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The
over-sampling of Western, educated and from industrialized, rich, and
democratic countries (WEIRD) is
skewing our understanding of human behavior. Most research findings are built
upon research that examines a severely limited sample of human variation. WEIRD subjects represent only about 12
percent of the world’s population. This has become problematic because WEIRD subjects greatly differ from the
other populations and this is because a lot of our  behaviors and observations are based on the
environments and contexts in which we grew up. When recruiting for studies,
researchers often make the sample as homogeneous as possible, in an effort to
detect small differences. Although, many of these studies can perhaps be
generalized to the many of the population it’s not representative of humanity
as a whole. This essay will critically examine the context of WEIRD from Henrich et al perspective and
provide a critical analysis on infant development based on the film Babies,
following I will discuss my own development and how it has shaped the person I
am now.

Behavioral
scientists consistently publish assertions about human psychology and behavior
in the world’s top journals centered on samples drawn solely from WEIRD societies. This is one of the central
arguments that Henrich and colleagues propose. Henrich et al assess whether the
assumptions of researchers that there is “little variation across human
populations” is justified. They examine several areas like reasoning and self-concepts.

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The findings suggest that participants of WEIRD societies, including young
children, are among the least archetypal populations one could find for
generalizing about humans (Henrich et al 2010). Henrich et al exemplify
substantial evidence that WEIRD societies
are the atypical ones.: The most general
endorsed statement concerning the self is that people are motivated to view
themselves positively. Meta-analyses reveal that self-serving biases tend to be
more prominent in Western populations than in the non-Western population. For
example, Mexicans, Native Americans, Chileans, and Fijians score much lower on
various measures of positive self-reviews than do Westerners (Henrich et al
2010).  Furthermore, the analytic approach
is culturally more valued in Western contexts. In East Asia, a holistic approach
is more valued. As a result, cognitive strategies differ across their respective
populations and among industrialized societies, show a high degree of
analytical as opposed to holistic reasoning.

 Additionally, Henrich et al,  reviewed a study by Church et al (2006). The
findings suggest that people from Western populations (i.e., American and
Euro-Australian) strongly endorsed the idea that personality remains constant
over time and predicts behavior over many situations. On the other hand, people
from non-Western populations (i.e., Asian-Australian, Chinese-Malaysian,
Filipino, Japanese, Mexican, and Malay) more strongly endorses contextual believes
about personality, such as ideas suggesting that a personality does not
describe a person as well as roles or duties do, and that trait-related
behavior fluctuates from situation to situation (Henrich et al 2010).  In industrialized societies, children are
taught to associate perceptual features to similarity. For example, WEIRD
children when asked “What’s that?” (directing at a maple tree), their usual
answer is “tree.” On the other, in cultures where people interact with the
natural world, such as Itza Maya villagers, their perceptions are not based on
similarity but on knowledge of cultural ideas. As a result, the studies assessed
in “The Weirdest People in the World?” demonstrate that the findings from WEIRD
samples are not universal patterns. This is problematic because WEIRD samples
are a very unreliable subset and it fails to recognize observed differences in
humans.

The
film Babies is a documentary that
follows four newborns from diverse regions of the world. Each baby comes from a
distinctive culture, which exhibits how the diverse customs of each culture can
influence a child’s development. The babies are Hattie and Mari, both were from
industrialized cities and were raised in a very Westernized manner, whereas
Ponijao and Bayar grew up in a rural environment.

Infant-Caregiver Interactions: Caregiver
and infant are mutually active contributors in the interaction and responding
of each other. In most Western societies, the infant-parent relationship is thought
as the major social bond, enhanced by a small number of familial relationships,
but this view is not universal ( Gross 2008). In some societies, infants are
raised by large groups or villages. Bayar has very little interaction with his
parents; he is often by himself or with his older sibling. On the other hand,
Hattie’s parents are regularly involved in her day-to-day life, responding
immediately to her needs. Ponijao had a lot of interactions with people in her community,
in fact it was hard to tell who was the baby’s mother. As discussed in lecture,
Infant-caregiver interactions is fundamental to the child’s later social and
emotional outcome. Infant-caregiver interactions are essential for cognitive
and language development, for example, in the film, the babies that had the
most infant-caregiver interaction, like Hattie and Marie, showed to start
babbling first because they regularly had their mothers talking and singing to
them.

