Section 1

Encountering Cultural Context

The Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition (LCHC) was created in the early 1970s to address scientific, educational, and political issues surrounding attempts by social scientists to understand the role of culture in variations in human psychological processes. A driving concern then, as now, was to identify and help transform how the institutionalized social sciences and systems of formal education contribute to social inequalities.

A primary goal of LCHC has been to create a different way of doing social science research. The social science emerging from LCHC has tried to both provide a deeper understanding of the problems of educational achievement associated with cultural diversity as well as develop examples of effective, theory-driven research that offers ways to implement more adequate scientific and social practices.

The two chapters in this section provide an account of the cross-cultural research program carried out in the 1960s that eventuated in the founding of a special laboratory focused on the issue of the role of culture in human development:

Chapter One: LCHC, a Pre-History focuses on the social and historical context that contributed to the development of LCHC. In particular, this chapter examines research projects in Liberia that were connected with the international effort to promote economic and social development.

Chapter Two: Confronting the Challenge of Bringing Cross Cultural Research Home addresses the social and intellectual preoccupations of Americans a decade after the Supreme Court ruled against the racial segregation of the public school system. The domestic political context highlighted the resonances between the research in the seemingly remote hinterlands of Liberia and America’s highly developed educational system.

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