Methods That Matter: Pluralism in methods in cross-cultural psychology
Our purpose for research and scholarship is to discover findings that matter. Methods matter to the extent that they provide valuable tools, socially shared and agreed-on ways of working, that lead to findings about the world. Integrating a wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods in research can greatly increase the likelihood of producing findings that matter, as do strong research designs and samples, strong analytic work, and incorporating evidence regarding context and experience into publications. Mixed methods involve combining numbers and algorithms, biological measures, text, photos and video as evidence. Methods and findings that matter include adding to the evidence base for some topic. They matter for improving and testing theory and conceptual frameworks in our field; for doing international and comparative work where person-centered and context-centered evidence are particularly important; and for integrating work across the social sciences; and for improving the lives and bringing forward the experiences of communities we work with. Pluralism in methods can persuade more readers that our findings are believable (valid, reliable, veridical, meaningful, incorporates local context and experience, and open for conversation with other points of view and other disciplines). It’s not only methods, but also samples, design, and ways we analyze our evidence that matters. Donald Campbell pointed out another reason for integrating multiple methods: any method by itself has strengths, but also limitations; complementing the limitations of one with the strengths of others improves our understanding.
Whatever our views and training regarding methods, the world certainly is not linear, additive, and decontextualized! Nonetheless, the world can be usefully represented as if it were linear, additive and decontextualized through the use of mathematical models, statistics, and quantitative methods. Research studies using only one or a small set of particular methods of course are necessary and valuable. For good analytic reasons, or reasons of time and resources available for a study, bracketing context out, or controlling samples and settings, or using quantitative normed, standard assessments are essential. However, the gold standard for social science research should be a thoughtfully designed, integrated multimethod study, to the extent possible. For a larger, more extensive research program, intended to explore a topic more broadly and claim generalization, diverse methods normally should be the standard. Mixed methods should be the default expectation, the unmarked practice. Using only one, or a small number of methods is the option that requires further justification.
There is also a surprisingly personal, professional self-identity aspect to methods. We say, “I am a quantitative person”. We could more inclusively profess: “I am a mixed methods person. “I am a pluralist with regard to methods.” “I partner with others and their methods expertise to be more holistic and inclusive in my work.” This brings us closer to understanding culture, context, and psychology. I will provide examples of the value-added of mixed methods research from cross-cultural human development, family intervention studies, and others.
Learning by Being Acomedido/a, Pitching In, in Family and Community Endeavors
In many communities of the Americas that maintain some Indigenous practices, children and families foster children’s learning through pitching in together, being acomedidos/as, to mutually accomplish valued endeavors.
In this Plenary Address, Barbara Rogoff discusses this way of learning, which she and her collaborators call “Learning by Observing and Pitching In to family and community endeavors (LOPI)”. Although LOPI likely occurs worldwide, it appears to be especially prevalent in Indigenous and Indigenous-heritage communities of the Americas. It is based on community organization in which children are bona fide contributors, like everyone else, and social engagement is collaborative, with children as well as adults taking initiative to help, while keenly attending to what others are doing. Learning means growing as a responsible, knowledgeable, innovative contributor to the community, through a process of transforming participation.
Why there can be no Psychology without Culture: Building and Rebuilding Science from the perspective of the Global South
The belief that culture is separate from psychology is misplaced and our understanding of psychology cannot be accomplished without accounting for and addressing culture; neither can our understanding of culture be advanced without attention to psychology. Culture lies between the person and the environment (Valsiner, 2007). Selecting biased samples and eliminating cultural context from research have been largely responsible for a circumscribed view of what it means to be human (Hruschka, Medin, Rogoff & Henrich, 2018). Although these facts have now reached international attention, much less is available on how to implement changes, especially with regard to practical applications which perpetuate ideas of a uniform global understanding of the human experience towards which everyone must aspire. When results of “scientific studies” are widely applied to non-Western populations in academics, research and interventions, the problems become escalated. Not only are cultures diverse in their assumptions about values, beliefs and goals, there is also a high degree of difference even within and among communities. Yet, we continue to endorse and apply the enterprise of thinking locally and acting globally (Gergen, et al., 1996).
