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Never the twain?

Updated Wednesday, 23rd September 2009

Inspired by the 2008 Reith Lectures, our community debated if the people living in the East are fundamentally different from those living in the West. Forum member Weiminfuwu borrowed a line or two from Kipling to ask if people living in the West and their counterparts in the East see things differently.

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It is often suggested that the people of the East and the people of the West think differently. For example it is said by some that Westerners think individualistically where Easterners think communally. My friend Wei Wang has suggested in other threads that Westerners think in an abstract manner where Easterners think in a more pragmatic, situational manner - if I understand correctly.

I find this proposition interesting, though I am somewhat sceptical.

I therefore invite Wei Wang to put his thesis to us for discussion. In particular I would be interested to hear of any academic studies which support the thesis. Further, given that abstraction is a fundamental human cognitive skill, is there any evidence from neurophysiology that Easterners and Westerners demonstrate different brain function?

BTW: The much maligned Kipling quote use to name this thread actually runs:

Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,
Till Earth and Sky stand presently at God’s great Judgement Seat;
But there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth,
When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!

 

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