starshipcat (starshipcat) wrote,

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Increasing Our Knowledge

One of the biggest dangers in statistical analysis is using too small of a sample, especially a sample from a subset of a population that is not representative of the entire population.

This is becoming a huge concern in the field of psychology. Historically, a lot of psychological research has been done on undergraduate students, or on the students in university laboratory schools (grade and high schools operated by the university, often to provide opportunities for student teachers who don't have transportation to regular schools). As a result, we necessarily have a very biased sample.

As academic psychologists have been doing more field studies outside university communities, often teaming up with anthropologists and linguists, we're discovering that a lot of what we've been reading in psychology textbooks is in fact true only in certain highly-educated Western communities. There are psychological maladies that are unique to particular cultures. More broadly, different cultures show different patterns of thinking, which show up in such common tests as image memory exercises and the old "which of these things go together?" test.
Tags: psychology, science

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