I know some folks think I’m weird. I’ll confess to being eccentric, but I’m not WEIRD. Most of you probably are (WEIRD, not eccentric).
WEIRD is an acronym I came across in an article about psychology experiments and the conclusions drawn from them. Seems many of those conclusions are suspect because the participants were typically members of a WEIRD society: White, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic.
Since I was born and raised in the Philippines, I’m definitely not WEIRD. Most of you are probably WEIRD. And U.S. college undergraduate students are definitely WEIRD (and often weird too). That latter group supposedly accounts for some 65% of the participants in all U.S. psychology studies.
Some other psychology researchers wisely decided to investigate the results of psychology studies conducted with folks who were not WEIRD. Their findings: those college students are not representative of responses from folks in non-WEIRD societies. Duuuuuh!
Consequently, many behaviors and beliefs presumed to be “universal” are now recognized as perhaps attributable only to WEIRD societies. For example, most American undergrads will say that a line segment with an outward pointing arrow is longer than an identical segment with an inward pointing arrow. Why? Because their environment has many right angles. That “optical illusion” is not reported by hunter-gather tribe of Africans, who identify both lines as equal in length.
Then, there’s the classic “share the wealth” scenario. One person has a sum of money which must be divided with another person. If the other person rejects the split, neither receives anything. American undergrads given $10 usually offer $4 or $5 and the recipient will typically reject anything less than $3. But when this scenario is conducted in small, non-industrial societies, an offer of $2.50 is typical and just as typically accepted. So much for a “universal” concept of “fairness.”
Other studies with non-WEIRD societies indicate that it is not “universal” to be financially risk-averse, or to be motivated to work harder at a task you have had some choice. When a trusted person makes a choice for them, Asians are very motivated. Even a fondess for sugar is not “universal.”
Psychology…..in the U.S., it is definitely “WEIRD” science. But I’m not WEIRD, so make no presumptions about me!