Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Psychological research conducted in 'WEIRD' nations may not apply to global populations

Date:
June 30, 2010
Source:
University of British Columbia
Summary:
A new study says that an overreliance on research subjects from the US and other Western nations can produce false claims about human psychology and behavior because their psychological tendencies are highly unusual compared to the global population.

A new University of British Columbia study says that an overreliance on research subjects from the U.S. and other Western nations can produce false claims about human psychology and behavior because their psychological tendencies are highly unusual compared to the global population.

According to the study, the majority of psychological research is conducted on subjects from Western nations, primarily university students. Between 2003 and 2007, 96 per cent of psychological samples came from countries with only 12 per cent of the world's populations. The U.S. alone provided nearly 70 per cent of these subjects.

However, the study finds significant psychological and behavioral differences between what the researchers call Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic (WEIRD) societies and their non-WEIRD counterparts across a spectrum of key areas, including visual perception, fairness, spatial and moral reasoning, memory and conformity.

The findings, published in Nature July 1 and Behavioral Sciences the week before, raise questions about the practice of drawing universal claims about human psychology and behavior based on research samples from WEIRD societies.

"The foundations of human psychology and behavior have been built almost exclusively on research conducted on subjects from WEIRD societies," says UBC Psychology and Economics Prof. Joe Henrich, who led the study with UBC co-authors Prof. Steven Heine and Prof. Ara Norenzayan. "While students from Western nations are a convenient, low-cost data pool, our findings suggest that they are also among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans."

The study, which reviews the comparative database of research from across the behavioural sciences, finds that subjects from WEIRD societies are more individualistic, analytic, concerned with fairness, existentially anxious and less conforming and attentive to context compared to those from non-WEIRD societies.

According to the study, significant psychological and behavioral differences also exist between population groups within WEIRD nations. For example, U.S. undergraduate students are typically more analytic and choosy and less conforming than U.S. adults without college educations.

"Researchers often implicitly assume that there is little variation across human populations or that these 'standard subjects' are as representative of the species as any other population," says Henrich. "Our study shows there is substantial variability in experimental results across populations. In fact, there is enough evidence that researchers cannot in good faith continue to make species-generalizing claims about Homo sapiens in the absence of comparative evidence."

The research team calls on universities, peer reviewers, funding agencies and journal editors to push researchers to explicitly support any generalizations to the species with evidence or potent inductive arguments. Additionally, they envision the creation of research partnerships with non-WEIRD institutions to further and expand and diversify the empirical base of the behavioral sciences.

An opinion piece by the authors, to appear in the journal Nature on July 1.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Edouard Machery. Explaining why experimental behavior varies across cultures: A missing step in "The weirdest people in the world?". Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2010; 33 (2-3): 101 DOI: 10.1017/S0140525X10000178

Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "Psychological research conducted in 'WEIRD' nations may not apply to global populations." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100630132850.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2010, June 30). Psychological research conducted in 'WEIRD' nations may not apply to global populations. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100630132850.htm
University of British Columbia. "Psychological research conducted in 'WEIRD' nations may not apply to global populations." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100630132850.htm (accessed August 29, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

Treadmill 'trips' May Reduce Falls for Elderly

AP (Aug. 28, 2014) Scientists are tripping the elderly on purpose in a Chicago lab in an effort to better prevent seniors from falling and injuring themselves in real life. (Aug.28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) It’s an unusual condition with a colorful name. Kids with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome see sudden distortions in objects they’re looking at or their own bodies appear to change size, a lot like the main character in the Lewis Carroll story. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Scientists have long called choline a “brain booster” essential for human development. Not only does it aid in memory and learning, researchers now believe choline could help prevent mental illness. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans. Now a new treatment using the patient’s own tumor could help slow down its progression and help patients live longer. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins