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Integr Psychol Behav Sci. 2014 Dec;48(4):418-34. doi: 10.1007/s12124-014-9269-z.

Quantitative and qualitative research across cultures and languages: cultural metrics and their application.

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Department of Social and Economic Psychology, Johannes Kepler University Linz, Altenberger Stra├če 69 4040, Linz, Austria,


Growing globalisation of the world draws attention to cultural differences between people from different countries or from different cultures within the countries. Notwithstanding the diversity of people's worldviews, current cross-cultural research still faces the challenge of how to avoid ethnocentrism; comparing Western-driven phenomena with like variables across countries without checking their conceptual equivalence clearly is highly problematic. In the present article we argue that simple comparison of measurements (in the quantitative domain) or of semantic interpretations (in the qualitative domain) across cultures easily leads to inadequate results. Questionnaire items or text produced in interviews or via open-ended questions have culturally laden meanings and cannot be mapped onto the same semantic metric. We call the culture-specific space and relationship between variables or meanings a 'cultural metric', that is a set of notions that are inter-related and that mutually specify each other's meaning. We illustrate the problems and their possible solutions with examples from quantitative and qualitative research. The suggested methods allow to respect the semantic space of notions in cultures and language groups and the resulting similarities or differences between cultures can be better understood and interpreted.

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