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Inferences from statistical tests on cross-cultural comparisons.

In all fields of psychology, including cross-cultural research, inferences are drawn from statistical methods like analysis of variance. These techniques allow us to determine that the differences between cultural groups are statistically significant, and have not occurred by chance. However, the fact that an observed difference does not occur by chance often leads to the unwarranted assumption that the difference is important and meaningful. Tests of mean differences do not provide estimates of the degree of difference, nor the amount of variance that is accounted for by the variables. In most cases, even when there are large and meaningful differences, the within group variance is probably greater than the between group observation.

Another faulty assumption is the idea that because there are statistically significant differences between cultural groups that most members of groups represented in the study differ in the direction indicated by the mean values. However, even with large mean differences a considerable overlap between groups is possible in the variable studied. It is important to evaluate the degree to which differences are meaningful and not just statistically significant. A test for the amount of variance accounted for by the research variables is possible with correlational techniques, and other effect size statistics (Matsumo, Grissom and Dinnel (2001). Scholars in Western societies in particular value the search for significant differences consistent with individualistic culture, and less often look for similarities between cultural groups as not nearly as interesting. One outcome of the “difference obsession” is the focus on statistical tests of significance, even when differences are small and not meaningful.

Date: 2015-01-11; view: 1030

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