Four psychologists working at the forefront of multicultural research and practice shared their personal and professional insights on the science-practice gap at the 2011 National Multicultural Conference and Summit. The session, moderated by Roger Worthington, PhD, a summit coordinator and assistant deputy chancellor for diversity at the University of Missouri, featured Laura Brown, PhD, Fred Leong, PhD, Doug McDonald, PhD, and Jennifer Manly, PhD.

Among the issues the panel addressed were the extent to which science actually guides multicultural practice and the number of practitioners who implement evidence-based practices.

The panel refuted the notion that multicultural practice rejects science, but acknowledged that multicultural practitioners have to more fully appreciate and embrace the research and that scientists need to improve how they identify and measure cultural values and phenomena.

Science and practice are their own cultures, said Leong, each with its own norms and rewards. “We are talking across cultures and we are ethnocentric,” he said. “You are rewarded for the narrow views of rigor within the science community and you have to deal with the reality of people’s lives in practice.”

Both groups need to learn each other’s language, the panel agreed.

“I need to learn to better communicate with clinicians,” said Manly. “Clinicians also need to learn how to better dialogue with me as a researcher.”

The panel acknowledged but lamented the “us versus them” mentality that has found its way into the psychology training model and fuels the science-practice divide.

Students are being socialized into the culture of science or the culture of practice and are taught to view the other culture as deficient in some way, Leong said. “The training biases need to be changed,” he said.

—R. Farberman