Navigating cross-cultural research: methodological and ethical considerations

Tanya Broesch, Alyssa N. Crittenden, Bret A. Beheim, Aaron D. Blackwell, John A. Bunce, Heidi Colleran, Kristin Hagel, Michelle Kline, Richard McElreath, Robin G. Nelson, Anne C. Pisor, Sean Prall, Ilaria Pretelli, Benjamin Purzycki, Elizabeth A. Quinn, Cody Ross, Brooke Scelza, Kathrine Starkweather, Jonathan Stieglitz, Monique Borgerhoff Mulder

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


The intensifying pace of research based on cross-cultural studies in the social sciences necessitates a discussion of the unique challenges of multi-sited research. Given an increasing demand for social scientists to expand their data collection beyond WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic) populations, there is an urgent need for transdisciplinary conversations on the logistical, scientific and ethical considerations inherent to this type of scholarship. As a group of social scientists engaged in cross-cultural research in psychology and anthropology, we hope to guide prospective cross-cultural researchers through some of the complex scientific and ethical challenges involved in such work: (a) study site selection, (b) community involvement and (c) culturally appropriate research methods. We aim to shed light on some of the difficult ethical quandaries of this type of research. Our recommendation emphasizes a community-centred approach, in which the desires of the community regarding research approach and methodology, community involvement, results communication and distribution, and data sharing are held in the highest regard by the researchers. We argue that such considerations are central to scientific rigour and the foundation of the study of human behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20201245
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1935
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • cross-cultural research
  • ethics
  • evolutionary anthropology
  • psychology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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