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Pressing Questions in the Study of Psychological and Behavioral Diversity

 September 7-9, 2017; Irvine, CA
 Organized by Douglas Medin, Joseph Henrich, Daniel Hruschka, and Barbara Rogoff


This colloquium was held in Irvine, CA on September 7-8, 2017.

This colloquium examined extreme biased sampling of research participants and the neglect of their cultural context which are increasingly recognized as threats to the generalizability of much of what we know about human thought and behavior. Two converging issues were addressed by speakers and panelists. The first explored barriers that discourage researchers from harnessing the full breadth of human diversity for understanding thought and behavior, along with the problematic consequences of over-reliance on “WEIRD” (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) samples as the default in theory, method and practice. The second showcased innovations and insights that have arisen from efforts to answer pressing theoretical, methodological and ethical questions that inevitably arise as researchers in the social and behavioral sciences work with “VITAL” (Variable In Traditions And Lifeways) populations.

Videos of the talks are available on the Sackler YouTube Channel here.


Thursday, September 7

Distinctive Voices public lecture – Auditorium Cultural diversity in an age of fear, Stephen Levinson, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Netherlands

Friday, September 8

Session I - Methodological, conceptual and ethical challenges

Socioecological complexity, competitive labor markets and the origins of WEIRD personality diversification, Michael Gurven, University of California, Santa Barbara

Attachment: cultural solutions for a universal human need., Heidi Keller, University of Osnabruek

The historical origins of WEIRD social psychology: kinship, markets and impersonality prosociality, Joe Henrich, Harvard University

Toward a psychology of Homo sapiens: How to make psychological science less WEIRD and more representative, Jeremy Ginges, The New School

Session II - Barriers and disincentives to working with VITAL groups

On the need for shifting theoretical foundations and routine practice of research, Megan Bang, University of Washington

Examining Notions of Representation in Research with Nondominant Communities, Kris Gutierrez, University of California, Berkeley

Revamping weird concepts and strange stimuli for work in the big wide world, Daniel Hruschka, Arizona State University

The exquisite richness and flexibility of the human mind, Lera Boroditsky, University of California, San Diego

What we still don't know about the human cognitive phenome, Clark Barrett, University of California, Los Angeles

Saturday, September 9

Session III - Constructive suggestions for research with VITAL samples

Cultural consensus theory: how to measure shared knowledge or beliefs in selected groups, William Batchelder, University of California, Irvine

Increasing diversity in developmental science: A roadmap for best practice in cross-cultural research, Cristine Legare, University of Texas at Austin

Ways of looking at the world, Doug Medin, Northwestern University

Working with VITAL samples: The lessons from language research, Stephen Levinson, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, Netherlands

Session IV - Model case examples with cultural contexts and environments

Examining culture in our science: A proposal for new scientific practices, Stephanie Fryberg, University of Washington

Cultural differences in the ability to overcome a coordination failure: Caste, status, and honor, Karla Hoff, World Bank

Carving nature at its joints: Comparative and cross-cultural studies of social behavior, Daniel Haun, Leipzig University

Bio-cultural mechanisms for psychological diversity: Reinforcement learning, brain structure, and DRD4, Shinobu Kitayama, University of Michigan

Collaborating across the Americas and across the social sciences to understand ways of learning, Barbara Rogoff, University of California, Santa Cruz

Concluding Remarks, Douglas Medin

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