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In this article, we provide evidence for the cultural (mis)attribution bias in developmental psychology in the United States: the tendency to see minorities as members of a group whose development is shaped primarily by culture, and to perceive Whites as independent individuals whose development is largely influenced by psychological processes. In two studies, we investigated this bias with a decade of peer reviewed developmental research conducted in the US (N = 640 articles), and an experiment and a survey with developmental psychologists in the US (N = 432 participants). In both studies we found that developmental psychologists in the US favor cultural over psychological explanations when considering the development of minorities, while the opposite pattern emerged in reference to Whites. This bias is exacerbated by the endorsement of the idea that minorities are more collectivistic and Whites more individualistic. We discuss the implications of this bias for diversity and inclusion initiatives in applied developmental sciences.
9. General discussion
Developmental research on minority youth has benefited from the distinction between differences and deficit approaches to culture (García Coll et al., 1996; McLoyd, 1990; Spencer & Markstrom-Adams, 1990). A cultural differences approach recognizes genuine variations in development, while cultural deficit approaches portray minorities' cultures as deviant and maladapted in comparison to Whites (see García Coll et al., 2000). We argue that evidence of the cultural (mis)attribution bias in developmental psychology suggests a deficit by difference approach, in which cultural differences reinforce deficit perspectives.
In this article, we examined the cultural (mis)attribution bias in developmental psychology in the US with two studies: through an analysis of the last decade of research published in six premier developmental psychological journals, and with an experiment and a survey with a sample of developmental psychologists. In study 1 we found that developmental studies on culture, ethnicity, and race had higher proportions of minorities than developmental studies not centered on these topics. Also, developmental studies on culture, ethnicity, and race conducted in the US had a higher percentage of minorities (vs. Whites) than expected from a random sample drawn from the US population. However, the percentage of minorities in non-cultural studies does not deviate from the US population parameters in a meaningful way. In study 2A we showed that both White and minority developmental psychologists rated more positively a sample composed of minorities (vs. Whites) for the study of the role of culture on development, and more favorably a sample composed of Whites (vs. minorities) for research on the role of psychological processes on development. These judgements were accentuated when they believed minorities are more collectivistic and Whites more individualistic, but only for the cultural study. In Study 2B we found that both White and minority participants reported that personality is more influential for the development of Whites (vs. minorities), and culture, ethnicity, and race, as well as group membership and social identity, are more influential for the development of minorities (vs. Whites). These effects remained even after controlling for participants' ethnic identification. Participants also reported that other developmental psychologists subscribe to these assumptions. Together, the pattern of observed results replicates a previous study documenting this bias in general psychology (Causadias et al., in press).