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Study Notes

Issues & Debates: Culture Bias


Last updated 28 May 2018

Culture can be defined as the values, beliefs and patterns of behaviour shared by a group of people.

A variety of factors shape culture and these different factors are reflected in the differences between various cultures. Historically, psychology has been dominated by white, middle-class American males, who have monopolised both as researchers and participants. However, research findings and theories have been generalised, as if culture makes no real difference.

Cultural bias is the tendency to judge people in terms of one's own cultural assumptions. In psychology, cultural bias takes the same two forms as gender bias. Alpha bias occurs when a theory assumes that cultural groups are profoundly different, and that recognition of these enduring differences must always inform psychological research and understanding. Beta bias, on the other hand, occurs when real cultural differences are ignored or minimised, and all people are assumed to be the same, resulting in universal research designs and conclusions that mistakenly assume that all cultures are the same.

Exam Hint: Alpha and beta bias are only required for Gender Bias, and while it is useful to understand these terms, you are only required to understand ethnocentrism and cultural relativism for the Culture in Psychology subtopic.

Another way to consider cultural bias is through the distinction between ethnocentrism and cultural relativism.

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