FanPost

Hamsterdam Knows That Psychology Is WEIRD

You know all those psychology experiments you've always heard about? Those simple games that are meant to demonstrate the human appetite for, say, following the herd, screwing your fellow man for a bigger slice of a cash prize, or willingness to lie? Well, if you've always thought they were a little dumb and wrong in real-life application, you're not out of the realm of critical psychological thought. Many trained psychologists think the games are not only dumb but also not demonstrative of real-life decisions that are usually far more complicated.

But the most damning part of these tests that is not discussed often enough is that they are so WEIRD. What do I mean by that? A meta-study of human subject testing articles from the best journals in 2008 showed the following biases: 96% were from Western industrialized countries (North America, Europe, Australia, Israel). A full 68% were from the U.S. alone. 70-80% of all subjects were college undergraduates in those countries, so not even close to representative of their own society at large. So psychological testing has taken on the acronym WEIRD as a criticism: All subjects tend to be Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and from Democratic societies. No other social learning or cultures need apply to the game of psychology, apparently.

How does any of this apply to you? Well, a lot of the "knowledge" gained is put to use in sales/marketing/advertisements or in basic HR/hiring/discipline practices at your job. So it probably does matter a little if they have it wrong. But really, I just like having the WEIRD acronym and stats in my back pocket for the next time I hear some blowhard tell me that "tests show that people will do 'x' horrible thing for 'y' minor gain" as part of their annoying "cocktail hour" discussions. Fuck that guy*.

*Yes, I ran into that guy at a business luncheon today, hence the rant.



Unless otherwise expressly indicated by BHGP editors, this FanPost is strictly the viewpoint of the author and is not endorsed by BHGP in any way.

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