Other Issues in Research

There are many psychological processes that are considered sensitive topics within specific cultural, social and political contexts. Sensitive topics are anything considered private, stigmatizing or sacred to the participants or culture (McCosker, Barnard and Gerber, 2001). Western cultures tend to be more open about discussing sensitive areas and researchers should be aware of potential methodological issues and possible consequences for participants who agree to the study.


A Black woman in a yellow shirt that reads HIV positive, stands in front of a sign that reads City of Cape Town: Care Enough to Act.
Participating in research about sensitive topics may result in severe consequences for research participants and may keep many people from participating. [Image by World Bank Photo Collection CC BY-NC-ND-2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/worldbank/1128198005]

Sex, sexuality, sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS status are topics that may limit participation but more importantly participants may face imprisonment, sanctions (formal and informal) for acknowledging thoughts or behaviors that run contrary to cultural norms. Researchers must be aware of the cultural, social and political contexts of the cultures under study to maintain the safety of participants all the while maintaining ethical research practices. Additionally, researchers should not assume that data privacy and data protections extend to all individuals across all cultures.


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Culture and Psychology Copyright © 2020 by L D Worthy; T Lavigne; and F Romero is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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