YANSS 055 – Psychology’s long obsession with the WEIRDest people in the world

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.

Steven J. HeineOur 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.

DownloadiTunesStitcherRSS – Soundcloud

This episode is brought to you by The Great Courses. Get 80 percent off Your Deceptive Mind taught by neurologist Steven Novella along with many other fantastic lecture series by visiting this link and ordering today!

This episode is sponsored byWealthfront, the automated investment
service that makes it easy to invest your money the right way. Visit this link to to get your first $10,000 managed for free.

Support the show directly by becoming a patron! Get episodes one-day-early and ad-free. Head over to the YANSS Patreon Page for more details.

After the interview, I discuss a news story about how just two questions can determine how well a commercial airline pilot will handle a dangerous situation.

In every episode, after I read a bit of self delusion news, I taste a cookie baked from a recipe sent in by a listener/reader. That listener/reader wins a signed copy of my new book, “You Are Now Less Dumb,” and I post the recipe on the YANSS Pinterest page. This episode’s winner is Terrence Rogers who submitted a recipe for Oatmeal Candy Bacon Cookies with Bourbon, Apple Cider, Maple Syrup Frosting and Sea Salt. Send your own recipes to david {at} youarenotsosmart.com.

Links and Sources

DownloadiTunesStitcherRSS – Soundcloud

Previous Episodes

Boing Boing Podcasts

Cookie Recipes

Steven J. Heine

Just two questions predict how well a pilot will handle an emergency

Individual reactions to stress predict performance during a critical aviation incident

The weirdest people in the world?

We agree it’s WEIRD, but is it WEIRD enough?

Cognitive modulation of olfactory processing

Photo: Wikimedia Commons