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Donald Campbell's doubt: Cultural difference or failure of communication?

  • Richard A. Shweder (a1)


The objection, rightfully noted but then dismissed by Henrich et al., that the observed variation across populations “may be due to various methodological artifacts that arise from translating experiments across contexts” is a theoretically profound and potentially constructive criticism. It parallels Donald Campbell's concern that many cultural differences reported by psychologists “come from failures of communication misreported as differences.” Ironically, Campbell's doubt is a good foundation for investigations in cultural psychology.



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Campbell, D. T. (1996) Can we overcome worldview incommensurability/relativity in trying to understand the other? In: Ethnography and human development: Context and meaning in social inquiry, ed. Jessor, R., Colby, A. & Shweder, R. A., pp. 153–72. University of Chicago Press.
Cole, M. (1996) Cultural psychology: A once and future discipline. Harvard University Press.
Henrich, J., Boyd, R., Bowles, S., Camerer, C. F., Fehr, E., Gintis, H., McElreath, R., Alvard, M., Barr, A., Ensminger, J., Henrich, N. S., Hill, K., Gil-White, F., Gurven, M., Marlowe, F. W., Patton, J. Q. & Tracer, D. (2005a) “Economic man” in cross-cultural perspective: Behavioral experiments in 15 small-scale societies. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28(6):795815; discussion 815–55.
Mead, M. (1932) An investigation of the thought of primitive children, with special reference to animism. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 62:173–90.
Piaget, J. (1929) The child's conception of the world. Harcourt, Brace and Company.
Shweder, R. (1990) Cultural psychology: What is it? In: Cultural psychology: Essays on comparative human development, ed. Stigler, J., Shweder, R. A. & Herdt, G., pp. 146. Cambridge University Press.
Shweder, R. (1991) Thinking through cultures: Expeditions in cultural psychology. Harvard University Press.
Shweder, R. (2003) Why do men barbecue?: Recipes for cultural psychology. Harvard University Press.
Titchener, E. B. (1916) On ethnological tests of sensation and perception with special reference to tests of color vision and tactile discrimination described in the reports of the Cambridge anthropological expedition to Torres Straits. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 55:204–36.


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