Tuesday, 2 April 2013

odd bird or let’s fake a deal

The peripatetic seekers at the Big Think share an engrossing essay suggesting that demographically American subjects were the worst choices for the whole quiver of standard psychological experiments, and many of the techniques developed and conclusions drawn from this battery of tests are highly idiosyncratic and do not translate well into other cultures.

Everything from the classic Ultimatum Game, also with a variant known as the Monty Hall Game from Let’s Make a Deal, to reflex perceptions could be slanted to American tastes, perhaps roving and proprietary. Acknowledging and respect difference across societies, like hierarchy versus democracy or individualism versus collectivism is of course nothing astonishing and the meters honed and tweaked over generations are not without merit or insight, but it does seem strange to consider that the gauges themselves might be flawed, focusing the lens of study on a narrow and unrepresentative population. Western societies embrace a whole spectrum of strange and wonderful distinctions and albeit that contrast is strongest among exotic cultures, equally strange and wonderful—on the surface, at least, and subtle but appreciable differences in backgrounds and values only magnify with time and patience—and I don’t know that the US is so singularly weird (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic, an acronym that the author uses) or if other groups are not so dissimilar, as well, and would prefer America remain the jumbled, jangled standard-bearer of normalcy, rather than own up to their own peculiarities.