Cross Cultural Response Bias
I was recently working on a multidisciplinary project that had been written by an academic working in marketing. The team was made up of academics with backgrounds in marketing, economics, sociology and myself with a background in anthropology. Among the objectives of this project was the development of a new methodological approach to reducing cross-cultural response bias in surveys. With a background in anthropology I felt dubious about the likelihood of realistically reducing cross-cultural response bias. The basic line of my thinking was that there must be so many factors that would create some sort of bias, such as age, class, gender, experience … that attempting to rule out one factor that may alter an individuals understanding of the question and choice of appropriate response in a survey may be quite futile. Despite my reservations I came up with the following methodological approach:
In order to reduce cross-cultural bias as far a possible four specific steps will be taken, first to identify where cross-cultural bias arises and then to address these differences in creating a larger scale quantitative survey.
- Focus groups will be used to identify relevant issues.
- Issues raised in the focus groups will be used to construct simple surveys.
- The participants will be given these simple surveys during in-depth interviews and asked to fill them out. Interviews will be used to discuss the issues raised in the focus groups and used in the surveys including some questions that exactly match the survey.
- Data produced from the surveys and the interviews will then be compared to identify where there are gaps between the response given in the interview, and that given in the survey.
This information will then be used to inform creation of the larger scale surveys to be used during the quantitative phase of the research, both in terms of how the questions are phrased, the issues addressed in the survey questions, and the type of response required.
I have to admit that I felt a bit of an anthropological twinge of ownership of the term “culture” when I first read the objective and initially felt a little offended at seeing the term used to bluntly and unquestioningly. Anthropologists tends to question how “culture” is used (see Adam Kuper’s work for a thorough explanation here), as well as their own supposed authority on the matter. And as a result of this mixture of guilty ownership, odd offence and my general feeling of the futility of attempting to reduce cross-cultural bias, I felt a little convinced that approach outlined above is quite useless. So I thought I would bring it to this excellent blog and ask the audience and participants out there for some feedback. Harsh criticism is welcome and I am interested to hear from any disciplinary background.