The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently - And Why Paperback – 12 May 2005
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This book may mark the beginning of a new front in the science wars. Nisbett, an eminent psychologist, contends that "human cognition is not everywhere the same"-that those brought up in Western and East Asian cultures think differently from one another in scientifically measurable ways. Such a contention pits his work squarely against evolutionary psychology (as articulated by Steven Pinker and others) and cognitive science, which assume all appreciable human characteristics are "hard wired." Writing dispassionately yet with engagement, Nisbett explains the differences as "an inevitable consequence of using different tools to understand the world." If his explanation turns out to be generally accepted, it means a big victory for memes in their struggle with genes. (Publishers Weekly)
Cultural psychology has come of age and Richard Nisbett's book will surely become one of the canonical texts of this provocative discipline. The Geography of Thought challenges a fundamental premise of the Western Enlightenment - the idea that modes of thought are, ought to be, or will become the same wherever you go - East or West, North or South - in the world. (Richard A. Shweder, anthropologist and William Claude Reavis Professor of Human Development at the University of Chicago)
I have long been following Richard Nisbett's groundbreaking work on culture and cognition. After so many fascinating experiments, challenging hypotheses, and passionate debates, it was a great time for Nisbett to share his ideas and findings with a wider public. The Geography of Thought does superbly! (Dan Sperber, author of Explaining Culture: A Naturalistic Approach)
An important, research-based challenge to the assumption widespread among cognitive scientists that thinking the world over is fundamentally the same. (Howard Gardner, Harvard University, author of Frames of Mind: Theories of Multiple Intelligences)
This is another landmark book by University of Michigan psychologist Richard E. Nisbett. Nisbett shows conclusively that laboratory experiments limited to American college students or even individuals from the western hemisphere simply cannot provide an adequate understanding of how people, in general, think. The book shows that understanding of how individuals in eastern cultures think is not just nice, but necessary, if we wish to solve the problems we confront in the world today. We ignore the lessons of this book at our peril. (Robert J. Sternberg, IBM Professor of Psychology and Education; Director, Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise (PACE Center), Yale University; President-Elect, American Psychological Association)
The cultural differences in cognition, demonstrated in this ground-breaking work, are far more profound and wide-ranging than anybody in the field could have possibly imagined just a decade ago. The findings are surprising for universalists; remarkable for culturalists; and regardless, they are most thought-provoking for all students of human cognition. (Shinobu Kitayama, Faculty of Integrated Human Studies, Kyoto University)
Professor Nisbett shows in The Geography of Thought people actually think - 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.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Nisbett's thesis is that there is no universal human cognition - all cognition is culturally affected. Through the use of numerous psychological studies he shows a stark difference in the way Westerners and East Asians perceive, reason, and "see" the world. Nisbett begins by tracing the origins of Western and East Asian philosophy, science and society. On this foundation he builds a case that Western and East Asian cognition is very different. He completes the book with two chapters on the implications of such differences to our modern world.
After 15 years living and working in 3 countries in Asia I can say that there are fundamental differences in the way people from different cultures process, evaluate, and act on information. Everyone views the world through cultural "glasses," and the glasses are all different. Being aware of your own glasses and the glasses of others is a beginning to cross-cultural understanding.
My Japanese colleague has stopped trying to explain to Americans the way Japanese people think - now he just lets Nisbett's book do it. This book provides important research foundations for trainers and coaches who work cross-culturally in Asia.
Western notions, he argues, derive from a Greek ideal of "personal agency". The individual might live in city or farm, but his actions and voice were unique. They also originated the investigation of nature's workings - a process that would culminate in today's usurpation of the environment. Individuals contested their ideas publicly, a process reflected in such diverse environments as politics and science. Ideas are "testable" for validity and utility.
In the East, particularly in Confucian China, the underlying theme is "harmony". For the individual, that's reflected in submergence within the group, whether family or corporation. Disputes aren't resolved by debate, but by mediation, often by a third party. Where Americans, Nesbitt says, use confrontation, even litigation, to resolve issues, the East finds a Middle Way.Read more ›
Apart from a few diagrams, it's all prose. An appendix at least that summarized the tests and experiments and the differences between the behaviors of the Eastern and Western subjects would be helpful.
Nisbett's orientation is cognitive, which can be distracting from the experimental results. He seems to ignore Behaviorist input: he mentions Skinner but unfavorably, as being "a reductionist of the extreme atomic school" who "actually believed theories of any kind were inappropriate". Yet Skinner's interests such as rule-governed behavior, cultural design, and cultural survival would seem to offer some help in understanding how Easterners and Westerners came to differ.
My relationship with a Chinese friend is what drew me to this book (I'm American of English descent) and probably why I am favorably disposed to it. I've felt that my friend doesn't seem to have a self in the way I do, e.g. she says little suggesting self-analysis, but, on the other hand, often mentions what "we Chinese" do. That difference seems confirmed by Nisbett's findings, although I'm wary of such generalization.
There's little detail in the book as to how the tests/experiements were conducted (sufficient for reproducing them) or what controls were applied, so it seems one would have to trust Nisbett a good deal if one only had access to this book. There are notes and references at the end of the book, but there's no numbered footnotes, so to connect a note to its appearance on a page, you have to work backward from the notes section.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Some of the conclusions are just too general to be plausible but certainly gives food for thought - and worth reading for anyone working with adults or children from diverse... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Ms. Louise Knight
Love it - amazing book amazing writer and really great experience, especially for someone who is Snologist!Published 21 months ago by Jovana Savic
I picked up this book because I am about to do a substantial amount of business in China. While I found some of the insights useful, I thought the book focused too much on... Read morePublished on 16 Aug. 2013 by U. Subramanian
I've always been fascinated with Eastern culture, and since I plan to move to China, I thought this book a Malaysian friend recommended would help me understand my future... Read morePublished on 15 Feb. 2013 by MM
... and the Far Eastern Asian mind is beautiful in the way it works in apprehending the world and relating with each other. Read morePublished on 14 Dec. 2012 by Luis Morais
This books has raised some important points that helps the reader grapple with issues relating to the cross-cultural context. Read morePublished on 24 Oct. 2011 by Rob
The Asian, in particular the chinese culture, is the only possibility for Western to further develop our culture and minds - and to become better global citizen. Read morePublished on 11 Dec. 2010 by René Bugge
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