Behavioral scientists routinely publish broad claims about human psychology and behavior in the world's top journals based on samples drawn entirely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies. Researchers assume that either there is little variation across human populations, or that these are as representative of the species as any other population. Are these assumptions justified? Here, our review of the comparative database from across the behavioral sciences suggests both that there is substantial variability in experimental results across (...) populations and that WEIRD subjects are particularly unusual compared with the rest of the species hence, there are no obvious a priori grounds for claiming that a particular behavioral phenomenon is universal based on sampling from a single subpopulation. Overall, these empirical patterns suggests that we need to be less cavalier in addressing questions of human nature on the basis of data drawn from this particularly thin, and rather unusual, slice of humanity. We close by proposing ways to structurally re-organize the behavioral sciences to best tackle these challenges. (shrink)
In our response to the 28 (largely positive) commentaries from an esteemed collection of researchers, we (1) consolidate additional evidence, extensions, and amplifications offered by our commentators; (2) emphasize the value of integrating experimental and ethnographic methods, and show how researchers using behavioral games have done precisely this; (3) present our concerns with arguments from several commentators that separate variable from or ; (4) address concerns that the patterns we highlight marking WEIRD people as psychological outliers arise from aspects of (...) the researchers and the research process; (5) respond to the claim that as members of the same species, humans must have the same invariant psychological processes; (6) address criticisms of our telescoping contrasts; and (7) return to the question of explaining why WEIRD people are psychologically unusual. We believe a broad-based behavioral science of human nature needs to integrate a variety of methods and apply them to diverse populations, well beyond the WEIRD samples it has largely relied upon. (shrink)
Abstract“Psychological essentialism” refers to our tendency to view the natural world as emerging from the result of deep, hidden, and internal forces called “essences.” People tend to believe that genes underlie a person’s identity. People encounter information about genetics on a regular basis, as through media such as a New York Times piece “Infidelity Lurks in Your Genes” or a 23andMe commercial showing people acquiring new ethnic identities as the result of their genotyping. How do people make sense of new (...) scientific findings that are inherently complex if they don’t have years of specialized training and education at their disposal? Given the substantial overlap between a lay understanding of genetics and lay intuitions about essences, we argue that, when most people are thinking about genes, they are not really thinking about genes in the complex ways that good scientists are. Combating people’s essentialist biases can be a formidable challenge. Although we have identified some promising results of trying to reduce people’s genetic essentialist tendencies, there is still much to learn about how these essentialist biases can be countered. It is important to help people understand genetic information so they are able make well‐informed decisions about their lives. (shrink)
Recent research observed a sensitive window, at about 14 years of age, in the acculturation rates of Chinese immigrants to Canada. Tapping an online sample ofusimmigrants, we tested these relationships in a broader population and explored connections with new potentially causally related variables: formal education, language ability and contact with heritage-culture and mainstream United States individuals, both now and at immigration. While we found that acculturation decreased with age at immigration and increased with years in theus, we did not observe (...) a similar sensitive window. We also present an exploratory path analysis, exposing the relationships in our sample between acculturation and the variables above. The novel relationships documented here can improve theorising about this rich and complex empirical phenomenon. (shrink)
Cultural variability in self-enhancement is far more pronounced than the authors suggest; the sum of the evidence does not show that East Asians self-enhance in different domains from Westerners. Incorporating this cultural variation suggests a different way of understanding the adaptiveness of self-enhancement: It is adaptive in contexts where positive self-feelings and confidence are valued over relationship harmony, but is maladaptive in contexts where relationship harmony is prioritized.
Uchiyama et al. question heritability estimates in a convincing manner. We offer additional arguments to further bolster their claims, highlighting methodological issues in heritability coefficients' derivation, their misuse in various contexts, and their potential contributions to exacerbating common erroneous intuitions that have been shown to lead to deleterious social phenomena. We conclude that science should move away from using them.
The meaning-maintenance model posits that any violation of expectations leads to an affective experience that motivates compensatory affirmation. We explore whether the neural mechanism that responds to meaning threats can be inhibited by acetaminophen, in the same way that acetaminophen inhibits physical pain or the distress caused by social rejection. In two studies, participants received either acetaminophen or a placebo and were provided with either an unsettling experience or a control experience. In Study 1, participants wrote about either their death (...) or a control topic. In Study 2, participants watched either a surrealist film clip or a control film clip. In both studies, participants in the meaning-threat condition who had taken a placebo showed typical compensatory affirmations by becoming more punitive toward lawbreakers, whereas those who had taken acetaminophen, and those in the control conditions, did not. (shrink)