School of Computing and Engineering

How WEIRD is HCI

Primary supervisor: Dr Jose Abdelnour-Nocera

Start dates: January, May and September of each academic year

Duration: This is a three-year position.

Research context

Research at the University of West London lives in an ecosystem of interdisciplinary research clusters. This PhD position is based in the School of Computing and Engineering. This particular proposal is focused on recognising the culturally diverse nature of digital communities and how to design useful technology for them.

In recent years, researchers in psychology and economics have increasingly called for a consideration of more diverse subject populations. Summarising contradictory findings between different human populations in various domains such as visual perception or analytic reasoning, Henrich et al. (2010) observed that these research results are not broadly representative. In fact, findings in psychology are almost exclusively based on American undergraduates and other WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, and Democratic) subjects.

Human-Computer Interaction researchers often build on these findings, thus designing technology that is optimised for WEIRD people. Moreover, a large majority of articles published at prominent HCI venues such as Interact or CHI reports on studies with WEIRD participants, ignoring that these results might not be replicable with other subject populations.

Research goal

The This PhD project is aimed at tackling two main questions:

  • (1) What are the obstacles faced by user researchers when replicating user studies with more diverse participants (e.g., in other countries and cultures)?
  • (2) What are major HCI principles that are currently being taken for granted, but which are most likely not replicable across different countries and cultures?  

Candidate profile

The ideal candidate should have an MSc or equivalent degree with a strong human-computer interaction component and combine solid theoretical background and prototyping skills. Strong commitment to reaching research excellence and achieving assigned objectives is required, so as ability to work in a collaborative and interdisciplinary environment. It is expected that the PhD candidate will carry out applied research work that will start from the establishment of a theoretical framework, continue with empirical work to explore the research goals and conclude with the validation of a proposed solution through prototype evaluations and user studies. 

Background knowledge and/or previous experience in the following areas (in order of preference), though not mandatory, will be considered very favourably: Human-Computer Interaction, Social Sciences: Psychology and/or Sociology, Software internationalisation and localization.

All applicants for whom English is not their first language must also demonstrate their English language proficiency through evidence of IELTS at overall 7 (with 6.5 in all four skills) or by providing access to MA/MSc chapters or published work.

Further information

For general enquiries about the application process visit the Graduate School pages.

Questions regarding academic aspects of the project should be directed to jose.abdelnour-nocera@uwl.ac.uk