Psychometric tests are often translated from one language into another for use in cultural and cross-cultural psychological research. This tradition has long been a primary method for studying psychological concepts across cultures. A body of literature has been emerging that raises concerns with this process of translation and suggests that psychological concepts may not always translate smoothly across cultures. In what follows, I examine these issues surrounding the translation of psychometric tests. To do this, I gathered survey data for an English translation of the Nunchi Scale, to examine the process of translation and various analytic techniques devised to demonstrate the validity and reliability of scales. The Nunchi Scale was developed by Korean researchers to measure the Korean psychosocial competency of nunchi (Heo & Park, 2013) which involves heightened awareness of others. Using ethnographic data and focus group data gathered by my team of Korean researchers, this paper critiques the psychometric translation process. In this paper, I will show that when this psychometric scale was translated from Korean to English, the very concept that was supposed to be measured by the scale, namely nunchi, was lost. From this process of translation, I will argue that the current practices of cross-cultural equivalence testing are not sufficient. This research offers a few cultural research methodologies to help check and correct against the issues that appear in translating or using foreign psychological concepts in cultural research. It is hoped that this research will help shed light on the complexities and problems involved in translating psychological concepts from one cultural context to another. It is also hoped that by understanding these complexities and problems, we will be able to better understand the psychological concepts that are purportedly measured by these psychometric measures. In sum, this paper offers a critical voice cautioning the use of untranslatable psychological concepts.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Anthropology



Date Submitted


Document Type





nunchi, translation, psychometrics, cross-cultural, psychology