By way of the Danish videnskab.dk, a pointer to an article by Canadians that concludes with how a lot of American research about human behaviour is wrong. Well, it may conclude that European and Asian research is wrong too, but since they haven't really checked that, who knows.
The important thing with this article is how it talks about generalisation. So much of the research done in the United States is done on first year students. This means it's done on a very narrow group of people, with very specific views and cultural background. An example they give is the relationship to death. Americans have, according to the researchers cited at videnskab.dk, a fundamentally different approach to death than Europeans and people in other cultures. The fear of death is much higher, something which influences the entire society.
When I have stayed in the United States I have felt that very clearly: The sense of being in an alien culture. I thought I would find something familiar, due to language and how we all feel we "know" USA, but oh dear, I was so wrong. An English friend who worked out of New York in a highly international firm told me how Americans are more xenophobic than even the Japanese, and how in their line of business they were quite reluctant to hire Americans due to this.
This kind of connects to my thoughts about English as a "lingua franca" for research, something which of course makes it very easy for American research to spread through the world, but put all non-English speaking people at a distinct disadvantage when going in the other direction. It is a mechanisms that helps maintaining the illusion that we are all similar, because we have to learn how to communicate not only in a language Americans can ready, but also through concepts understandable in an English language culture.
An experience which was an eye-opener to me was when I published this article. I had originally used class to describe differences which would create communication problems within a culture, but I was told that I should not use class but ethnicity, because class wasn't really relevant (in the US). I compromised by using gender, which worked, but the experience was quite shocking. I never thought (and still don't think) there can be a culture where class isn't relevant. For instance, I suspect that a lot of ethnic conflict is also a struggle of class, and the strive for acceptance and respect isn't only about skin colour, but also about making a class journey. This is a fundamental paradigm for anybody who have grown up in an academic tradition heavily influenced by marxism, and while I may be wrong, it highlights the differences between Scandinavia and the USA.
On this background "the weirdest people" is a very important contribution to the discussion of western research, and I guess I should go looking to see if there's a library near me with access to Behavioral and Brain Sciences at Cambridge journals.