12 August 2012

The Problem of the Questionaire

Neuroskeptic has a fascinating critique of a recent study of national differences in personality.
Whether this is a cultural difference or a linguistic one is perhaps debatable; it might be a sign that it is not easy to translate English-language personality words into certain languages without changing how 'strong' they sound. However, either way, it's a serious problem for psychologists interested in cross-cultural studies.
It is important equally to examine how psychologists dwelt with these issues historically. Early studies are not particularly convincing in their approach to culture. Many of the major psychometric methods proved difficult to use in cross-cultural comparisons. Translating the inventories was especially challenging. There was also, however, the added problem that often the psychologists who were looking for some difference in personality trait "x" brought an essentialist view of both cultures where they sought to deploy their investigations. That meant that their studies were not even suited for their local and familiar environment.

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