How Crowdsourcing Will Change Psychology Forever

For decades, the world's most prolific scientists have relied on the American college undergraduate to represent humanity. Not surprisingly, they may not be very representative. 

What's the Latest Development?


Thanks to a series of websites that use crowdsourcing to gather psychological information from people across the globe, we may shortly arrive at a more complete understanding of human behavior than ever before. The most popular site among experimental psychologists is called Mechanical Turk, which can draw from a sample base of more than 500,000 people known as Turkers. "For the hard-pressed, cash-strapped psychologist, this is a godsend. ... Studies that would once have required months or years can now be done in days." Other sites popular sites include oDesk, CrowdFlower and Elance. 

What's the Big Idea?

In 2010, the academic researcher Joseph Henrich popularized the acronym WEIRD, or Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic. The adjectives refer to the kinds of people which experimental psychologists typically use in their experiments. American university undergraduates are especially over-represented in the field because they are willing to do tasks in return for a meager reward and because they live among the world's most prolific scientists on American college campuses. The result, argued Henrich, is a strongly skewed view of human psychology and human nature. 

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