Resources: In this film, we can observe
the role of accessible resources in their development. Hattie and Mari had several
toys and objects to interact with, while Ponijao and Bajar played with rocks,
sticks, and animals. Young children’s play is influenced by resources and
opportunities that are accessible (Ross 2008). Bajar and Ponijao don’t have
toys, books, or special classes like Hattie and Marie but they were given the
freedom to explore and play with what was available to them. This parenting
style is significant because it fosters creativity and personal growth. Hattie
and Mari’s parent seemed to use toys or special classes as the center to gaining
knowledge which limits their growth and creativity. Even though its relative
true, the best “toy” that all kids need in order to learn and grow is in their environment.

Access to Experiences: Early
experiences postulate the base for the brain’s structural development and
functioning throughout life (Ross 2008). The four children in the babies have
different access to experiences and different ways that their parents expose
them to partake in their environment. For example, Bayar was often tightly wrapped
in a cloth which limited his movements. Ponijao was never draped but he was constantly
in his mother’s lap or arms. In lecture, we discussed the different types of
play. At ages from birth to 4 month children engage in exploratory play which
consists of repetitive motor movements. This type of play is composed of the
child kicking their legs, reaching for and sucking their toes, practicing
moving and rolling over (Ross 2008).  Swaddling or having a child constantly in lap
or arms can have a potential impact on an infant’s development. This parenting practice
does not allow the child to focus on their own body which can potentially
affect their evolving motor and cognitive skills.

Social & Environmental Interactions: Socialization
practices vary widely across cultures. Hattie and Marie have a disadvantage in
regard to social interaction. Their parents have them involved in play dates or
special classes in order for them to interact with other peers. However, Bayar
has an older brother and Ponijao lives in a large community where there are
several playmates. Although, there is a parallel in interactions with other
children and playing with toys, there is a limitation in the freedom to
discover things and express their independence between the children that live
in an urban environment. Hattie spent most of her day in indoor spaces. On the
other hand, Ponijao spends most of his day outside, joyfully wallowing in mud and
playing with sticks and rocks. As discussed in lecture, experiences with peers
and the environment allows the children to develop a relationship with the world.

This parenting practice has an influence on how children develop social and
emotional abilities as well as learning skills.

            My parents always gave me the opportunity
to explore the environment. Before I moved to California, I lived in a rural
environment. My play time consisted of dirt and water puddles. They never set a
limitation to what I could explore in my surroundings. Engaging and exploring
the environment allowed me to understand and makes sense of the world around
me. My younger cousins grew with very overprotective parents who didn’t allow
them to play with anything that would get them dirty. They spent most of their
time playing inside with their electronics so the rare times they would play
with dirt or with puddles they would get sick. The parenting practices my
parents employed throughout my childhood influenced my intellectual, social,
physical, and emotional development.  The
family-environment feature in my early development shaped an ambiance where I
was able to foster a unique identity and have my own individual thoughts.

            Relying heavily on WEIRD populations
is causing over interpretations which is putting at risk results in a global
context. It’s crucial we involve a diverse human society to diversity the
approach to understanding human psychology and behavior which will allow us to
evaluate the psychological and behavioral variation. It is necessary to expand
our study of infant development beyond WEIRD samples. By diversifying populations
in studies, it will bring results into a whole new light. Ending the WEIRD-centric
approach in infant development will help build an improved set of encompassing
theories about the development of the human mind and human behavior.  Understanding infant development through an
international lens gives us the opportunity to gain more knowledge to apply
different parenting practices that can be beneficial for the child. Also, it
will help us understand how different experiences affect each individual
differently rather than generalizing behavior. Furthermore, it can help us
understand that each culture is characterized by diversity which ultimately
shapes how we think and behave.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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