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Three psychologists at the University of British Columbia published a report in 2010. paper With an interesting title: These are the WEIRDEST people on earth Paradoxically, the paper was not about Americans. The three scientists Their research career was devoted to the cross-cultural variability in human psychology and To study small-scale tribal societies, they traveled across seven oceans. In the paper, they voiced a growing concern about how heavily the humanities — psychology, economics, sociology, political science and others — were relying on samples of Americans. Panel studies and lab experiments can all be done by and Large, extensive data collection People Data collection was meant from American people.

The wealthy and the poor and The barely surviving

To say you have learned something in science People This means that you have randomized people from around the world and not just from one place. Numerous evidence supports the idea that people think differently. and behave across the world’s cultures — from strategies in financial games to basic cognition, e.g., spatial orientation or susceptibility to visual illusions.

If you’re only able to sample from one country, it is best to go with the other. not sample from the U.S.The U.S. is always at the tail of every distribution. Americans, along with a few developed countries mainly in Western Europe are very different from the rest. One could even say that Americans are unique from the rest of the world. It’s weird. Beautifully weird in many respects: forward-looking, cooperative, secure — but not at all representative of the world’s population. 

Look at the world’s wealth distribution, and you’ll easily see why Westerners are so different. They live longer and are more stable. and They breathe clean air because they have homes and Cars, they have jobs, bank account and insurance. However, this isn’t the case for the majority of other planet inhabitants, who live at a significantly lower standard of life, and are often very close to the poverty line. 700 million people — around 10% of the global population — are living in extreme poverty, on less than $2 a day, with a looming risk of dying from famine or diseases. 


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What is WEIRD?

The term WEIRD doesn’t just mean “odd.” In social Sciences, it also stands as for Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic — an original acronym the paper’s authors introduced to describe the world’s “golden billion.” This refers to people from highly developed countries. and Wealthy post-industrial societies are unaware of everyday occurrences that still occur in many other areas of the world today, such as husbands beating their wives routinely, children dying in infanthood, and people practicing open defecation.

If you’re reading this piece, chances are you’re WEIRD, too, and Your coworkers and family are the same. and Possibly everyone you know. When you hear the word, “diversity,” you probably think about it in the modern American sense – five ethnicitiesThe definition of poverty is a household’s annual income below $20,000. It is a fact that the world has 650 ethnicities, and There are some countries where the median Annual The median daily wage is $200 for a household earning $200 per week. for American workers. Yes, this includes African Americans, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. and Research by Latinx Americans is vital for scientific diversity and studying populations The United States has a number of low-income regions. But it’s not enough. By the world’s standards, that will still be the diversity of the wealthy: Even if in America these people aren’t considered rich, they’re much richer than 95% of the world’s population.

This brings us to a simple conclusion: Science must be made truly. and All over the world diverseWe must do more WEIRD samples.

The risk and Fall of MTurk

In fact, things were worse just a little more than a decade back: “golden billion,” The majority of data that researchers received was from a small subset of Westerners. undergraduates. Many of the greatest discoveries are about the “nature of people” These samples were taken from U.S. students. Cognitive dissonance? Students. The prisoner’s dilemma? Students. Marshmallow test? OK, that was Stanford faculty’s kids; not much better in terms of sample diversity. 

To be fair it hasn’t really been the fault Many researchers have very limited resources to recruit participants. Most scholars don’t have large research budgets. While some do get grants, it can take many years and most research ideas are never funded. Academic timing is tight, with one shot to get tenured, so most researchers can’t really afford to think outside the box about how to obtain their research subjects. They require simple solutions. and undergrads are one such solution: They’re around, and you don’t have to pay them since they do it for credits. This is the reason young scholars typically start their research journey by testing their hypotheses on students — and Many people continue to do this for their entire careers.

This has changed since the 2000s. Amazon was the catalyst for this change, which came about quite accidentally. Researchers at academic institutions noticed Mechanical Turk (MTurk), a platform that was originally designed to label data. machine learning Use algorithms crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing basically means that you receive labeled data from many online contributors and aggregating their results — as opposed to a smaller group of narrowly trained in-house specialists. MTurk also had thousands of Americans registered and waiting to be paid for new jobs. 

Some researchers were open-minded enough to run an academic survey on MTurk. It worked. It worked. The data was available in less than a day. Often, it takes a semester to complete a single study. MTurk was affordable and It was quick. What else could you wish for if you’re a tenure-track professor eager to get published?

Word got out. and Within a decade, MTurk was the preferred tool for academic researchers looking to collect data. Social sciences also changed: They no longer focused on students, but housewives and retired people. and blue-collar workers— new population samples that are far more representative than your typical college kids. It has all its problems and downsides — from underpaying participants To not controlling data quality properly — MTurk deserves a tribute: It revolutionized social Sciences that empower scientists Easy collection of data from samples that are not students and affordably.

Today, MTurk gradually gives way to customized solutions social Sciences such as CloudResearch and Prolific. and Toloka. All of them got a shot, because Amazon changed the entire idea of academic data collection.

