As noted in Chapter 1, there is much more to a cross-cultural study than collecting data in two countries and comparing the results. Long ago Campbell (1970) warned that two-group comparisons usually are not interpretable: there are too many factors to which an observed difference can be attributed, including a lack of equivalence (cultural bias). In various chapters in Part I we have seen examples of competing interpretations of differences in behaviors across cultures. In the present chapter the scope for interpretation of cross-cultural data will be explored further. Both “culture” and “behavior” are somewhat abstract and diffuse concepts that are not accessible to scientific analysis without further specification. The process of specification is guided by the methods and research questions that are selected by researchers as well as by their theoretical and metatheoretical orientations. Usually method and theory are linked and this is the reason why we have combined them in the present chapter.
The first three sections refer back to the three themes and associated theoretical positions that we outlined in Chapter 1. In the first section we elaborate on the distinction between culture as external context and culture as internal to the person (internal context).