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Essay: ‘Weird’ – examples in data and research

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  • Subject area(s): Psychology essays
  • Reading time: 6 minutes
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  • Published: December 14, 2019*
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  • Words: 1,795 (approx)
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  • 'Weird' - examples in data and research
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Statistics are taken every day, but not many know how the data is taken or if it is even accurate enough to portray everyone’s lifestyle. In many ways it is difficult to discern whether or not data is conclusive to the entire world. In most cases, data is of a very small US population that many may or may not be familiar with known as WEIRD. This refers to data taken from “westernized, educated societies from industrialized, rich, and democratic nations,” (Henrich 2010). Do you think WEIRD applies to you? One cannot simply generalize the entire world into one subset category and this had been an ongoing discussion for many years now. The problem with allowing for psychological research to be generalized is that it assumes universals for people where in reality there is much more diversity to be understood. This paper focuses on the problems of WEIRD samples and how research articles must be more generalized for the people around the world and not individuals from one category. Developmental sciences must then focus on cultural differences and practices to acknowledge the unique upbringings of children around the world.

Literature Review

Joseph Henrich’s article, “The weirdest people in the world?”, explicitly covers how most psychological and developmental research is based on the WEIRD samples and whether or not it can be generalized to entire humanity is being discussed (Henrich, 2010). It is difficult to suggest that humanity can be generalized by such a small subset of research. Most of the United States is a modernized industrial society while other parts of the world are mainly made up of small-scale societies. WEIRD samples are all taken in the US, so if one were reading the research in a place like Namibia they would not be able to understand the generalities made of such a place. Comparing two differently functioning societies means that work ethics and overall development will look nothing like that of those in other parts of the world. Another example such as motor development, a field that is often overlooked, comes to show that WEIRD samples simple do not fit in with the other statistics (Downey, 2010). The way in which motor development was measured should be different depending on how much exposure to activities that each individual child receives. Henrich’s article states Westerners are the most individualistic people in the world, this is in part due to past experiences of gaining freedom and self-sufficiency (Henrich, 2010). A culture that does not rely on its family members or even prioritize family is very different from most cultures everywhere else. Small scale societies, motor development, and self-sufficiency all look different in each part of the world and thus should not be generalized across nations. In the article PSYCHOLOGY IS WEIRD by Brookshire it is stated that WEIRD samples only represent about twelve percent of the world’s population (Brookshire, 2013). That means it is actually very problematic to make such general comparisons from small and what seems like irrelevant data in proportion to the rest of the world.

Example #1

The movie, Babies, was significant to this paper in that it had a first-hand look into several different cultures beginning from a woman’s pregnancy up to the child’s first steps and words. The children with the biggest cultural differences to each other were that of a child, Hattie, raised in Northern California and another, Panijoa, raised in Namibia, located in South Africa. One example is that of pregnancy, it is seen that the mother in California is preparing herself with prenatal care and checkups, while the mother in Namibia is following along with her daily activities not once getting checked on. Hattie, from California, is born in a hospital with a flurry of doctors and nurses in case anything goes wrong while Panijoa, from Namibia, is born on the floor of his mother’s hut. Birth, as it is seen, is the first of many practices that will vary among cultures. Mothers can give birth in the water, at home, or even with the help of midwives, as explained in lecture the options available vary according to the mother’s priority and the tools they need available for them. Giving birth in different settings is a cultural practice and also a parenting decision. As it is seen in the movie the setting in which a child is born does not affect a child’s social or cognitive development as compared to the way in which they are raised there on after. In the textbook and lectures examining the cultural differences in pregnancies has solely to do with how comfortable the mother is with her surroundings. If the mother does not feel it necessary to have help by her side, she will not seek it. This is very important because it is relevant to how mothers continue to raise their children in what they think is best for them, a type of parenting discussed in lecture which will also apply to when the baby is born. Proximal Parenting will likely result from Hattie’s parents because she will respond quickly to anything for her child while Panijoa’s mother may vary because she seems more unpredictable.

Example #2 (½ pg)

Interactions between parent and child vary across cultures and even in between cultures. In Babies, the child being raised in Mongolia got little to no interaction his first few months of life spending his waking moments in bed with little to no stimulation. This is the complete opposite from the child being raised in Tokyo who lived her waking moments with her parents playing with her and toys surrounding her. Interactions with children social play, and free play vary amongst them with the child and effect their development. As the children grew one sees that the Mongolian child grew to be very independent and quiet discovering the world on his own while the child from Tokyo was very social and playful inside with new and exciting toys. These relationships with interaction will help improve physical and cognitive outcomes of children.

Example #3

No one can say that they have chosen their personal upbringing or cultural heritage. One can later on choose their affiliations but as children we simply go along with what is given to us. Babies portrayed scenes where the children interacted with animals and other people. By the time the children were able to sit and crawl on their own most were given the freedom to do as they pleased. In Namibia, Panijoa was given the time to crawl around outside and be with his siblings while Hattie, from California, was making friendships with peers in daycare. The textbook and lectures discussed the importance of having interactions with others because it helps promote social and cognitive development. The variations of behaviors are influenced by the parents which in turn affect the child’s social competence (book). This is why WEIRD samples must not be generalized to all people, “individual functioning cannot be understood without knowledge of the environment,” (Bornstein). Research is applied and generalized to all, the environment was anticipated to be the same globally and this must not be done because it creates confusion to people outside the US trying to conform to the data.

Example #4

The most obvious cultural practices that is often forgotten because it seems so natural is the clothing worn day to day. In Namibia it was natural to only have a cloth covering genitalia and a woven necklace for male and females alike. As the children grow the only thing that changed was the jewelry. This is opposed to the child from California who, from birth, had clothing worn unless bathing. Although these seem to be big cultural differences it only assured the children of the environment they were growing up in. Allowing children to dress up however they want, in Hattie’s case, helps her develop her own sense of personality while in Namibia a personality was found in the way the children communicated with others. Letting a child make decisions of their own allows for more social and cognitive development as well as showing off a new personality trait.

Your Experiences:

Being raised in a traditional Mexican household as a female meant that when I was of age to help out in household I would begin my duties. Contributing to cooking, cleaning, and caring for my siblings meant that I could do things on my own from a younger age than most. I quickly found this out when I would attend school and my peers would not only be unable to care for others but even sometimes themselves. Growing up this way helped speed up my social and cognitive development in a way that I quickly understood what it meant to be responsible and be able to effectively communicate with others the things that I needed in order to care for siblings younger than me. This most definitely helped me become independent from a young age and be able to move out and provide for myself without depending on my parents by the time I started college. Learning about responsibilities when one is younger is critical in that it creates a different mindset for children and gives them a goal.

Conclusion

Overall one cannot categorize humanity into all the WEIRD samples and that is the difficulty of the studies and how generalized they have been made. Globalization of studies is necessary and must occur for a more accurate representation of the people to be portrayed. Many can agree that they do not fit into the WEIRD category and this is a call for action to be taken. As seen with the examples from the movie Babies, adopting a global perspective could broaden the studies and then prompts their results to be more relevant to a greater part of humanity. The benefit of a more holistic approach is better statistical analysis and although the Henrich article does not argue for one particular side and rather states the facts, it is evident that WEIRD samples do not justify the results of everyone’s studies. The irony is that while suggesting WEIRD samples can generalize across populations WEIRD subjects themselves are unlike the rest of the world. Looking at the data “the WEIRD are outliers in the whole history of our species,” and that is why action must be taken to generalize psychological and developmental studies (Downey, 2010). To broaden the research, gain an accurate representation, and have better data the international lens must be broadened and provide benefits to children and parents across the globe.

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