Research, no matter from which discipline, provides us with rich data to help us develop our understandings about the world we live in, the way we live, our own selves and so on. Humans are often described as natural scientists, that is, from the moment we are born we are curious and we yearn for knowledge and understanding.

 There are many theories about knowledge, as the philosophy of epistemology explores. Epistemology wonders: ‘how do we know what we know’ or perhaps even: ‘how do we know what we think we know?’ Some theories of knowledge, such as those from the natural sciences, assume that there is always a truth ‘out there’ to be discovered and as long as we have access to the appropriate tools we can discover it. Other theories, such as the theory of social constructionism, view the world as a collection of negotiated understandings created via culture and language; that there is no one real truth to be discoverd; we simply reach agreements about things we decide to name truths.

 In western society we are educated to particularly value scientific knowledge and to pursue objective facts through quantitative research. We are most often convinced by statistics and scientific fact. However, whilst enjoying the fruits of research and valuing academic endeavour, it is vital that, in the spirit of academic rigour, we always retain a critical stance towards our pursuit for knowledge.

 For example, in an analysis of American Psychological Association (APA) research journals between 2003 and 2007, it was found that 68% of psychological research participants were from the US and 96% were from Western industrialised countries, mainly North America, Europe, Australia, and Israel (Arnett, 2008). This means that 96% of psychological samples came from countries with only 12% of the world’s population. Arnett raises concern that “the result is an understanding of psychology that is incomplete and does not adequately represent humanity… the majority of the world’s population lives in conditions vastly different from the conditions of Americans [who are the vast majority of psychological research participants].”

 A philosophy of science that emphasises fundamental processes and does not give significant weight to cultural context would not find this state of affairs troublesome. However, I believe it does raise the question: how culturally valid is our research in Psychology? That is, are we taking enough care to ensure that we are realistic about the generalisability and validity of our research findings?

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