Not everyone is WEIRD

If you are told that you are WEIRD don’t take it as an offence. It likely means that you belong to about 12% of the global population that is Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, and Democratic *. Good as it may sound, it also puts you in the disadvantage when dealing with people from different cultural backgrounds.

Problem reliance on studies that were done solely with WEIRD participants is that it skews the results and, worst of all, assumes certain cultural background in the decision makers:

[M]any studies have shown that Americans, Canadians and western Europeans rely on analytical reasoning strategies — which separate objects from their contexts and rely on rules to explain and predict behaviour —substantially more than non-Westerners. Research also indicates that Americans use analytical thinking more than, say, Europeans. By contrast, Asians tend to reason holistically, for example by considering people’s behaviour in terms of their situation.

That WEIRD has had a significant negative effect on a range of social sciences is not surprising. That it isn’t sufficiently accomodated for in risk management theories and decision making theories during the last decade, though, is.

Progressive risk managers tend to look to behavioural economics, anthropology, psychology, sociology and communicology to improve their skills and their organisation’s management of risk. But relying on studies that assumed a certain cultural background in the decision makers can, rather than improve their ability to help decision makers make the best decision under uncertainty, make things worse.

Remember, culture plays an important role. So do emotions, even if certain behavioural economists tend to ignore those.