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A conversation with Martina Hrebickova

An interview

We recently chatted with Martina Hrebickova about the article, "How accurate are national stereotypes? A test of different methodological approaches" which she wrote together with René Mõttus, Sylvie Graf, Martin, Jelinek, and Anu Realo, and has recently been accepted for publication in a forthcoming issue of the European Journal of Personality. Martina currently works at the Institute of Psychology, Czech Academy of Science.

Read on to learn more about the article on methodological issues in research on the accuracy of national stereotypes!

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Q: Hello Martina, can you tell us a little about what your study is about?

The study is about different approaches to research on accuracy of national stereotypes. Whether national stereotypes are accurate is estimated with respect to a certain criterion representing reality – usually characteristics of people living in countries whose stereotypes we examine. The advantage of personality psychology now is that we have a common framework – the five-factor model – that enables us to asses stereotypical characteristics and characteristics of real people using the same set of widely accepted personality characteristics. For instance, we can ask whether both a typical German (stereotype) and a particular German respondent (real people) are neurotic, open to experience or conscientious. 
This is the important precondition for stereotype accuracy research.  Previous studies on national stereotype accuracy showed inconsistent results. In some countries national stereotypes were accurate, in others moderately accurate and in majority of studied countries national stereotypes were inaccurate. We suspected that the prime candidate behind the inconsistent results is the methodology used in different studies. 

We introduced three main methodological issues that contributed to inconsistencies in past studies on national stereotypes accuracy. First, past studies employed different methods for ratings of stereotypes and real people, although these methods both stem from the same framework of the five factor model. We found that using the same method for both types of rating considerably overestimated the national stereotype accuracy, while using different method underestimated the accuracy. Second, past studies usually employed a specific correlation technique, the so called Intraclass correlation (ICCs), that we found underestimated the national stereotype accuracy. Third, we found that also employing distinct norms for standardization can result in different level of stereotype accuracy. In sum, we showed that these methodological issues substantially influence the resulting level of national stereotype accuracy. 

We suggest a novel approach to estimating stereotype accuracy, which uses ranks of the studied countries and non-parametrical Spearman’s correlations with bootstrapped confidence intervals that avoid all the above named methodological limitation of past research. When we applied this new analytical approach based on rank order correlations to data from 10 European countries, we found evidence that national stereotypes are generally accurate. This finding is at odds with conclusions of previous studies, including those of our team or studies published in the highest ranking journals such as Science.

The results of our methodological study provide readers with guidelines for estimating accuracy of national stereotypes that avoid shortcomings of past research. We strongly believe that our recommendations are applicable to a wider range of social groups, such as typical representatives of states, regions or cities.

Q: What made you decide to study the accuracy of national stereotypes?

My story studying stereotypes started in the late ‘90 when I was a member of the Personality Profiles across Cultures international team led by Jeff McCrae. Apart from other topics, we studied the accuracy of national stereotypes in 49 cultures. This collaboration sparked my interest in studding the accuracy of stereotypes. The mentioned publication in Science in 2005 was a great success for personality research but its findings have been criticized because national stereotypes were rated only from the ingroup perspective. The critics predicted that national stereotypes rated from the outgroup perspective (by people from other countries) may correspond with ratings of real people better than national ingroup stereotypes. In order to address this shortcoming, we started our Central European Project in five countries involving full ingroup-outgroup design. Independently from us, the Estonian team started their Baltic Sea project comparing the ratings of typical country representatives and real people living in Russia and Baltic Sea countries. Results of both projects were independently published in European Journal of Personality. Later we got together in order to test our ideas about methodological shortcomings in past studies that we were aware of using data from both projects. The outcomes of our collaborative efforts can be found in the new joint paper.

Q: Where do you see yourself in the (near) future?

My life philosophy is based on the metaphor about a stool with three feet. You can sit safely and comfortably only on stools with minimally three feet. Thus, I wish to have good relationships with my partner, children, relatives and friends. This is the first foot from my personal tripod. The second foot constitutes my work in psychology research. I have several plans and ideas for new research, this time in the field of acculturation. For instance, we will longitudinally study acculturation strategies in majority and minority samples. I am looking forward to realize these plans. Another very important thing in my life is to find time for doing sport, leisure activities, and hobbies. This is the third foot from my tripod. I would like to continue my daily running routine and prepare myself for an ultra-distance race. So, I see myself in the near future as happy, healthy, strong and successful mother, partner, researcher and runner.

Q: Do you have any tips or advice for young researchers?

This is a very good question. Last year I celebrated 30 years from the beginning of my research career that I have spent at one institution – the Institute of Psychology, Czech Academy of Science. Thus I believe I could give some advice to young researchers. Discover current themes that are explored by others, but be new and original. Study it as no one has done before. Get good quality data, prefer quality to quantity and prepare strong studies for high quality journals. Do not let yourself  be frustrated by failures and rejections - be persistent. Learn from reviews, revise and rewrite your studies. From my point of view, the most important thing is to find a good team of collaborators. Communicate and offer collaboration, because a team can do more work and provide more perspectives than an individual researcher. Proof of this is our study, which was created thankns to great teamwork!

Q: Thank you for talking to us, Martina!

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