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Westerners Are Actually The Weird ones

In the Ultimatum game, you're handed $100 and told to offer a portion to someone else. If the person accepts, then both of you get the money. If he declines, then none of you get it.

Americans typically offer (almost) $50, and reject offers below $40 if the tables were turned. After all, fair is fair, right? But is this how the rest of the world think?

Researchers from the University of British Columbia decided to test the Ultimatum Game to the rest of the world and found that the Western concept of fairness is actually not the norm, it's the outlier. Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic (WEIRD) people, he argued, are actually the weird ones:

It seems most of humanity would play the game differently. Joseph Henrich of the University of British Columbia took the Ultimatum Game into the Peruvian Amazon as part of his work on understanding human co-operation in the mid-1990s and found that the Machiguenga considered the idea of offering half your money downright weird — and rejecting an insultingly low offer even weirder.

"I was inclined to believe that rejection in the Ultimatum Game would be widespread. With the Machiguenga, they felt rejecting was absurd, which is really what economists think about rejection," Dr. Henrich says. "It's completely irrational to turn down free money. Why would you do that?"

Link - via Metafilter


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I think folks are confusing the western hemisphere with western culture. Western culture actually refers to cultures of a European descent.

@Krelsey - I didn't like the term WEIRD either, and then I realized it was being used as an acronym for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic people. The whole point of the article is to point out that published data in this area is largely skewed toward one common heritage. Behavioral science literature is dominated by WEIRD people (especially American's), the typical data published is often actually atypical of the world as a whole. The fact the acronym spells weird is just a pun that points toward the point of the whole article.
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I find the title of this article odd because it presupposes that those reading it previously thought that everyone but westerners were weird. I would never claim that western culture is "normal" culture, nor would I claim that South America is not in the western hemisphere.
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@JBSpesh:

Ha! Good catch. I think this is a typical example of someone not wanting to use the phrase "white," and ethnocentrically using the word "western" as a substitute. It's kind of like saying "American" and forgetting there are two entire continents with that name.
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