Send to

Choose Destination
J Exp Child Psychol. 2017 Oct;162:31-38. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2017.04.017. Epub 2017 May 30.

The persistent sampling bias in developmental psychology: A call to action.

Author information

School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia; Faculty of Humanities, University of Johannesburg, Auckland Park 2006, South Africa. Electronic address:
Department of Early Child Development and Culture, University of Leipzig, and Leipzig Research Center for Early Child Development, D-04109 Leipzig, Germany.
Department of Psychology, University of Münster, D-48149 Münster, Germany.
Department of Psychology, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA.


Psychology must confront the bias in its broad literature toward the study of participants developing in environments unrepresentative of the vast majority of the world's population. Here, we focus on the implications of addressing this challenge, highlight the need to address overreliance on a narrow participant pool, and emphasize the value and necessity of conducting research with diverse populations. We show that high-impact-factor developmental journals are heavily skewed toward publishing articles with data from WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) populations. Most critically, despite calls for change and supposed widespread awareness of this problem, there is a habitual dependence on convenience sampling and little evidence that the discipline is making any meaningful movement toward drawing from diverse samples. Failure to confront the possibility that culturally specific findings are being misattributed as universal traits has broad implications for the construction of scientifically defensible theories and for the reliable public dissemination of study findings.


Cross-cultural research; Cultural psychology; Developmental psychology; Developmental science; Diversity; Generalizable data; Representative data; WEIRD data

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science
Loading ...
Support Center