Psychology is a comprehensive social and behavioral science discipline with a wealth of knowledge about everything from infancy to aging; intergroup and interpersonal relations and conflict; and health behavior, mental health, and well-being. However, in reviewing The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn From Traditional Societies?, Gibbons and Poelker point out the need to move beyond psychology's "WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic)" approach to research and theorizing about humanity and human behavior. Given the diversity of the world's population, how do we approach this task and broaden our understanding of human needs, behavior, and functioning? Certainly, there is a need to increase cross-cultural research, but who should conduct this research, and what countries, locations, or cultures should be priorities? If you need an example of why these are important questions, consider this quote from Gibbons and Poelker's review:
Along a continuum of cruel to loving treatment of the elderly, Diamond would place the contemporary Western world closer to the cruelty pole. But a quote from Hill (cited in Hrdy, 2009, p. 270) suggests that we are not all that close to the cruel end of the continuum: A traditional Ache man, in describing how he would dispatch older women, said, "I would step on them. … I didn't wait until they were completely dead to bury them. When they were still moving I would [break their backs and necks]."To what extent should psychology as a discipline promote and integrate research that is indigenous? How do psychologists in contemporary industrialized societies interpret data and frame the implications of research on traditional practices?
By Judith L. Gibbons and Katelyn E. Poelker
PsycCRITIQUES, 2013 Vol 58(28)