Theover-sampling of Western, educated and from industrialized, rich, anddemocratic countries (WEIRD) isskewing our understanding of human behavior. Most research findings are builtupon research that examines a severely limited sample of human variation. WEIRD subjects represent only about 12percent of the earth’s population.
This has become problematic because WEIRD contributors greatly contrast fromthe other populations and this is because a lot of our behaviors and observationsare based on the environments and contexts in which we grew up. When recruitingfor studies, researchers often make the sample as homogeneous as possible, inan effort to detect small differences. Although, many of these studies can begeneralized to the many of the population it’s not representative of humanityas a whole.
This essay will critically examine the context of WEIRD from Henrich et al perspective andprovide a critical analysis on infant development based on the film Babies,following I will discuss my own development and how it has shaped the person Iam now. Behavioralscientists consistently publish assertions about human psychology and behaviorin the world’s top journals centered on samples drawn solely from WEIRD societies. This is one of the centralarguments that Henrich and colleagues propose. Henrich et al assess whether theassumptions of researchers that there is “little variation across humanpopulations” is justified.
They examine several areas like reasoning and self-concepts.The findings suggest that participants of WEIRD societies, including youngchildren, are among the least archetypal populations one could find forgeneralizing about humans (Henrich et al 2010). Henrich et al exemplifysubstantial evidence that WEIRD societiesare the atypical ones.: The most generalendorsed statement concerning the self is that people are motivated to viewthemselves positively. Meta-analyses reveal that self-serving biases tend to bemore prominent in Western populations than in the non-Western population. Forexample, Mexicans, Native Americans, Chileans, and Fijians score much lower onvarious measures of positive self-reviews than do Westerners (Henrich et al2010).
Furthermore, the analytic approachis culturally more valued in Western contexts. In East Asia, a holistic approachis more valued. As a result, cognitive strategies differ across their respectivepopulations and among industrialized societies, show a high degree ofanalytical as opposed to holistic reasoning. Additionally, Henrich et al, reviewed a study by Church et al (2006). Thefindings suggest that people from Western populations (i.e.
, American andEuro-Australian) strongly endorsed the idea that personality remains constantover time and predicts behavior over many situations. On the other hand, peoplefrom non-Western populations (i.e.
, Asian-Australian, Chinese-Malaysian,Filipino, Japanese, Mexican, and Malay) more strongly endorses contextual believesabout personality, such as ideas suggesting that a personality does notdescribe a person as well as roles or duties do, and that trait-relatedbehavior fluctuates from situation to situation (Henrich et al 2010). In industrialized societies, children aretaught to associate perceptual features to similarity. For example, WEIRDchildren when asked “What’s that?” (directing at a maple tree), their usualanswer is “tree.” On the other, in cultures where people interact with thenatural world, such as Itza Maya villagers, their perceptions are not based onsimilarity but on knowledge of cultural ideas. As a result, the studies assessedin “The Weirdest People in the World?” demonstrate that the findings from WEIRDsamples are not universal patterns. This is problematic because WEIRD samplesare a very unreliable subset and it fails to recognize observed differences inhumans. Thefilm Babies is a documentary thatfollows four newborns from diverse regions of the world.
Each baby comes from adistinctive culture, which exhibits how the diverse customs of each culture caninfluence a child’s development. The babies are Hattie and Mari, both were fromindustrialized cities and were raised in a very Westernized manner, whereasPonijao and Bayar grew up in a rural environment. Infant-Caregiver Interactions: Caregiverand infant are mutually active contributors in the interaction and respondingof each other. In most Western societies, the infant-parent relationship is thoughtas the major social bond, enhanced by a small number of familial relationships,but this view is not universal ( Gross 2008). In some societies, infants areraised by large groups or villages. Bayar has very little interaction with hisparents; he is often by himself or with his older sibling. On the other hand,Hattie’s parents are regularly involved in her day-to-day life, respondingimmediately to her needs. Ponijao had a lot of interactions with people in her community,in fact it was hard to tell who was the baby’s mother.