Beyond WEIRD

The last ten years have been a good decade. social scientists We went beyond student samples and They were able to do it at scale, which is the most important thing. The problem is that these samples are not yet available. WEIRD; that is, they’re limited to Americans or Western Europeans at best. Researchers who are interested in going beyond WEIRD The same problem has been faced by many others: there is no easy or economical solution.

Let’s say you want to test your hypothesis with people from Botswana or Malaysia. and Poland. Either you must find a collaborator (a challenge). and You can either turn to panel agencies (a feasible option only for those with lots of money), or apply for grants directly. One study could easily cost $15,000! For this to be possible, researchers would need to apply for large grants in their field. If such grants are available, they will wait several months before hearing back. and It is likely that they won’t get it anyway. In short, there’s just no way your average scholar could afford international panels for routine hypothesis testing.

Fortunately, the state of affairs has undergone major changes. and Researchers now have access non-students to be their research subjects. Crucially, crowdsourcing platforms today aren’t as homogeneous as MTurk was when it first launched. Getting participants from South America, Africa or Asia — even from largely rural areas — is quite doable now, provided these people have internet access, which today is becoming less and It’s less important.

Applicable crowdsourcing In social sciences

Dr. Philipp Chapkovsky, a behavioral economist at WZB Berlin Social Science Center, studies how external information shapes group polarization, trust and altruism. Nature is one of his passions and Corrupt practices can have serious consequences.

“Corruption indices of countries and regions are a valuable tool for policymakers, but they may result in statistical discrimination — people from a more ‘corrupt’ region may be perceived as less trustworthy or more inclined to dishonest behaviors,” Dr. Chapkovsky explains.

In one experiment, Dr. Chapkovsky and His team looked into how information regarding corruption levels could harm intergroup relations. The scientists Problem: Access to all the leading data collection platforms was restricted to American citizens. and Western European participants — that is, to people who likely never experienced corruption in their everyday lives.

“We needed access to participants from developing countries who know what corruption is — not from Netflix shows featuring imaginary politicians but from real-life experience. When you study corruption, it makes sense to research people from Venezuela, Nigeria, Iran, or Bangladesh. You can’t study day-to-day corruption on American or British participants, it’s just not there. Moreover, to test our particular hypothesis, we needed specific countries with large interregional variation of corruption levels, so we could keep the country factor fixed.”

Dr. Chapkovsky accidentally came across an a social sciences offering Toloka, one of the more recent options, is an option. Focusing on data-centric AI Through its 120 contributors, the platform enabled researcher to find exactly what he needed: voices from cultures other that the U.S. and The UK.

 “We manipulated the information people had about three different geographical regions of their home country. Then we had them play two simple behavioral games: ‘Cheating game’ and ‘Trust game’. We found that, indeed, information about a certain region being ‘corrupt’ decreased trust towards anyone from that region and made people substantially overestimate the degree of dishonesty of their fellow players.”

Dr. Paul ConwayAssociate Professor at University of Southampton School of Psychology and Lecturers at the Centre for Research on Self and Identity, studies psychology of morality. “I am interested in factors that influence how people decide what is right or wrong, who is good and bad, and how to assign blame and punishment.”

Dr. Conway, like other moral psychology researchers, has discovered that certain factors that influence moral judgment are widely accepted or universally supported, while others may be cultural-dependent. 

“All known human cultures agree that it is wrong to intentionally harm an innocent target,” Dr. Conway explains. “Yet, people might disagree over who is innocent or whether harm was intentional. People view some factors as more important than others in upholding moral norms: for example, harming one innocent person to save several people is often acceptable.”

Dr. Conway had been testing hypotheses on participants in research from the United States. and Great Britain, until he realized that this did not portray a complete picture of moral perceptions. There were only a few cross-cultural studies that he did, but they were expensive and often large. and It is difficult to undertake, but it is possible to ask many questions about the psychology of moral decisions. “In science, you need large samples — until recently, you couldn’t easily get those outside Western countries. Even with the right grant to fund studies, it can still be a logistical challenge to access large diverse samples,” He admits it. “Researchers who wanted to access more cultural diversity were often forced to trade off quantity and quality of data.”

Dr. Conway was looking for a quick and easy way to do this. and It is possible to access respondents from other cultures, especially those in the most underdeveloped parts of the globe, easily and affordably. It was easier than he expected.

“Crowdsourcing has become a game changer for psychologists like myself. For over a decade, I’ve been using crowdsourcing platforms like MTurk and Prolific to tap into Western populations beyond college undergrads. Recently, I also started using crowdsourcing to obtain quick access to participants from secluded regions of the globe that are of interest to my research. This is helpful to test whether the findings in Western populations hold in other regions around the globe.” 

Crowdsourcing platforms can’t be considered representative of the scientific method. Participants must have internet access and It is not possible to find the time to complete tasks in your spare time, which can bias your decision making sample. They may not all be attentive enough to give you quality responses. Be that as it may, it’s still much more diverse The convenient student samples are not enough. social Sciences had to depend on them until recent times. These were originally designed to aid machine learning engineers. crowdsourcing Platforms are slowly changing the way we do business social Science brings real diversity to the table. scientists Learn more about the human condition.

Elena Brandt Toloka for Social Sciences Social Psychology PhD Candidate.


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