Think of three statements that begin with the words: “I am …”
Remember your thoughts – we’ll come back to them in a moment.
“The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt introduced me to the concept of WEIRD-ness, where WEIRD is an acronym of Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich and Democratic. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re pretty WEIRD.
In Haidt’s book, he shows that WEIRD people are in fact, well – weird. They are different to most of the human race. As Haidt says, “the WEIRDer you are, the more you see a world full of separate objects, rather than relationships.”
Going back to the “I am …” question. It’s likely your answers were to do with yourself – happy, hungry, not looking forward to work tomorrow, and so on. In contrast, East Asians are more likely to list their roles and relationships – a son, a mother, an employee of Toyota, etc.
This is worth bearing in mind for a couple of reasons. Primarily that it’s important to try and understand how we fit in to the world. It’s getting smaller every day as our technology continues to advance, and when we see things or hear ideas from other cultures, it’s always worth reminding ourselves that not everyone views the world the same way we do.
What about when we are dealing with other WEIRDoes? Well, perhaps it’s worth thinking about the “I am …” question more in terms of roles and relationships – to try and get away from the idea of separateness.
I am … a trustworthy friend.
I am … a reliable member of my football team.
I am … a responsible member of my community.
There is a growing trend towards polarisation. Perhaps understanding – and acknowledging – our WEIRDness can help bridge some of those gaps?