Improving Interpretability of Subjective Assessments About Psychological Phenomena: A Review and Cross-Cultural Meta-Analysis

Andres De Los Reyes, Matthew D. Lerner, Lauren M. Keeley, Rebecca J. Weber, Deborah A.G. Drabick, Jill Rabinowitz, Kimberly L. Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Attempts to understand subjectivity have historically involved distinguishing the strengths of subjective methods (e.g., survey ratings from informants) from those of alternative methods (e.g., observational/performance-based tasks). Yet a movement is underway in Psychology that considers the merits of intersubjectivity: Understanding the space between two or more informant’s subjective impressions of a common person or phenomenon. In mental health research, understanding differences between subjective impressions have less to do with informants’ characteristics and more to do with the social environments or contexts germane to the people or phenomena examined. Our article focuses on one relatively understudied social environment: the cultural context. We draw from seminal work on psychological universals, as well as emerging work on cultural norms (i.e., cultural tightness) to understand intersubjectivity effects through a cross-cultural lens. We report a meta-analysis of 314 studies of intersubjectivity effects in mental health, revealing that (a) this work involves independent research teams in more than 30 countries, (b) informants rating a target person’s mental health (e.g., parent and teacher ratings of a child’s behavior) commonly provide diverging estimates of that person’s mental health, and (c) greater convergence between subjective reports relates to a “tighter” or more norms-bound culture. Our article illustrates strategies for understanding divergence between subjective reports. In particular, we highlight theoretical and methodological frameworks for examining patterns of divergence between subjective reports in relation to data from nonsubjective methods. We also describe how research on intersubjectivity informs efforts to improve the interpretability of subjective assessments in multiple subdisciplines in Psychology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-319
Number of pages27
JournalReview of General Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • Operations Triad Model
  • converging operations
  • informant discrepancies
  • intersubjectivity
  • multiple informants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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