Is the Difference Between East and West Thinking Real?
Is the Difference Between East and West Thinking Real?
  • Kim Gyeong-min (News Editor)
  • 승인 2024.07.08 13:36
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Richard E. Nisbett’s Maps of Thoughts reveals the difference in views between the East and West. What is the experiment that leads to finding out the difference in perspective? Furthermore, let’s understand this in detail through interviews. ......Ed


ST, Kim Gyeong-min
ST, Kim Gyeong-min

     A Map of Thoughts, published by Nisbett in 2005, became a best-selling book with its sensational popularity around the world. He was the first to say that the different viewpoints between the East and the West is real. Until now, there has been a strong perception that there is an inherent universal view of thinking thought? by Westerners, regardless of the distinction between East and West. However, Richard Nisbett argued that asserting such a universal view of thinking was erroneous in itself, and that the people from the West and the East had completely different ways of thinking.


     1. An experiment to determine differences in thinking

     Nisbett presents an experiment in his book. He realizes that what has been claimed to be a universal thought was a Western centered error. As a result of the experiment, Westerners thought of cows and chickens (A). A system of recognition was formed that thought of animals as a “category.” On the other hand, Asians thought of cows and rice (B) as a group because a system of recognition that emphasized “relationship” was formed. This was the result of Nisbett proving that the existence of universal thinking was wrong.






     He named this difference as “relational thinking” and “linear thinking,” and mentioned that it can be found in the examples of ancestors from the past. In the case of ancient Greece, everything was divided into two based on linear thinking. For this reason, I thought about the difference between the human world and the independent natural world, and the objective external world and the interstate internal world. He also discovered gravity and buoyancy based on that thinking. On the other hand, in the case of ancient China, the universe was viewed as a field connected to each other based on complexity. He thought that anything could happen in a field where many forces interacted. For example, the connection between the moon’s movement and the tide is the same. As such, it was found that such differences in thinking that can be found from the past are still inherent in our lives, and that simple thinking as a universal way of thinking is a cognitive error arising from Western-centered thinking.


     2. Interview with a real person

     There are also differences in attitudes toward life between the East and the West. It can be said that such cultural differences originated from inherent views of thinking. I Interviewed a student who has encountered both Eastern and Western cultures.


    Q1. Self-Introduction

     A1. Hello, I’m Seo Min-ji. I am majoring in political science and international relations. I stayed in Germany as an exchange student for one semester. I am currently doing an internship in Sydney, Australia, through the overseas field training program. I have been residing overseas for less than a year.


     Q2. Do you agree with the opinion that Westerners and Asians have different views?

The Geography of Thought

    A2. Personally, I think the views of the East and the West are different. For example, let’s think about the culture of cheat chat and small talk in the West. This culture of having conversations with strangers on the bus or by chance on the road is a concept that is rarely familiar to Koreans. I think the residential environment played a part in this difference. When I was an exchange student, I learned that it is common to live in a country house with a yard in Europe unless it is a very downtown area. While cultivating trees in the yard with children, I often encounter neighbors or passers-by while playing with them, and an environment is created in which I can naturally interact with them. On the other hand, in Korea, it is common to live in apartments and villas, so passers-by on the road tend to be disconnected from neighbors.


     Q3. Then, is there a moment when you felt the most cultural difference?

     A3. This reminds me of an anecdote about the small talk I did earlier. I was taking a break on the bench after taking a walk with my friend. Then, someone sat behind us, and took out a carrot. When I saw her, she said, “Are you carrying carrots? I’m very healthy. We just had a meal, and were wondering if we should have gelato for a snack.” It’s really unfamiliar to have this conversation in Korea, but it’s a common sight here.


     3. the difference in thinking that can still be found in the changing times

     Through interviews, the West created an autonomous dialogue and a living environment based on the thinking that values individual autonomy. On the other hand, in the case of the East, the caring tendency stands out in the residential environment because the relationship out of living together was important. This is because I think problems such as floor noise are a big problem in the community where people are living together. However, such a residential environment rather created a disconnection of communication. In this way, the difference in thinking reproduced the difference in the way of life and values again.


Kim Gyeong-min (News Editor)

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