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As Henrich et al show, many phenomena we’ve assumed are universal probably aren’t: we can only really say they’re universal among Weird people, who make up 96% of subjects in behavioural science, or Americans, who make up 68%, and often only among US college students, who provide US researchers with a supply of guinea pigs. And the Weird, they say, “are particularly unusual compared with the rest of the species”.


This is more than a curiosity. In his book Crazy Like Us, Ethan Watters argues that American notions of mental illness are colonising the world, with a handful of diagnoses – depression, anorexia – squeezing out culturally specific ones. (Intriguingly, though, the Indonesian concept of “amok”, combining brooding with murderous rage, is listed in the US psychiatric bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.) It’s also a reminder that even if you are Weird, advice that’s been “experimentally proven” has been proven for only the average person, who doesn’t exist.

This column will change your life: Weirdness just got weirder. We’re all born Weird, but some are born more weird than others. in The Guardian

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