As discussed in lecture,Infant-caregiver interactions is fundamental to the child’s later social andemotional outcome. Infant-caregiver interactions are essential for cognitiveand language development, for example, in the film, the babies that had themost infant-caregiver interaction, like Hattie and Marie, showed to startbabbling first because they regularly had their mothers talking and singing tothem.Resources: In this film, we can observethe role of accessible resources in their development. Hattie and Mari had severaltoys and objects to interact with, while Ponijao and Bajar played with rocks,sticks, and animals. Young children’s play is influenced by resources andopportunities that are accessible (Ross 2008). Bajar and Ponijao don’t havetoys, books, or special classes like Hattie and Marie but they were given thefreedom to explore and play with what was available to them. This parentingstyle is significant because it fosters creativity and personal growth. Hattieand Mari’s parent seemed to use toys or special classes as the center to gainingknowledge which limits their growth and creativity.
Even though its relativetrue, the best “toy” that all kids need in order to learn and grow is in their environment.Access to Experiences: Earlyexperiences postulate the base for the brain’s structural development andfunctioning throughout life (Ross 2008). The four children in the babies havedifferent access to experiences and different ways that their parents exposethem to partake in their environment.
For example, Bayar was often tightly wrappedin a cloth which limited his movements. Ponijao was never draped but he was constantlyin his mother’s lap or arms. In lecture, we discussed the different types ofplay. At ages from birth to 4 month children engage in exploratory play whichconsists of repetitive motor movements. This type of play is composed of thechild kicking their legs, reaching for and sucking their toes, practicingmoving and rolling over (Ross 2008). Swaddling or having a child constantly in lapor arms can have a potential impact on an infant’s development. This parenting practicedoes not allow the child to focus on their own body which can potentiallyaffect their evolving motor and cognitive skills.
Social & Environmental Interactions: Socializationpractices vary widely across cultures. Hattie and Marie have a disadvantage inregard to social interaction. Their parents have them involved in play dates orspecial classes in order for them to interact with other peers. However, Bayarhas an older brother and Ponijao lives in a large community where there areseveral playmates. Although, there is a parallel in interactions with otherchildren and playing with toys, there is a limitation in the freedom todiscover things and express their independence between the children that livein an urban environment.
Hattie spent most of her day in indoor spaces. On theother hand, Ponijao spends most of his day outside, joyfully wallowing in mud andplaying with sticks and rocks. As discussed in lecture, experiences with peersand the environment allows the children to develop a relationship with the world.This parenting practice has an influence on how children develop social andemotional abilities as well as learning skills. My parents always gave me the opportunityto explore the environment. Before I moved to California, I lived in a ruralenvironment. My play time consisted of dirt and water puddles. They never set alimitation to what I could explore in my surroundings.
Engaging and exploringthe environment allowed me to understand and makes sense of the world aroundme. My younger cousins grew with very overprotective parents who didn’t allowthem to play with anything that would get them dirty. They spent most of theirtime playing inside with their electronics so the rare times they would playwith dirt or with puddles they would get sick. The parenting practices myparents employed throughout my childhood influenced my intellectual, social,physical, and emotional development. Thefamily-environment feature in my early development shaped an ambiance where Iwas able to foster a unique identity and have my own individual thoughts. Relying heavily on WEIRD populationsis causing over interpretations which is putting at risk results in a globalcontext.
It’s crucial we involve a diverse human society to diversity theapproach to understanding human psychology and behavior which will allow us toevaluate the psychological and behavioral variation. It is necessary to expandour study of infant development beyond WEIRD samples. By diversifying populationsin studies, it will bring results into a whole new light. Ending the WEIRD-centricapproach in infant development will help build an improved set of encompassingtheories about the development of the human mind and human behavior. Understanding infant development through aninternational lens gives us the opportunity to gain more knowledge to applydifferent parenting practices that can be beneficial for the child. Also, itwill help us understand how different experiences affect each individualdifferently rather than generalizing behavior.
Furthermore, it can help usunderstand that each culture is characterized by diversity which ultimatelyshapes how we think and behave.