A recent question was asking around the subject of WEIRD psychology [WEIRD standing for Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic — an acronym seemingly coined by Henrich, et al (2010)] and reading the Wikipedia article to find that out and get some understanding of the subject made me wonder if the concept of WEIRD psychology could have merit.

For the purposes of focus, let's take one aspect of the WEIRD category — Educated.

Would a person in Western society, educated at a lower level, be psychologically different to someone in Western society educated to the highest possible level?

To be precise in my meaning regarding psychological differences, ignoring the systems of education and assuming:

  • nobody in either group are suffering from any psychotic disorders,
  • both groups have the same powers of observation, and
  • both have equal access to any required reference materials and advice from experts,

is there empirical evidence to suggest that one of the groups cannot form a sound and reasonable argument based on their knowledge of the world around them?

Maybe I am not using the correct search criteria in Google but I can't seem to find any.


Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world?. Behavioral and brain sciences, 33(2-3), 61-83. doi: 10.1017/S0140525X0999152X. PMID: 20550733.

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    $\begingroup$ I think it's a good question, +1. It seems though that by definition the "WEIRD" category includes those university-educated. Maybe not graduated, but I take the "WEIRD" criticism of generalizing psychology to be directed at the recruitment for a lot of studies in psychology (outside of abnormal/mental illness-directed psychology) being "undergraduate students at institutions with sufficient funding to do these kinds of experiments". In that sense, isn't exactly the claim the paper you reference act as an answer to your question? $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Oct 7, 2020 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ @BryanKrause - I agree that university educated people would be in the WEIRD category, and some might say general educated would too. Thinking about my question again, and maybe I didn't make it clear, I'm actually trying to ascertain whether a higher education level than another will actually make you more able to form a sound and reasonable argument than the lower educated person. $\endgroup$ Oct 7, 2020 at 15:27
  • $\begingroup$ Hmm...that seems quite a bit different from the title, and seems to be an approach that the theory would pan. It doesn't seem to me like WEIRD is about what is "better" or "more able" but in suggesting that results in these populations are not translatable to others. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Oct 7, 2020 at 15:29
  • $\begingroup$ And are they translatable or not @BryanKrause that is what I am trying to ask with a more focused question as I cannot find any empirical evidence to suggest education affects ability to form a sound and reasonable argument, and if there is no evidence, surely it puts the whole idea of WEIRD psychology in doubt $\endgroup$ Oct 7, 2020 at 15:41
  • $\begingroup$ But what does "a sound and reasonable argument" have to do with it? One of the examples noted on Wikipedia is a difference between WEIRD populations and tribal populations on the en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%BCller-Lyer_illusion - that has nothing to do with the soundness or reasonableness of arguments. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Oct 7, 2020 at 15:42

1 Answer 1


A lot of psychological research takes place in societies that are Western, Democratic, and Industrialized, and that from a global/historical perspective are relatively Educated and Rich.

Of course, within those societies, people vary in their level of education and their socioeconomic status (e.g., wealth, income, financial security, earning potential, etc.).

And education and socioeconomic status have numerous correlates with psychological variables and life outcomes.

E.g., educational attainment is positively correlated with life time income, intelligence, and political views.

There are two obvious explanations for these processes:

  • Education changes a person. They acquire general and discipline specific skills. They get exposed to different experiences, career opportunities and so on.
  • Psychological characteristics predict interest, access, and success in higher education. For instance, more intelligent people are more likely to be granted access and succeed in higher education.
  • Third variables. Factors like family socioeconomic status predict psychological characteristics as well as the probability of pursuing higher education.
  • $\begingroup$ It is obvious that educational attainment generally but not always has a positive correlation with lifetime income (higher paid jobs often but not always go to University graduates) but could you please provide some citations for further reading on "educational attainment is positively correlated with [snipped] intelligence, and political views." and "family socioeconomic status predict psychological characteristics as well as the probability of pursuing higher education."? $\endgroup$ Nov 18, 2020 at 8:49

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