What is normal? Most of us would think that we’re aware of dangerous generalisations, or even prejudices, when it comes to characterising human nature. However, as this thought-provoking article from The Conversation shows, inherent biases can run deep in the research, actually influencing our baseline assumptions without us knowing.
Over the last century, behavioural researchers have revealed the biases and prejudices that shape how people see the world and the carrots and sticks that influence our daily actions. Their discoveries have filled psychology textbooks and inspired generations of students. They’ve also informed how businesses manage their employees, how educators develop new curricula and how political campaigns persuade and motivate voters.
But a growing body of research has raised concerns that many of these discoveries suffer from severe biases of their own. Specifically, the vast majority of what we know about human psychology and behaviour comes from studies conducted with a narrow slice of humanity – college students, middle-class respondents living near universities and highly educated residents of wealthy, industrialised and democratic nations.