Conducting research in the United States is a challenge because it is a growing multicultural community. A lot has to be considered before research can be done. Two research variables, observation, and sampling are selected to compare and contrast using multicultural and traditional research methodology.
Observation may be defined as “a collection of data through visual observation of people experiencing the phenomenon” (Doordan, 1998). There are many kinds of observational methods but their designs are non-experimental (Keegan, 2010). Sampling may be defined as “a sample drawn from a population in such a way that all possible samples of size n have the same probability of being selected” (Nett, 1969). Sampling requires fewer resources than a census (W., 2010). The most popular kind of sampling among researchers is simple random sampling.
When conducting multicultural psychology research data should be available from at least two or more cultural groups while some studies may compare the available monocultural data. It is generally held that data should be available from at least three cultures for comparison.
Sampling is usually selected when the behavior of a social group cannot be observed continuously (Altman, 2010). The random sampling method increases the validity of the result and minimizes the cognitive biases (Barret, 2001). Studies have shown that it is better to first collect data of eligible clients who are interested in participating and then randomly ascribe them to the experimental or controlled group (Nokes, 2007). Random samples provide a reliable representation of the target population.
When using an observational approach in multicultural and traditional research, the researcher may become a part of the culture to conduct data. The data becomes more reliable when the subject is not aware that s/he is being observed but this kind of observation is considered morally wrong because it threatens the privacy of the subject. Observation can be done in many ways including one on one interaction, overview observation of a large group of participants in a setting, or videotaping the behavior of the participants (Alessia Agliati, 2006).
Videotaped interactions are very helpful when the researcher is a complete outsider. Many factors influence human behavior, one of them being the presence of an observer. It is assumed that “culture shapes the hidden organization of behavior displayed in interactions” (Alessia Agliati, 2006). Observational methodologies have proved to be the most valuable technique for analyzing human behavior but they have their drawbacks such as observer effect and observer bias (Keegan, 2010).
Studies have shown that social pragmatics and body are produced in conformity to cultural standards (Alessia Agliati, 2006). This proves that different cultures have different meanings of the same gestures. While conducting multicultural research, this may be a problem. For example, it is considered normal in Africa to hear voices but is considered abnormal in the American culture (Atkinson, 1981). When the researcher is not aware of the norms of a particular culture, the study is bound to be biased.
There are many problems faced by the researchers implementing these variables cross-culturally. In making observations of naturally occurring behavior there is a risk that interpretive anecdotes may be substituted for objective descriptions (Atkinson, 1981). Investigators must be trained to observe and record accurately to avoid projecting their own wishes or biases into what they report (Atkinson, 1981). It is said that in order to understand cross cultures both biological features of our species and cultural aspects must be taken into account (Ratner, 2003).
It is better to clarify the cultural grounds which shape psychological differences in order to understand why these differences are there in a culture. The cross-cultural research attempts to study psychology in culture rather than culture in psychology (Nokes, 2007).
When researchers try to identify these differences a number of problems arise. Different countries score differently on social value scales and psychological differences are found in these countries, therefore, psychological differences are a result of differences in social values (Ratner, 2003). This is the reason why the validity of Intelligence Quotient is always questioned. Studies have shown that people from different cultures perform differently on the same IQ test (Atkinson, 1981).
Cultural variables which reveal the social system of a community are often ignored and portrayed as abstract. Cultural factors are often misconceived by the researcher especially when observing a culture that is completely new to the observer. Due to the vastness and complexity of cultures, psychologists may misinterpret the cultural factors and their psychological effects.
It is claimed that when a researcher is doing research from a dominant culture perspective there is either derogatory or romanticization of identity and lifestyle (Nett, 1969). Many researchers make a common error of generalization when they encounter particular cultural problems. Researchers need to learn about the members representing a community to ensure the correct representation of that culture.
They must also acknowledge the probability for divergence in perception when working with different cultures (Nett, 1969). Researchers believe that their proposed interpretations are validated through correlations with other available data but they fail to recognize the fact that no matter what the correlation may be the psychological significance of both sets representing the correlation remains a mystery (Nokes, 2007).
Given all these differences, it is difficult to conduct an error free cross cultural research. Problems arise when one leaves his own culture and enters a completely new one. It produces error in perception of the observer. A traditional research is comparatively less complicated and more reliable but its results cannot be generalized to other cultures.
Structured observation allows control, reliability, and a safe environment to study concepts but lack of ecological validity (Keegan, 2010). Unstructured observation when applied in different cultures gives a broader view of situation but only appropriate as a first step (Keegan, 2010). Participant observation may be useful in studying different cultures as it provides an insightful view but poses lack of objectivity on the part of the observer. Naturalistic observation is essential for observing particular subjects and has an ecological validity but poses an ethic problem when the subject’s consent is not obtained.
Even when a random sample is obtained without any biases, there still a chance of sampling error. A sample does not necessarily represent the whole population. There’s always a chance of random error to occur. It is generally held that the bigger the sample is, smaller is the chance of an error but a point comes when addition in the sample no longer makes a difference in the result. By applying appropriate measures, valid and reliable results can be derived using sampling saving both money and time (Fridah, 2010).
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