I read some parts of the Jared Diamond’s book, “The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies?” In his book, he points out the importance of research on the not-industrialized society which have significant diversity compered with our society. In many cases, we don’t regard the fact rightly, so over-generalized statements in social science and psychology prevail through media –regardless of possibilities that other people living in remote region, might have different mind-sets.
The bias of subjects on the psychological studies is sometimes called WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic). This reflects on how psychological researches are took in tiny fraction of place and group.
Typically these are took place in universities and to these students. It’s a disaster not only for academic, but also non-academic people. We are exposed perfect theories without any exceptions by media everyday.
I found the more detailed overview about WEIRD.
The column of The New York Times (Currents – A Weird Way of Thinking Has Prevailed Worldwide) provides us with the overview of the research paper in behavioral psychology, written by Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine and Ara Norenzayan. It shows that the features of the subjects in researches are shockingly identical for the most part.
According to the study, 68 percent of research subjects in a sample of hundreds of studies in leading psychology journals came from the United States, and 96 percent from Western industrialized nations. Of the American subjects, 67 percent were undergraduates studying psychology — making a randomly selected American undergraduate 4,000 times likelier to be a subject than a random non-Westerner.
I found another blog post that look at WEIRD phenomenon (How WEIRD subjects can be overcome … a comment on Henrich et al. | Michael Schulte-Mecklenbeck). It offers three suggestions to the pave ways to solve the problem.
1) replications in multiple labs, 2) internet based experimentation and 3) drawing representative samples from a population.
The whole suggestions are to gather more data. I agree with the direction. But I think the other needed field is communication to public.
I cannot recall any proper presentations about randomized population, and generalized theories about psychology on media. Even when best, it’s just a table containing with data, or chart with a disclaimer.
I think this is another facet data visualization can solve. I don’t have definitive image of it, but how to bring out partial knowledge as partial is need in big data era. And showing randomized data as it is, is also great challenge for me. I’ve put it in my task list.