WEIRD populations, or those categorized as Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic, are sampled in the majority of quantitative human subjects research. Although this oversampling is criticized in some corners of social science research, it is not always clear what we are critiquing. In this article, we make three interventions into the WEIRD concept and its common usage. First, we seek to better operationalize the terms within WEIRD to avoid erasing people with varying identities who also live within WEIRD contexts. Second, we name whiteness as the factor that most strongly unites WEIRD research and researchers yet typically goes unacknowledged. We show how reflexivity is a tool that can help social scientists better understand the effects of whiteness within the scientific enterprise. Third, we look at the positionality of biological anthropology, as not cultural anthropology and not psychology, and how that offers both promise and pitfalls to the study of human variation. We offer other perspectives on what constitutes worthy and rigorous biological anthropology research that does not always prioritize replicability and statistical power, but rather emphasizes the full spectrum of the human experience. From here, we offer several ways forward to produce more inclusive human subjects research, particularly around existing methodologies such as grounded theory, Indigenous methodologies, and participatory action research, and call on biological anthropology to contribute to our understanding of whiteness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-186
Number of pages18
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
StatePublished - Oct 21 2019


  • race
  • Western
  • whiteness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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