of their community before their own.

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Question

What is the cultural variation?

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Answer

Cultural variation is the idea that social practices, rules, beliefs and ways of behaving differ across cultures around the globe.

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Question

What is the term for when psychological and cultural factors interplay and affect human personality?

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Answer

Psycho-cultural factors.

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Question

What characterises research that shows cultural/subcultural bias?

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Answer

  • Poor research.
  • Poor ethics.

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Question

What are the problems of culturally biased research?

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Answer

  • Non-generalisable results indicate reliability issues. 
  • The research has limited real-life application. 
  • If research is on serious matters such as treatments and it has been applied to other cultures or subgroups where it is not generalisable then this can lead to serious health problems. 

Show question

Question

How can research limit cultural bias?


Show answer

Answer

  • Cross-cultural research
  • Researchers should make sure that the sample they recruit is representative of subcultures within a culture.
  • Replicate research in other countries 
  • Meta-analysis

Show question

Question

How can a meta-analysis be used to limit cultural bias?

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Answer

Researchers can compare results from various countries to identify if similar results have been reported.

Show question

Question

What is cross-cultural research?

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Answer

Cross-cultural research is when a phenomenon is investigated in multiple cultures, ensuring that findings are generalisable to the entire population.

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Question

What can be assumed of research that shows cultural relativity?

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Answer

This research is high in reliability and generalisable to the intended target sample.

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Question

What is an example of ethnocentrism?

Show answer

Answer

Differences in the diagnosis of mental health illnesses.

Show question

Question

What is cultural bias? 

Show answer

Answer

Cultural bias is when someone applies their cultural assumptions to other cultures to understand a phenomenon.  

Show question

Question

What is subcultural bias?

Show answer

Answer

Sub-cultural bias is similar to cultural bias but instead focuses on biases in groups within a culture.

Show question

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