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The Geography of Thought

How Asians and Westerners Think Differently-- and Why
Nisbett, Richard E. (Book - 2003 )
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Geography of Thought

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Everyone knows that while different cultures may think about the world differently, they use the same equipment for doing their thinking. Everyone knows that whatever the skin color, nationality, or religion, every human being uses the same tools for perception, for memory, and for reasoning. Everyone knows that a logically true statement is true in English, German, or Hindi. Everyone knows that when a Chinese and an American look at the same painting, they see the same painting. But what if everyone is wrong? When psychologist Richard E. Nisbett showed an animated underwater scene to his American students, they zeroed in on a big fish swimming among smaller fish. Japanese subjects, on the other hand, made observations about the background environment -- and the different "seeings" are a clue to profound underlying cognitive differences between Westerners and East Asians. For, as Professor Nisbett shows in The Geography of Thought, people actually think about -- and even see -- the world differently because of differing ecologies, social structures, philosophies, and educational systems that date back to ancient Greece and China and that have survived into the modern world. As a result, East Asian thought is "holistic" -- drawn to the perceptual field as a whole and to relations among objects and events within that field. By comparison to Western modes of reasoning, East Asian thought relies far less on categories or on formal logic; it is fundamentally dialectic, seeking a "middle way" between opposing thoughts. By contrast, Westerners focus on salient objects or people, use attributes to assign them to catergories, and apply rules of formal logic to understand their behavior. The Geography of Thought documents Professor Nisbett's groundbreaking international research in cultural psychology, a series of comparative studies both persuasive in their rigor and startling in their conclusions, addressing questions such as: * Why did the ancient Chinese excel at algebra and arithmetic, but not geometry, the brilliant achievement of such Greeks as Euclid? * Why do East Asians find it so difficult to disentangle an object from its surroundings? * Why do Western infants learn nouns more rapidly than verbs, when it is the other way around in East Asia? * What are the implications of these cognitive differences for the future of international politics? Do they support a Fukuyamaesque "end of history" scenario or a Huntingtonian "clash of civilizations"? From feng shui to metaphysics, from comparative linguistics to economic history, a gulf separates the children of Aristotle from the descendants of Confucius. At a moment in history when the need for cross-cultural understanding and collaboration have never been more important, The Geography of Thought offers both a map to that gulf and a blueprint for a bridge that might be able to span it.
Authors: Nisbett, Richard E.
Title: The geography of thought
how Asians and westerners think differently-- and why
Publisher: New York : Free Press, c2003.
Characteristics: xxiii, 263 p. :,ill. ;,22 cm.
Contents: The syllogism and the Tao: philosophy, science and society in ancient Greece and China
The social origins of mind: economics, social practices, and thought
Living together vs. going it alone: social life and sense of self in the modern East and West
"Eyes in back of your head" or "Keep your eye on the ball"?: Envisioning the world
"The bad seed" or "The other boys made him do it"?: causal attribution and causal modeling East and West
Is the world made up of nouns or verbs?: categories and rules vs. relationships and similarities
"Ce n'est pas logique" or "You've got a point there"?: logic and the law of noncontradiction
And if the nature of thought is not everywhere the same?: implications for psychology, philosophy, education, and everyday life
The end of psychology or the clash of mentalities?: the longevity of differences.
ISBN: 0743216466
Statement of Responsibility: Richard E. Nisbett
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references and index.
Subject Headings: East and West. Cognition and culture.
Topical Term: East and West.
Cognition and culture.
LCCN: 2002032178
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Sep 24, 2012
  • Avantel rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This book describes how the Western and eastern ways of thinking evolved in different ways based in the main influences of ancient times. These influences in the West came mostly from the urban/trading Greece and in the East mostly from rural/farming communities all over China and its neighbors.
The profiles that the author, Mr Nisbett, presents actually extend to urban and rural comunnities in general. Nisbett hismself noticed it when looking at Europe in the Middle ages and I notice it right today in our very nation, which has a mostly rural backgroud.
Some of this rural/farming characteristics are excessive focus in harmony and agreement within the community. What Nisbett missed was that rural/farming communitirs develop way mistrut to outsiders, unlike city people.
R. Nisbett was excessively kind to the East, and you should read a more critical description of the East in "Shutting Out The Sun" by M Zielenziger. He covered Japan and a bit of Korea, but his work can extend farther.
Despite Nisbett's mistakes, his work is still very good and will let you understand Easterners better. For example, I got interested in them after discovering their unique cartoons or "anime" and this book let me undertand many things far better than books on anime and popular Japanese culture.


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Version pocillo (pocillo) Last updated 2014/08/28 16:30