Cow. Chicken. Grass. Which two are alike or go together? Your answer depends, in large part, on where you were born and raised.
Research psychologists have suspected for decades that East Asians and Westerners think about and perceive the world in fundamentally different ways. The scientific evidence in support of this hypothesis was fairly sparse until recently. In the past 15 years, however, researchers have learned a great deal about different cognitive styles and the cultural variables that produce them.
The story begins in 1972, when Liang-Hwang Chiu, a professor of educational psychology at Indiana University at Kokomo, tested more than 200 Chinese and 300 American children. He showed each child a series of cards. Each card pictured three items. One card, for example, showed a cow, a chicken, and a patch of grass. Chiu asked the children to indicate which two objects were alike or went together. Most of the American children picked the chicken and cow. They explained their reasoning by saying that ''both are animals.'' The Chinese children, however, typically put the cow and grass together because ''cows eat grass.''
Chiu's study was rarely mentioned in the years following its publication, in large part because psychological scientists at that time paid little attention to cultural variables. In the 1990s, however, cross-cultural psychology became "hot" and Chiu's findings were resurrected. Researchers at the University of Michigan replicated Chiu's study by testing college students from China, Taiwan, and the United States. Instead of using pictures, the researchers presented participants with word triads-shampoo, hair, and conditioner, for example-and asked them to indicate which two were most closely related. The Americans were more likely than the Chinese to say that shampoo and conditioner go together because they're both hair care products. The Chinese were more likely to say that shampoo and hair go together because "shampoo washes and cleans hair."
Why do East Asians and Westerners reason differently? Most researchers believe the answer can be found in their cultural backgrounds and upbringing. East Asians are typically oriented toward interdependence, harmony, and relatedness. Westerners are typically oriented toward independence, autonomy, and individual achievement. These different social orientations produce different patterns of perception and thought-in short, different cognitive styles. Interdependent persons think about objects as embedded in contexts that include relationships, whereas independent persons tend to focus on categories that are defined by shared properties such as "animal-ness."
Can independent persons and interdependent persons be found within the same nation? Absolutely. Researcher Nicole Knight recently used a variation of the "cow, chicken, grass" test to compare southern Italians, who are relatively interdependent, and northern Italians, who are relatively independent. When presented with verbal triads such as "monkey, panda, and banana," northern Italians were more likely to say that monkey and panda are alike and go together because they belong to the same category (animals). Southern Italians, however, were more likely to say that monkey and banana go together because they have a relationship (monkeys eat bananas).
The "cow, chicken, grass" studies have identified just one of many cognitive phenomena that vary according to cultural background. Stay tuned for more.
2011-09-23 09:48 编辑：kuaileyingyu