Tag Archives: psychology

Occam’s Razor Is Too Dull

This strikes me as rather sad, not least because it has the potential to (perhaps inadvertently) hold back some really interesting work:

ABSTRACT: From the process of organic evolution to the analysis of insect societies as self-organizing systems, biology is full of awe-inspiring examples of complexity arising from simplicity. Yet in the contemporary study of animal cognition, demonstrations that complex human-like behavior arises from simple mechanisms rather than from ‘higher’ processes, such as insight or theory of mind, are often seen as uninteresting and ‘killjoy’, almost a denial of mental continuity between other species and humans. At the same time, however, research elsewhere in psychology increasingly reveals an unexpected role in human behavior for simple, unconscious and sometimes irrational processes shared by other animals. Greater appreciation of such mechanisms in nonhuman species would contribute to a deeper, more truly comparative psychology.

“Clever animals and killjoy explanations in comparative psychology.” (essay; Sara J. Shettleworth)

WEIRD Like Us?

Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic. You know, like the college students that form the backbone of so many psychology studies done in universities.

The fact that WEIRD people are the outliers in so many key domains of the behavioral sciences may render them one of the worst subpopulations one could study for generalizing about Homo sapiens…. WEIRD people, from this perspective, grow up in, and adapt to, a rather atypical environment vis-à-vis that of most of human history. It should not be surprising that their psychological world is unusual as well. (2010: 79-80) […]

So, to sum up this post-Henrich, next stage concern: I worry that W.E.I.R.D. classification flatters the WEIRD, focusing on traits that Westerners typically highlight to describe themselves in ways that are, however inadvertently, pretty self-congratulatory. If we were to call the same group, Materialist, Young, self-Obsessed, Pleasure-seeking, Isolated, Consumerist, and Sedentary (MYOPICS)… you get the idea. (By the way, I’m not committed to this, only to getting my own acronym – You know the steps in the cheap acronym process: Set acronym. Find words to fit each letter.)

We agree it’s WEIRD, but is it WEIRD enough? by Greg Downey—where there is much much more, plus charming illustrations.