Psychology studies are almost always about WEIRD people: Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic – the kind of people who make up less than 15 percent of the world’s population.
Is psychology too WEIRD?
That’s what this episode’s guest, psychologist Steven J. Heine, suggested when he and his colleagues published a paper revealing that psychology wasn’t the study of the human mind, but the study of one kind of human mind, the sort of mind generated by the kinds of brains that happen to be conveniently located near the places where research is usually conducted.
When you hear about “subjects” in a psychology paper, those subjects are almost always North American college undergraduates or students from Australia or the UK, members of a cohort many scientists now label as the WEIRDest people in the world, short for Western, Education, Industrial, Rich, and Democratic – the kind of people who make up less than 15 percent of the world’s population.
Our guest, Steven J. Heine, was one of the authors of a paper that lead to psychology’s greatest epiphany in decades, many (if not all) of the human universals discovered in all of field’s most famous experiments are actually universals among only one demographic, not the entire human species. It was kind of like biologists suddenly learning they had based their entire science just on the animals living in a single cave in Montana.
In this episode, you’ll learn why it took so long to figure out it was studying outliers, and what it means for the future of psychology, neuroscience, and many other fields attempting that study human beings as a whole.