« New book: Looking Beyond the Individualism and Homo Economicus of Neoclassical Economics | Main | EEA 2011 Sessions: Alternative Perspectives of a Good Society »

February 18, 2011

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Behavioral and Brain Sciences had a symposium on the WEIRD science issue last year: http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayIssue?jid=BBS&volumeId=33&seriesId=0&issueId=2-3

The target article was titled "The weirdest people in the world?" by Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine and Ara Norenzayan - the abstract follows:

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 – often implicitly – assume that either there is little variation across human populations, or that these “standard subjects” 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 – frequent outliers. The domains reviewed include visual perception, fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, categorization and inferential induction, moral reasoning, reasoning styles, self-concepts and related motivations, and the heritability of IQ. The findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies, including young children, are among the least representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans. Many of these findings involve domains that are associated with fundamental aspects of psychology, motivation, and behavior – 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.

One of the replies was by prominent philosopher of mind Stephen Stich, who agrees with the thrust of the target article - very interesting stuff!

Excellent, many thanks!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)

OUR BOOKS
Accepting the Invisible Hand: Market-Based Approaches to Social-Economic Problems, Mark D. White (ed)

Beyond Social Capital: A Critical Approach, Irene van Stavern and Peter Knorringa (eds)

Economics and the Mind, Barbara Montero and Mark D. White (eds)

Ethics and Economics: New Perspectives, Mark D. White and Irene van Staveren (eds)

Ethics in Economics: An Introduction to Moral Frameworks, Jonathan B. Wight

The Feminist Economics of Trade, Irene van Staveren et al (eds)

Handbook of Economics and Ethics, Jan Peil and Irene van Staveren (eds)

The Illusion of Well-Being: Economic Policymaking Based on Respect and Responsiveness, Mark D. White

Kantian Ethics and Economics: Autonomy, Dignity, and Character, Mark D. White

Law and Social Economics: Essays in Ethical Values for Theory, Practice, and Policy, Mark D. White (ed.)

The Manipulation of Choice: Ethics and Libertarian Paternalism, Mark D. White

Retributivism: Essays on Theory and Policy, Mark D. White (ed.)

Saving Adam Smith: A Tale of Wealth, Transformation, and Virtue, Jonathan B. Wight

Street Porter and the Philosopher: Conversations on Analytical Egalitarianism, Sandra J. Peart and David M. Levy (eds)

Teaching the Ethical Foundations of Economics, Jonathan B. Wight and John S. Morton et al

Theoretical Foundations of Law and Economics, Mark D. White (ed.)

The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination, Chrisoula Andreou and Mark D. White (eds)

The Values of Economics: An Aristotelian Perspective, Irene van Staveren

The Vanity of the Philosopher: From Equality to Hierarchy in Postclassical Economics, Sandra J. Peart and David M. Levy