Abstract: 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? I will briefly review the comparative database from across the behavioral sciences and conclude 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. I will discuss the implications of a science based on a WEIRD database, and will suggest some strategies that our field can take to allow us to be more confident in our ability to generalize across samples.
Bio: Steven J. Heine is Professor of Social and Cultural psychology at the University of British Columbia. After receiving his PhD from the University of British Columbia in 1996, he had visiting positions at Kyoto University and Tokyo University, and was on the faculty at the University of Pennsylvania. His research targets questions regarding genetic essentialism, meaning maintenance, and identifying what is universal and what is culturally-variable in a variety of psychological processes – most particularly self-enhancing motivations. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientist Early Career Award for Social Psychology from the American Psychological Association and the Career Trajectory Award from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology. He has published more than 60 articles in such outlets as Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Psychological Review, and Science, and has written a textbook entitled Cultural Psychology.