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I found this quote in a psychology paper entitled If We Are So Rich, Why Aren't We Happy? by M. Csikszentmihalyi:

“Thus, the results of culturally and methodologically circumscribed studies need to be taken with more than the usual grain of salt.”

focusing more on the part:

studies need to be taken with more than the usual grain of salt

What does this idiom or phrase means?

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The writer is altering the well-known idiom take something with a grain of salt to get a new meaning. (I believe this is an example of metalepsis). Here’s a relevant entry for take something with a grain of salt:

take (something) with a grain of salt
To consider or evaluate something, such as a statement, with the understanding that it may not be completely true or accurate, typically due to the unreliability of the source.

I heard that you can get a free movie ticket if you wear red, but Kevin told me that, so I'm going to take it with a grain of salt.

Take whatever that paper publishes with a grain of salt—it's really a tabloid.
(TFD)

In this case, by analogy, if a grain of salt represents a certain level of skepticism, then more than the usual grain of salt suggests that we should be more skeptical than usual.

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    So to paraphrase the quote “thus, the results of culturally and methodologically circumscribed studies need to be taken with more than the usual amount of scepticism'”. – charmer Oct 18 at 15:04
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    I've occasionally heard this even further extended to "take it with a whole pile of salt", meaning that the source is extremely unreliable, and the claim may be little better than a blatant lie. – Darrel Hoffman Oct 18 at 16:20
  • @DarrelHoffman Exactly, and there's a lot more variations out there about varying amounts of salt. – Mast Oct 20 at 13:44
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The phrase take it with a grain of salt is an English idiom meaning, "Be skeptical about it." The "it" is usually a statement heard from someone else, like a factual claim or advice. It can also mean that while the statement is mostly true, it might include some error or it might not be true when applied in every circumstance; you will need to take care and use common sense when applying it.

Historically, the expression with a grain of salt comes from reports by the ancient Romans, such as Pliny the Elder in the Naturalis Historia, that adding a grain of salt to a certain recipe or to poisons could make you immune to poisons; see here for a little more information. Most English speakers today don't hear any reference to poisons when they hear the idiom, but the grain of salt vaguely suggests protection from something mildly dangerous in the thing that you are taking it with.


Quoting a little more of the context of your example helps show its meaning there:

Direct evidence about the ambiguous relationship of material and subjective well-being comes from studies of happiness that psychologists and other social scientists have finally started to pursue, after a long delay in which research on happiness was considered too soft for scientists to undertake. It is true that these surveys are based on self-reports and on verbal scales that might have different meanings depending on the culture and the language in which they are written. Thus, the results of culturally and methodologically circumscribed studies need to be taken with more than the usual grain of salt.

Here, the meaning of this variant of take it with a grain of salt is: "You should ordinarily be skeptical of results of psychological and sociological studies. But these studies merit even more than the usual skepticism, because they are based on self-reports and verbal scales that are open to a lot of ambiguity and misinterpretation."

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To take something with a grain of salt is an idiom meaning to hear or accept something while not completely believing it.

If you take something with a grain of salt, you do not believe that it is completely accurate or true.

To take something with a grain of salt

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The other answers are good and describe the overall idea, but I wanted to focus on the fragment's meaning within the entire sentence. When you restrict a studies' participants to only people within (circumscribed by) a certain culture, one should be extremely cautious against extrapolating the findings of that study to other groups. While the sentence specifically mentions culture, it applies whenever you try to use a non-representative group to say something about a larger population.

This can be a major issue with some university studies (particularly in psychology and sociology), because you will see studies that use university students as the study participants and then try to use the results to say something about the population at large. A well-known example of this is the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, which was comprised of participants who were almost entirely young white male students. You will also hear about similar issues in medical studies, where they don't have enough participants in all gender/ethnic groups to form a statistically representative sample. In these sorts of cases you should 'take with a grain of salt' when the researchers attempt to extrapolate the results to a larger population.

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