I have just finished reading the article “We Aren’t the World”, from the Pacific Standard, February 25, 2013.
It reminds me that as we engage in this process of redefining the world, we need to be aware that no matter what policies and parameters we arrive at, they will be informed by our cultural biases. One way to mitigate against theses biases of course is to be as inclusive of as many cultures as possible. Ultimately, one of the litmus tests of whether we are successful in imagining a different world will be the demonstration of many voices in the choir.
Here are two quotes from the article that demonstrate the extent of the bias in our understanding of “universal” cultural norms.
“A 2008 survey of the top six psychology journals [determined that] more than 96 percent of the subjects tested in psychological studies from 2003 to 2007 were Westerners—with nearly 70 percent from the United States alone. Put another way: 96 percent of human subjects in these studies came from countries that represent only 12 percent of the world’s population.”
“Among Westerners, the data showed that Americans were often the most unusual, leading the researchers to conclude that “American participants are exceptional even within the unusual population of Westerners—outliers among outliers.”
Given the data, they concluded that social scientists could not possibly have picked a worse population from which to draw broad generalizations. Researchers had been doing the equivalent of studying penguins while believing that they were learning insights applicable to all birds.”
Hmmm...more next time...