Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Volume 33, Issue 2-3, April by Paul Bloom & Barbara L. Finlay (Editors)

By Paul Bloom & Barbara L. Finlay (Editors)

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In gaze-following experiments, tested animals needed to understand that a human gaze indicated an honest positive interest (Hermann et al. 2007; Tomasello et al. 2005). In helping experiments, tested individuals had to understand that experimenters pretending to not master a task needed to be helped (Warneken & Tomasello 2006). Less ethnocentric and anthropocentric experiments would bring us a long way to understand other species. Third, by favoring experiments in captive settings, comparative psychology has opted for low ecological validity.

Cultural-cognitive context. Two of us (Kahan, Braman) have demonstrated that Americans who vary in their attitudes toward hierarchy and equality vary in their perceptions of legally consequential facts (Kahan, in press; Kahan et al. 2009). These competing attitudes cohere with opposing sets of norms, and related scripts of acceptable behavior, which can trump the demographic variables emphasized by the WEIRD critique (Kahan et al. 2007). Social meaning context. Actions have meanings as well as consequences.

Gaechter Abstract: I argue that the right choice of subject pool is intimately linked to the research question. At least within economics, students are often the perfect subject pool for answering some fundamental research questions. : The weirdest people in the world? Student subject pools can provide an invaluable benchmark for investigating generalizability across different social groups or cultures. In their excellent article, Henrich et al. rightly caution us to be careful when we draw general conclusions from WEIRD subject pools, of which undergraduates are the most frequently used one, also in economics.

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