Cultural influence plays a significant role in neuropsychological testing, causing variation in results when data is compared across countries. The authors of this study investigate methods to standardize and reduce such variance, particularly in tests designed for children.
Culture is defined by UNESCO as a “set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group that encompasses, not only art and literature, but lifestyle, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs.” And as such, culture is a deeply complex and difficult topic to tackle when trying to conduct objective and empirical experiments — specifically neuropsychological ones. Differences in psychology tests have been seen across various experiments, all suggesting that cultural background plays a role in cognitive performance. For example, time perception is different across cultures, despite there being a defined measure of time. Due to these differences, when data is collected across many different countries, it becomes difficult to discern results that may have been influenced by culture. Additionally, the effects of cultural influence on children undergoing neuropsychological testing have yet to be fully observed. The authors a recent study published in the British Journal of Nutrition looked into creating psychological exams that could eliminate the influence of culture in children and thus, generate more consistent data.
Data from a total of 1050 children from seven countries (Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, and Spain) were collected from a previous study on nutritional health. The same battery of neuropsychological tests was conducted on these same children to compare results across countries. The tests were carefully designed to reduce cultural influence and contained few verbal components to reduce the influence of language.
The results of the study showed that cultural influence had a significant impact on the results. This was even after controlling for factors like sex, maternal age, maternal education level, smoking during pregnancy, type of delivery, and gestational age. Thus, the authors conclude that in order to effectively compare results across countries and cultures, it is important to standardize tests and control for influential factors like culture.
Written By: Harin Lee, BSc