The Geography of Thought: How Asian and Westerners See Things Differently and Why

People do not perceive the world in the same way…

The Geography of Thought: How Asian and Westerners See Things Differently and Why

People do not perceive the world in the same way, in different parts of the world they don’t even see the same thing. In his work, Richard Nisbett, author of The Geography of Thought: How Asian and Westerners See Things Differently and Why shows the way different cultures develop very different styles of thinking. “It starts with the way we are taught to see. In the Western culture, we learn to see the rest of the world entirely as it relates to us.

We are the subject, everything else is the object.

We are encouraged to be separate, the central point of our story. Through our story books we see ourselves as independent and learn to zero in on the individual. We learn that autonomy is most important.

East Asians are brought up with a strong sense of connection to others that they can see the self (and object) only in relationship to their context. Because Easterners define their world so differently, they learn to view it with a different pair of eyes. In the East, a child learns about the relationship and its primacy-that he and someone else are a unit, an indivisible Bond.

Consequently, in Nisbett’s view, Eastern cultures actually think differently from Westerners. The Easterners mind has learned to see the world far more holistically from the moment it is conscious. Easterners and Westerners have developed different ways of using their eyes to take in their surroundings. When he monitored the eye movement of a group of American and Chinese participants while they watched batches of photographs, each within a single object, such as a tiger, in the foreground against a complex background, the eyes of the Americans quickly fixed on the tiger, whereas the eyes of the Chinese flitted from one point in the background to another. The Chinese made use of far more rapid intermittent eye movement that the American but also required far more time to take in the entire image. From their upbringing, they learned to attend to the whole far more that did the Westerners.

When viewing the same scene, the two cultures actually saw something quite different.”

Extract from The Bond by Lynne McTaggart

Richard Nisbett is a professor of social psychology at the University of Michigan. .(several other experiments came to the same conclusion)

 


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