Why I am WEIRD – and you probably are too

In the behavioural sciences, there is a group of people – who are usually the subject of most of the research in these disciplines – who are dubbed WEIRD.  I guess I fall into this category and, when I spell out the acronym, you may conclude that you do too.

In this context, WEIRD stands for:

  • Western – I’ve spent all my life living in Britain, a quintessentially western country, arguably one of the leaders of the so-called Western world.
  • Educated – I am educated to degree level and continue to read widely and  attend short courses in order to expand my knowledge.
  • Industrialised – I live in an industrialised nation; indeed Britain was the first country in the world to industrialise.
  • Rich – By world standards, I am unquestionably rich in the income I receive and the standard of life I can afford.
  • Democratic – I live in a democratic nation and I hold strongly to democratic values.

So, what is the significance of me being in such a select category. As this article argues,”where there is robust cross-cultural research, WEIRD subjects tend to be outliers on a range of measurable traits that do vary, including visual perception, sense of fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, and a host of other basic psychological traits”.

Therefore, in world terms, I – and you too probably – am special, not in the sense of being superior but in the sense of being atypical. The importance of this conclusion is that, when looking at world events and developments, I – and I suspect you – have to remember that most people see the world differently and it’s essential that I allow for that and try to see the world through the eyes of people who are less WEIRD (the overwhelming majority numerically).


  • Helen

    Yes, I’m WEIRD too. Unfortunately most world decisions are taken by the weird ones to benefit the weird ones.

    Another important fact for all of us people devoted to the wonders of the web – there are more people living on this planet who have never used the internet that people who have used it. 61% of the world’s inhabitants have never used the internet. Now that feels like a weird fact especially to someone who is WEIRD.

  • Roger Darlington

    Good point, Helen.

    Perhaps in time one will need to use the ‘I’ in WEIRD to stand for Internet-enabled than for Industrialised.

  • Calvin Allen

    Ah – but surely that makes both of you WIRED rather than WEIRD… (Haven’t read the article in question, but I never could understand the need for articles to seek to beat us up with such terminology about things that, while they make those who qualify exceptional in some way, are – for the most part – actually to be desired).


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