Psychology has been critiqued as having a Euro-American orientation (Moreland, 1996; Padilla & Medina, 1996). Moreland wrote,
Koch (1981) suggests that American psychologists ... are trained in scientific attitudes that Kimble (1984) has characterized as emphasizing objectivity, data, elementism, concrete mechanisms, nomothesis, determinism, and scientific values. Dana (1993) holds that multicultural research and practice should emanate from a human science perspective characterized by the opposite of the foregoing terms: intuitive theory, holism, abstract concepts, idiography, indeterminism, and humanistic values. (p. 53)
Moreland believed that this dichotomy was a false one. Nevertheless, he argued that a balance of the two approaches was needed to understand cultural issues more completely. One of the advantages of cross-cultural psychology is that it challenges many of our preconceptions of psychology. It is often said that one learns much about one's own language when learning a foreign tongue. The analogy for psychology is clear.
Assessment in cross-cultural psychology emphasizes an understanding of the context in which assessment occurs. The notion that traditional understandings of testing and assessment have focused solely on the individual can be tested in this discipline. Cross-cultural and multicultural testing help us focus upon the broader systems of which the individual is but a part.
Hambleton (1994) stated,
The common error is to be rather casual about the test adaptation process, and then interpret the score differences among the samples or populations as if they were real. This mindless disregard of test translation problems and the need to validate instruments in the cultures where they are used has seriously undermined the results from many cross cultural studies. (p. 242)
This chapter has shown that tests that are adapted for use in different languages and cultures need to be studied for equivalence. There are a variety of types of equivalence: linguistic equivalence, functional equivalence, conceptual or construct equivalence, and metric equivalence. Linguistic equivalence requires sophisticated translation techniques and an evaluation of the effectiveness of the translation. Functional equivalence requires that those translating the test be aware of cultural issues in the original test, in the construct, in the target culture, and in the resultant target test. Conceptual equivalence requires a relentless adherence to a construct-validation perspective and the conduct of research using data from both original and target tests. Metric equivalence, too, involves careful analyses of the test data. The requirements of metric equivalence may not be met in many situations regardless of how much we would like to use scoring scales from the original test with the target test.
If equivalence is one side of the coin, then bias is the other. Construct bias, method bias and item bias can all influence the usefulness of a test adaptation in detrimental ways. The need for construct-validation research on adapted measures is reiterated; there is no more critical point in this chapter. In addition, however, it is important to replicate the construct validation that had been found in the original culture with the original test. Factor analysis, multiple regression, and structural equation modeling permit researchers to assess whether conceptual equivalence is achieved.
The future holds much promise for cross-cultural psychology and for testing and assessment within that subdiscipline of psychology. There will be an increase in the use of different forms of tests used in both the research and the practice of psychology. In a shrinking world, it is clearer that many psychological constructs are likely to hold for individuals around the world, or at least throughout much of it. Knowledge of research from foreign settings and in foreign languages is much more accessible than in the recent past. Thus, researchers may take advantage of theoretical understandings, constructs, and their measurement from leaders all over the world. In applied settings, companies such as Microsoft are already fostering a world in which tests (such as for software literacy) are available in dozens of languages. Costs of test development are so high that adaptation and translation of assessment materials can make the cost of professional assessment cost-effective even in developing nations, where the benefits of psychological testing are likely to be highest. Computer translations of language are advancing rapidly. In some future chapter such as this one, the author may direct that the first step is to have a computer perform the first translation of the test materials. As this sentence is being written, we are not yet there; human review for cultural and language appropriateness continues to be needed. Yet in the time it will take for these pages to be printed and read, these words may have already become an anachronism.
The search for psychological universals will continue, as will the search for cultural and language limitations on these characteristics. Psychological constructs, both of major import and of more minor significance, will continue to be found that do not generalize to different cultures. The fact that the world is shrinking because of advances in travel and communications does not mean we should assume it is necessarily becoming more Western—moreAmerican. To do so is, at best, pejorative.
These times are exciting, both historically and psychome-trically. The costs in time and money to develop new tests in each culture are often prohibitive. Determination of those aspects of a construct that are universal and those that are culturally specific is critical. These are new concepts for many psychologists; we have not defined cultural and racial concepts carefully and effectively and we have not always incorporated these concepts into our theories (Betancourt & López, 1993; Helms, 1992). Good procedures for adapting tests are available and the results of these efforts can be evaluated. Testing can help society and there is no reason for any country to hoard good assessment devices. Through the adaptation procedures discussed in this chapter they can be shared.
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