Research Methods and Culture

Margaret Mean among indigenous Samoan islanders.
Margaret Mead focused her indigenous studies in Samoa on problems of child rearing, personality, and culture. Though her work is controversial and has been criticized she was an early pioneer in indigenous cultural research.

Psychologists are interested in the ways that cultural forces influence psychological processes. They study culture as a means of better understanding the ways it affects our emotions, identity, relationships, and decisions. Psychologists generally ask different types of questions and use different methods than do anthropologists. Anthropologists are more likely to conduct indigenous (ethnographic) studies. In this type of research, the scientist spends time observing a culture and conducting interviews. In this way, anthropologists often attempt to understand and appreciate culture from the point of view of the people within it. Psychologists who adopt this approach are often thought to be studying cultural psychology. They are likely to use interviews as a primary research methodology.

Cultural psychology is distinct from cross-cultural psychology, and this can be confusing. Cross-cultural studies are those that use standard forms of measurement, such as Likert scales, to compare people from different cultures and identify their differences. Cross-cultural studies serve as backbone of cross-cultural research in psychology but methodological issues can have an impact on research quality.


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Culture and Psychology 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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