A Summary of the Article: We Aren’t the World

Who are WEIRD people?

According to Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan, WEIRD people are Americans and the Westerners whose cognition is different, twisted and malformed. In the bigger picture, WEIRD people are those who have different behavioral, cognitive and cultural practices that are different from the perceived ones, those considered to be “universal” or “accepted” (Watters, 2013). According to Henrich, Heine, and Norenzayan, the Western and American minds are the most “weird” in the world because they are “more likely to promote (them) ourselves as individuals versus advancing as a group”, and which is the fundamental feature of weirdness (Watters, 2013).

The main point discussed in the article “We Aren’t the World

The article begins by giving a story of a one young graduate student in anthropology at UCLA named Joe Henrich who set out to research an isolated and historic group in the amazon basin known as the Machu Pichu. Joe aimed at testing the economic and psychological hypotheses that all humans share the same cognitive machinery. In his quest to, he introduced a game, which was named the ultimatum game (Watters, 2013). The point of the game was to determine the nature of the human’s willing-using the Americans- to receive and to give, and the reasons underlying such instances. The outcome was that “Americans show the tendency to be equitable with strangers—and to punish those who are not” (Watters, 2013). However, the rules of his game struck the Machiguenga population as an odd game, despite the commonness of the game in the American culture (Watters, 2013). Henrich and other researches discussed in the article and their works in anthropology were focused on understanding the complexities of the human mind across different cultures. From such studies, they were able to compare the assumed universal truths and the actual findings of their research. Through the game of fairness, Henrich is able to substantiate that there is a possibility of challenging and confirming that the perceived hypothesis that all humans share the same cognitive machinery is false (Watters, 2013). For instance, he notes that despite the common traits shown by North Americans relative to the ultimatum game, the Machiguenga cultural group of the Amazon basin had completely different ones, together with other cultures.

Another critical theme discussed in the article is the diversity across cultures. Not only did Henrich and other anthropological researches realized the richness of the cultural groups they visited, but they also were able to unearth how those diversities shaped their way of thinking and life (Watters, 2013). According to Henrich, children born in American families whose believes and practices are rooted in the modern world lack the expansiveness of the complex traditional knowledge and way of life (Watters, 2013). Contrary to the cultural minds- the basic foundation of anthropological studies- the modern groups of people look-down upon the culturally diversified group (Watters, 2013). In their opinion, the modern and sophisticated people think of themselves as the universal group from which all standards should be measured, and which research has found out to be “…of what social scientists thought they knew about fundamental aspects of human cognition was likely only true of one small slice of humanity” (Watters, 2013). With this kind of perception, any studies that reveal conflicting results to the already formulated hypothesis and assumptions is considered unethical, and those funding and carrying out such studies too looked at as a threat to the anthropological sector, rather than contributors to that rich historic paradigm concerned with understanding cross-cultural behaviors.


Watters, E. (2013). Why Americans Are the Weirdest People in the World. Retrieved 29 July 2019, from com/social-justice/joe-henrich-weird-ultimatum-game-shaking-up-psychology-economics-53135“>https://psmag.com/social-justice/joe-henrich-weird-ultimatum-game-shaking-up-psychology-economics-53135

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