Type WebPage
Date 2005-08-23

Americans and Chinese Differ in Their World View--Literally (Link)

Richard E. Nisbett of the University of Michigan and his colleagues conducted a series of experiments in which Chinese and American students were shown a number of images, each depicting a single subject against a realistic and complex background. The participants--who wore an eye-movement tracker during the tests--were then shown pictures containing the same subjects on either old or new backgrounds and asked to judge whether they had seen the subjects before.

As the team predicted, the American students homed in on the focal subject sooner and longer than did the Chinese students, who paid more attention to the background imagery.

Nisbett and his collaborators posit that these differences in attention to object and context arise through socialization practices. "East Asians live in relatively complex social networks with prescribed role relations. Attention to context is, therefore, important for effective functioning," the scientists observe. "In contrast, Westerners live in less constraining social worlds that stress independence and allow them to pay less attention to context."