Are we really that different from each other? The difficulties of focusing on similarities in cross-cultural research.
Lalonde, R. N.
Cribbie, R. A.
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In this article we argue that there are 2 dominant underlying themes in discussions of strategies for dealing with diversity—similarity and difference. When we are dealing with social groups, a number of basic psychological processes, as well as popular media and research-based narratives, make it easier to highlight difference rather than similarity. This difference-based approach in research is inherently divisive, but the training that we receive as researchers in the field of psychology has taken us down this path. As a first step, we propose that researchers working in the area of cultural diversity should start making explicit attempts to highlight similarities between groups, even if such similarities are only based on the absence of observed statistical differences. Moreover, if we are going to be serious about demonstrating similarity between groups and certain types of universals in behavior, we should start embracing new approaches to data analyses and consider using statistical procedures that test for equivalence. We illustrate these new techniques using our own data. Finally, we argue that shifting our primary focus from difference to similarity is a worthwhile direction to pursue for successfully managing diversity in multicultural societies.