Within traditional psychology, it seems that both researchers and participants tend to come from within the United States of America and Europe. Despite this a lot of the psychology drawn from this particular cultural background is presented as a universal description of human behaviour. So, this poses the question of whether psychology only tell us how Americans and Europeans behave? Are the majority of psychological findings culturally biased?
Hare-Mustin and Maracek (1998) suggested that you should take into consideration the extent to which any psychological research is biased before concluding whether there are cultural differences. It is only after this when the ‘truth’ can be untangled from the way the research study has found it.
Alpha bias and beta bias are the two different ways in which Hare-Mustin and Maracek proposed that theories could be biased. Alpha bias is the way in which real significant differences are assumed between cultural groups. On the other hand, beta bias refers to the way in which any differences between cultures are ignored or disregarded. One example of beta bias within psychology is the use of IQ tests in order to compare the intelligence of different groups of people. These tests are created by Western psychologists and assume their view of intelligence can be applicable equally to every culture, therefore in certain situations, when IQ tests are carried out on non-Western cultural groups, their result may be affected producing invalid data. This therefore supports the argument that psychology only tells us about the behaviour of Americans and Europeans.
The majority of psychological research studies use American participants, this can be seen from the following study. Smith and Bond (1998) carried out an analysis on a British textbook and discovered that 66% of the studies were American, 32% European and 2% came from elsewhere. Furthermore, another research study finding showed that 82% of research studies used undergraduate students as their participants within a psychology study and out of them 51% of them were psychology students themselves (Sears, 1986). Both of these studies suggest that a vast amount of findings within psychology are based on young, academic adults (often male, too) which results in them being largely unrepresentative, especially within different cultures.
So, it seems that research studies are being constantly carried out within various fields of psychology, yet the majority of these findings are culturally biased and therefore it could be argued that they should not be used universally in order to describe and explore human behaviour.
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