1. Go WILD, Not WEIRD

Studying the Religious Mind - Methodology in the Cognitive Science of Religion - Armin W. Geertz

Martha Newson
University of Oxford
Michael Buhrmester
Dimitris Xygalatas [+-]
University of Connecticut, United States, and Aarhus University, Denmark
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Dimitris Xygalatas holds a joint position between the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, where he is directing the Experimental Anthropology Lab. He has previously held positions at the universities of Princeton and Masaryk, where he served as Director of the Laboratory for the Experimental Research of Religion. His main areas of interest are experimental anthropology and the experimental study of religion, and much of his work has focused on the practice of extreme rituals around the world. He has conducted several years of ethnographic research in Greece, Bulgaria, Spain, and Mauritius and has pioneered new methods, integrating ethnographic and experimental approaches in field research.
Harvey Whitehouse
Magdalen College, Oxford University
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Description

Reliance on convenience samples for psychological experiments has led to the oversampling of Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) populations (Henrich et al. 2010a). Our analysis of academic articles from six leading psychology journals revealed a significantly lower but still very high percentage of studies from European and English-speaking nations (92%), compared to a decade ago (95%), largely due to more studies from Asia (6%). Further analysis of four cognitive science of religion (CSR) journals showed how a more representative field is possible (67% from the Western and Other region), with proportionately more studies in Latin America (4%) and Africa (7%) than psychology (<1% each). Thanks to its interdisciplinary nature, CSR is in a good position to address “WEIRD” problems and may be able to offer psychology methodological and epistemological tools that involve diversifying sample populations, increasing ecological validity, capturing the causes and consequences of cultural variation, and developing novel methodologies. Despite the challenges, we encourage more researchers to embrace the lessons offered by CSR’s history of global and interdisciplinary research. Where WEIRD identifies the populations we need to stop privileging, conducting work that is not just Worldwide, but also In Situ, Local, and Diverse (WILD) is what researchers themselves can aspire to. Just as nineteenth century “armchair anthropologists” were replaced by generations of ethnographers who went out into the real world to study human variation, so modern day psychologists need to conduct experiments outside the lab with suitably heterogeneous populations.

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Citation

Newson, Martha; Buhrmester, Michael; Xygalatas, Dimitris; Whitehouse, Harvey. 1. Go WILD, Not WEIRD. Studying the Religious Mind - Methodology in the Cognitive Science of Religion. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. Oct 2022. ISBN 9781800501614. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=43001. Date accessed: 20 Oct 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.43001. Oct 2022

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