January 3, 2021, by khyx2lyn

Why is Psychology so WEIRD?

Article by Haqeem Moreton, Year 1 student for the 2020/2021 academic year

I recently wrote a lab report on gender norms in educational achievement. Of course, by gender norms, I mean those norms relating to males and females. I felt compelled to specify as such, for it seemed an injustice to those peoples who identify as a third, that is, other, gender. Judith Butler (2006) states that it takes conscious effort to ‘unlearn’ things that seem rooted in common sense. Which is kind of pain, but a necessary and potentially cathartic one, like exercise. Relying on Western models of thought like the gender binary is basically sitting (unpopularly decried as the new smoking.)

I suspect that the real reason for our continuous use of Western models is due to the insistence of a small percentage of the world’s total population. Much has been taken from us, and yet we fail to recognize and address the injustice of still adhering to the terms of the takers. But in this instance, you may guess, I am concerned with the psychological field. Psychology is overwhelmingly WEIRD: Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic.

This is obviously problematic. How are we to conduct research that is useful to all of humanity when our predecessors have insisted on studying people from only a few countries? They seem arrogant in retrospect, thinking that studies of the WEIRD people of the Occident were applicable to the entire world. Simple logic, I think, will persuade you to the contrary.

You have to wonder how exactly a mistake of this caliber occurred. I only have to point at our SONA system as an example. Bright young minds — aperture may vary — enter into studies with the objective of gaining credits so they can further their education, in the grand tradition started by Wilhelm Wundt in his Leipzig Laboratory. Therein lies the problem: many studies use data from people who are educated enough to be at university and can pay for it. Obviously, this makes the lives of researchers easier, and the findings are usually generalizable within the university’s country. But what happens when unique populations declare themselves hegemon and therefore the standard by which others are evaluated?

Of course, I’m sure that the issue would have been resolved sooner or later had the Occident not already endeavored to impress their culture and language upon the corners of the globe. Now, obviously, we have to do better, but considering that we’re already talking about it, and the fact that we are all (most of us, anyway) situated in non-Western countries, I should think the issue is well on its way to being resolved (or at the very least, quarantined) one hundred and forty one years later.

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