Using the principles of the transfer of technology as a template, the spread of cultural ideology, specifically ideas about care, development and learning among children, becomes a parallel enterprise through international aid agencies. Any country that does not adopt these principles is targeted as a rogue nation that has failed its people on humanitarian grounds. In this new world order, there is no space remaining for pride in cultural heritage except if it fits in with the Western ideology of individualism and the corresponding notion of human rights as exclusive to individuals. Poverty necessitates an abandonment of self-respect and people lose their right to cultural heritage. Heritage is not found only in archaeological excavations, cultural practices are also precious aspects of human society that must be preserved for the sake, not just of pride and dignity, but also for survival. A global epidemic of sameness can threaten our very existence.
In this presentation I will raise scientific and ethical concerns about the indiscriminate and uncritical spread of child-care practices in the name of welfare, particularly with reference to poor communities living in the Global South, and provide instances of how and why such a proliferation has targeted culture and jeopardized its survival without providing reasonable alternatives. I will argue also, that poverty is endemic to the Global South not on account of psychological reasons, as is assumed, but on account of long-standing historical, structural and ecological reasons that makes the application of psychological solutions to structural phenomena a case of using the wrong tool, perhaps like using a hammer to swat a fly! I will then argue for a dramatic shift in international relations regarding the enterprise of intervention programmes for family welfare in the Global South.
Cultural biases in psychological theories. The case of developmental psychology.
Theories in the humanities are based in models of man, conceptions of the self, just like lay theories. Theories about human development are usually based in self conceptions informed by psychological autonomy, i.e. the individual as a separate, self contained and self conscious agent. Accordingly development is reconstructed along developmental tasks from the perspective of the individual agent.
The development of a separate, categorial self is regarded as an important early developmental achievement, that is instrumental for the development of further developmental tasks, e.g. prosocial behavior and empathy. This conception of the self, however is part of a cultural model describing Western middle class families, where the vast majority of scientists and researchers (as well as the research participants) originate from. The majority of the world’ s population holds different conceptions of self and models of man and reconstructs development from different perspectives. Nevertheless, developmental theories claim universal validity. Not much is known about the psychology of the majority world, but enough to conclude that the Western middle class perspective is rather an outlier than the norm on a world wide scale. In this presentation the major developmental tasks during the first years of life are discussed from different cultural perspectives. It is concluded that textbooks need to be rewritten with including culture systematically in describing, explaining and predicting development.
Cultural psychology, institutional reality, and the study of children’s development
The development of children occurs in societies constituted by social institutions. Traditionally, however, studies on development have been made outside of these social institutions. Adopting the theoretical perspective of Cultural Psychology, this lecture defines culture as the institutional reality in which human beings live. This definition implies considering the ontology and deontology of the institutional reality of human beings. I explore the implications of this definition for the developmental psychology, particularly reflecting about what do we know about the child’s understanding of the ontology and deontology of the institutional reality in which they live. I summarize some empirical studies that have been interested in this line of research, mainly those derived from Rakoczy and Tomasello (2007), and I discuss some empirical results about the study of the ontology and deontology of a small institution created in collaboration with children who live in a context of poverty in Bogotá, Colombia.
Development of children of immigrant families: As recipient countries can make the society succeed or become a charge to society.
The 21st century has seen unprecedented increase in numbers of immigrants to more developed countries. We also see marked differences between recipient countries in the way they receive and treat immigrants. Many studies point out how immigrants contribute to recipient countries: by maintaining a high birth rate, they become a convenience for service employers, paying taxes and developing positively with low criminality. Sometimes children from immigrant families develop more optimally than native populations. These contributions depend heavily on the contexts that the recipient countries create. An extensive analysis of current studies will be presented according to several theoretical frameworks that show us how from the Micro systems (families, schools, neighbourhoods) and the Super systems (health systems, transportation and visas) can contribute to positive or negative development of children from immigrant families.