Cultural bias  

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Cultural bias is the phenomenon of interpreting and judging phenomena in terms particular to one's own culture. The problem of cultural bias is central to social and human sciences, such as economics, psychology, anthropology and sociology, which have had to develop methods and theories to compensate for or eliminate cultural bias. There is also controversy over whether the phenomenon is a significant force in the natural sciences.

Cultural bias occurs when people of a culture make assumptions about conventions, including conventions of language, notation, proof and evidence. They can then mistake these assumptions for laws of logic or nature.

Numerous such biases are believed to exist, concerning cultural norms for color, location of body parts, mate selection, concepts of justice, linguistic and logical validity, acceptability of evidence, and taboos.

Cultural bias can also relate to a bias that a culture possesses. For instance, a bias against women could be held by a culture who degrades women.

This type of bias can be held by a group against and individual or by an individual against a group.


People who read English often assume that it is natural to scan a visual field from left to right and from top to bottom. Also, in the most western countries, a light switch usually turns a light on when up. Also, in these countries, North is the top of a map, up is usually the larger quantity and better, as well. As another example, Japanese do not place an X in a check-box to indicate acceptance -- this indicates refusal.

These conventions are generally useful, as once one is used to light switches behaving a certain way one does not need to learn a per-light switch rule but just a general rule. Unfortunately, when people move between cultures or design something for a different group they often do not attend to which conventions remain and which change.

Linguistic and ethnic groups often do not share these notational assumptions. Notational and operative assumptions can damage control systems if the users are a different culture from the designers. In safety-critical systems, control panels and similar devices have to be validated to prevent degradation from cultural biases.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Cultural bias" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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