The Challenges of Adapting a Questionnaire to a New Cultural Context: The Case of Studying Group-Based Guilt and Shame in Russia



With the majority of social-psychological research still being conducted in Western countries, researchers from non-Western countries often adopt existing theories, constructs, and instruments that are not necessarily applicable to the contexts they are interested in. This paper discusses problems that might arise when transferring psychological constructs and instruments from one cultural setting to another. We use the case of a study of group-based guilt and shame in Russia that was carried out by the research team. First, we briefly discuss the original study and the problems we encountered while conducting it. We then analyze the results of eight in-depth semi-structured interviews that followed up the original study. Finally, we conduct a thematic analysis of Facebook commentaries (N=98) that participants left after filling out the original questionnaire. Based on these analyses, we suggest a checklist for researchers who plan to study a psychological construct that wasn’t studied in a given cultural context before. With this paper, we hope to highlight the importance of thorough and comprehensive adaptation of psychological constructs and instruments to new cultural settings.

General Information

Keywords: methodology of psychology, questionnaire adaptation, cultural sensitivity, group-based emotions, guilt, shame

Journal rubric: Theory and Methodology

Article type: scientific article


For citation: Grigoryan L.K., Khaptsova A.A., Poluektova O.V. The Challenges of Adapting a Questionnaire to a New Cultural Context: The Case of Studying Group-Based Guilt and Shame in Russia. Kul'turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya = Cultural-Historical Psychology, 2018. Vol. 14, no. 1, pp. 98–106. DOI: 10.17759/chp.2018140111. (In Russ., аbstr. in Engl.)


  1. Efremova M.V., Grigoryan L.K. Kollektivnye emotsii viny i styda: obzor sovremennykh issledovanii [The Collective Emotions of Guilt and Shame: a Review of Current Research]. Sovremennaya zarubezhnaya psikhologiya [Journal of Modern Foreign Psychology], 2014, vol. 3, no. 4, pp. 71—88. (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  2. Grigoryan L.K., Efremova M.V. Svyaz’ kollektivnykh emotsii viny i styda s ustanovkami k autgruppam v rossiiskom kontekste [Linking Group-Based Guilt And Shame And Outgroup Attitudes In The Russian Context]. Kul’turno-istoricheskaya psikhologiya [ Cultural-Historical Psychology], 2017, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 61—70. (In Russ., abstr. in Engl.).
  3. Rossiiskoe Psikhologicheskoe Obshchestvo. Eticheskii kodeks psikhologa. [Elektronnyi resurs] [The Russian Psychological Society. Ethical Code of Psychologist]. 2006. URL: http://xn--n1abc.xn--p1ai/rpo/documentation/ethics. php (Accessed 26.12.2015).
  4. Allpress J.A., Barlow F., Brown R., Louis W. Atoning for colonial injustices: Group-based shame and guilt motivate support for reparation. International Journal of Conflict and Violence, 2010. Vol. 4 (1), pp. 75—88.
  5. Allpress J.A., Brown R., Giner—Sorolla R., Deonna J.A., Teroni F. Two Faces of Group-Based Shame: Moral Shame and Image Shame Differentially Predict Positive and Negative Orientations to Ingroup Wrongdoing. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2014. Vol. 40 (10), pp. 1270—1284. http://
  6. Baker S.E., Edwards R. How many qualitative interviews is enough? National Centre for Research Methods Review Paper. 2012. URL: (Accessed 17.05.2015).
  7. Branscombe N.R., Doosje B. (eds.) Collective guilt: International perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. 356 p. CBO9781139106931
  8. Doosje B., Branscombe N., Spears R., Manstead A. Guilty by Association: When One’s Group has a negative history. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1998. Vol. 75 (4), pp. 872—886.—3514.75.4.872
  9. Iyer A., Schmader T., Lickel B. Why individuals protest the perceived transgressions of their country: The role of anger, shame and guilt. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 2007. Vol. 33 (4), pp. 572—587.
  10. Klebba J., Unger L.S. The Impact of Negative and Positive Information on Source Credibility in a Field Setting. In Bagozzi R.P., Tybout A.M., Abor A. (eds) Advances in Consumer Research. Vol. 10. Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research, 1983, pp. 11—16.
  11. Legard R., Keegan J., Ward K. In-depth Interviews. In Ritchie J., Lewis J. (eds.) Qualitative Research Practice: A Guide for Social Science Students and Researchers. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2003, pp. 138—169.
  12. Lewis M. Self-conscious emotions: Embarrassment, pride, shame, and guilt. In Lewis M., Haviland J.M. (eds.) Handbook of emotions. New York: Guilford Press, 1993, pp. 563—573.
  13. Pedersen A., Beven J., Griffiths B., Walker I. Attitudes toward Indigenous Australians: The role of empathy and guilt. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 2004. Vol. 14 (4), pp. 233—249.
  14. Rees J.H., Allpress J.A., Brown R. Nie wieder: Group—based emotions for ingroup wrongdoing affect attitudes toward unrelated minorities. Political Psychology, 2013. Vol. 34 (3), pp. 387—407.
  15. Steele S. White guilt. The content of our character. In Steele S. (ed.) A new vision of race in America. New York: Harper Collins, 1990, pp. 77—92.
  16. Van de Vijver F.J.R., Tanzer N.K. Bias and equivalence in cross—cultural assessment: An overview. European Review of Applied Psychology, 1997. Vol. 47 (4), pp. 263—280.
  17. Willis G.B. Cognitive interviewing: A how to guide. 1999. URL: (Accessed 17.05.2015).
  18. Zylicz P., Poleszak L. Naturalistic conception of collective guilt. Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, 2005. Vol. 29 (2), pp. 185—206.

Information About the Authors

Lusine K. Grigoryan, MA in Psychology, PhD Student, Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences, Jacobs University Bremen, Moscow, Russia, e-mail:

Alyona A. Khaptsova, MA in Psychology, Lecturer at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Junior Research Fellow at the International Scientific and Educational Laboratory for Sociocultural Research, Jacobs University Bremen, St.Petersburg, Russia, e-mail:

Olga V. Poluektova, PhD Student, Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences, Jacobs University, Bremen, Germany, e-mail:



Total: 1795
Previous month: 7
Current month: 0


Total: 570
Previous month: 3
Current month: 1