Heinrich, Joe/Heine, Steven/Norenzayan, Ari: The weirdest people in the world (2010)

Reading as much as I do, creates a problem of abundance when it comes to writing a book-blog. Which book am I going to choose to write about. There are sooooo many that I have loved, that I love and that I will probably come to love. Authors and books are my favorite thing on this earth – next to my family and dog (OK and maybe friends). I’ll admit there are quite a few sucky authors, but there is an abundance of fun, excitement and learning out there.

Because I am such an addict I read quite a variety of literature. Scientific articles, jokes, curio and scholarly works. But my favorite is fantasy and science fiction. I have to admit that I consider most of the fiction out there as some kind of science fiction or fantasy as well.

Recently a friend of mine posted a link to an article called We Aren’t the World by Ethan Watters who writes for Pacific Standard. The article We Aren’t the World is about the research performed by the researchers Joe Heinrich, Steven Heine and Ara Norenzayan. They look at some of the assumptions anthropological researchers have made based on research on a selection that might just be a bit biased. I remember asking some of the same questions (to myself) at the time of my own psych classes.

Once I read through the article I thought “Yup, sounds about right” and that was that – until it settled in. Then I got really exited about what this could mean to the world of research and just had to write about the article and the three brilliant researchers on my blog.

Prisoner’s dilemma as presented in various psych texts

Heinrich, Heine And Norenzayan ended up publishing an article called The weirdest people in the world in The Cambridge Journals in 2010. What they claim is that behavior depends on your background. In their case they used a version of the prisoner’s dilemma to see if the West had the answers to how to predict behavior. What they found was that there were grounds to question a theory of genetics determining this type of behavior. It turned out that how people ended up dividing the offered money (which was what was used in the experiment) depended on background (in form of society, religion and class). Sooooooo, in order to predict something about human behavior one would need a wider selection – representation had been too poor thus far.

Science being what it is, theories have to be tested and tested and tested before a degree of certainty can be reached. But, thankfully, the wonderful thing about science is that once some person questions a theory and goes out and finds a different answer, and others find the same different answers scientific knowledge grows and more questions get to be asked. I LOVE science.

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