Indigenous and Scientific Research Methods: Deception, Myth in Academic Psychology and American Indian Communities

The emerging movement to decolonize the sciences, social sciences, and humanities has emphasized the differences between Indigenous and Western scientific ways of knowing. Paradoxically, emphasizing the difference between these systems has also been the principle undergirding modern science’s claim to being a uniquely valid means of knowledge creation. Yet as each approach focused solely on contrasting Indigenous and scientific ways of knowing, potential similarities between these knowledge systems may have been ignored. One such oversight is the use of deception by each system, which is central to experimental research designs in the social and psychological sciences, and in American Indian trickster stories. In narratives recounted throughout American Indian societies, tricksters act from malevolence, greed, or generosity and are often catalysts in knowledge production. Similarly, it is the “experimental process” found in Western scientific systems that deceives subjects in order to elicit insights into causality, and such have been the results, that it has become a preeminent empirical method in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Dr. Yancey Orr is an associate professor of environmental science at Smith College and Fellow at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. His research examines how environmental knowledge is produced within different social, technological and cultural contexts. He has conducted academic and applied fieldwork in the Philippines, Indonesia, Western New Guinea, Australia and North America. By developing techniques within cognitive and psychological science, his work aims to better understand how environmental phenomena such as visual or auditory sensations are perceived and categorized. He has held academic appointments in Canada, Australia, France and several institutions in the United States as well as serving as an associate editor of Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal.

Date & time

Mon 15 Apr 2024, 4–5pm


Seminar Room B, Coombs Building


Yancey Orr


Trang Ta


Updated:  28 March 2024/Responsible Officer:  RSHA Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications