WEIRD – it’s not what you think

Yesterday I learned a new acronym:


It means:

Western Educated Industrialized Rich Democratic


In my reading, it referred to psychology test subjects, the undergrad student variety. But the acronym intrigued me beyond that reference, so I did a little digging.

The way I understand it is that some of the research collected by psychologists suffered from a high bias, low reproducibility and widespread misuse of the stats collected in their studies.

Which isn’t surprising if the majority of the test subjects were undergrad students in western countries.

A guy by the name of Jeffrey J. Arnett pointed out in 2008 that most articles in American Psychological Association journals were about U.S. populations. Given that U.S. citizens are only 5% of the world’s population, this hardly provided an accurate view of the material in question.

He complained that psychologists had no basis for assuming psychological processes to be universal and generalizing research findings to the rest of the global population. (Wiki)

He wrote a paper called The Neglected 95% (pdf here) if you’re interesting in further reading.

It’s interesting to note that 60-90% of psychological studies performed on participants are from WEIRD regions despite only 1/8 of people worldwide represent that demographic.

Arnett saw the Western bias in research and theory as a serious problem considering psychologists are increasingly applying psychological principles developed in the WEIRD regions in their research, clinical work and consultation.

Doesn’t give a very accurate global perspective, does it. It brings up questions, for me, that touch on a variety of dubious topics. For instance, who participates willingly, giving time and information often without reward (pay), their personal information for psychological analysis?

The answer is University students. Especially WEIRD students.

What about this whole coronavirus thing? And the mass use of internet technology by both individuals and the global collective psychological research bodies?

What about the information collected without permission, illegally, from your data plans in the name of psychological analysis?

I do read psychological articles on occasion, but mostly printed by mainstream media, often of North American and/or Western origin. I don’t have problems with this in principle, but I do like to mix it up by casting a glance at other material, particularly from regions outside of the WEIRD areas.

But I don’t know how to process it all. People in general have a short attention span these days what with the internet continuously bombarding each and every one of us with information that is accurate and inaccurate, opinionated and unbiased, comprehensive or limited…the list goes on.

The WEIRD articles of psychological theory and principles scratches a surface, for me, but doesn’t necessarily provide in-depth resolution or deeper understanding unless I delve further into reading other sources.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting.

But here is the most intriguing tidbit of this little analytical study I have discovered today:

Not only do I live in a WEIRD region, I am WEIRD. 😳

Huh. πŸ˜‰

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