Joe Henrich and his colleagues are shaking the foundations of psychology and economics—and hoping to change the way social scientists think about human behavior and culture.
The research this article discusses has significant implications or rather, should have. The article explains why people from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic countries are the most unusual in the world and why researchers have been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.
Humans share the same cognitive machinery, the same evolved rational and psychological hardwiring. These are fundamental assumptions upon which the entire fields of psychology and economics are based.
It has taken until very recently to realise these assumptions are wrong.
Consider this, a 2008 survey of the top six psychology journals found that more than 96% of subjects used in psychological studies from 2003 to 2007 were exclusively Westerners – 70% from the USA. This means that 96% of human test subjects came from countries that represent only 12% of the world’s population. I’m sure you’re able to figure out that making generalisations on human behaviour based on this is problematic.