Do We Overemphasize the Role of Culture in the Behavior of Racial/Ethnic Minorities? Evidence of a Cultural (Mis)Attribution Bias in American Psychology

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Abstract

Although culture influences all human beings, there is an assumption in American psychology that culture matters more for members of certain groups. This article identifies and provides evidence of the cultural (mis)attribution bias: a tendency to overemphasize the role of culture in the behavior of racial/ethnic minorities, and to underemphasize it in the behavior of Whites. Two studies investigated the presence of this bias with an examination of a decade of peer reviewed research conducted in the United States (N = 434 articles), and an experiment and a survey with psychology professors in the United States (N = 361 psychologists). Archival analyses revealed differences in the composition of samples used in studies examining cultural or noncultural psychological phenomena. We also find evidence to suggest that psychologists in the United States favor cultural explanations over psychological explanations when considering the behavior and cognition of racial/ethnic minorities, whereas the opposite pattern emerged in reference to Whites. The scientific ramifications of this phenomenon, as well as alternatives to overcome it, are discussed in detail.

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