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Geography of Thought: how Asians and Westerners think differently and why

  • Sep 27, 2012 · 6:30 PM
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This book may mark the beginning of a new front in the science wars. (Richard) Nisbett, an eminent psychologist and co-author of a seminal Psychological Review paper on how people talk about their decision making, reports on some of his latest work in cultural psychology. He contends that "[h]uman 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." Initial chapters lay out the traditional differences between Aristotle and Confucius, and the social practices that produced (and have grown out of) these differing "homeostatic approaches" to the world: Westerners tend to inculcate individualism and choice (40 breakfast cereals at the supermarket), while East Asians are oriented toward group relations and obligations ("the tall poppy is cut down" remains a popular Chinese aphorism). Next, Nisbett presents his actual experiments and data, many of which measure reaction times in recalling previously shown objects. They seem to show East Asians (a term Nisbett uses as a catch-all for Chinese, Koreans, Japanese and others) measurably more holistic in their perceptions (taking in whole scenes rather than a few stand-out objects). Westerners, or those brought up in Northern European and Anglo-Saxon-descended cultures, have a "tunnel-vision perceptual style" that focuses much more on identifying what's prominent in certain scenes and remembering it. 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. (Mar. 3) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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  • RK

    Book suggestions from TPL librarian on this topic:

    The Chinese mind: understanding traditional Chinese beliefs and their influence on contemporary culture.
    By Boye De Mente

    From the ruins of empire: the revolt against the West and the remaking of Asia. By Pankaj Mishra

    Somebody else’s century: East and West in a post-Western world,
    By Patrick L. Smith

    The Culture code: an ingenious way to understand why people around the world buy and live as they do
    By Clotaire Rapaille

    October 1, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great discussion! I did enjoy the group! Thank you!

    September 29, 2012

  • RK

    It was great to hear perspectives from people's experiences in other parts of the world, also compared to experiences here, related specifically to the material in the book, like how some people are frustrated by the need to conform in some parts of the world.

    It's good for ALL participants to be mindful to keep the discussion focused on the specific material in the book, not just related to the general topic in the book.

    September 28, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    I enjoyed the discussion a lot. As always in a group debate, there will always be off-topic subject that takes so much time away from the main topic. We missed so many interesting points mentioned in the book that should have been discussed in detail.

    September 28, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    The group was too large to have a really productive conversation. Better organization, with a tight focus on specific aspects of the book would have been helpful. I still believe that a break halfway through would be valuable.

    September 27, 2012

  • Emad G.

    Very interesting intelligent discussion with smart people from diverse backgrounds.

    September 27, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Excellent!! 5 star

    September 27, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great discussion as usual.

    September 27, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hey guys; unfortunately I will not be able to make it tomorrow; I was really looking forward in seeing you all but something came up. I hope you guys enjoy the discussion!

    September 26, 2012

  • RK

    New York Times: Breaking up the echo
    "evidence suggests that balanced presentations — in which competing arguments or positions are laid out side by side... At least when people begin with firmly held convictions, such an approach is likely to increase polarization rather than reduce it. "
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/opinion/balanced-news-reports-may-only-inflame.html?_r=0

    September 25, 2012

  • RK

    Hi Syed: It's listed at $12.16 at chapters / $14.99 for the eBook, http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/home/search/?keywords=geography%20of%20thought&pageSize=12 and there are a few copies in the Toronto library system

    August 24, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    A quick Question. The latest book is priced over $ 100 on Amazon. Any other source at a cheaper price?

    August 24, 2012

  • RK

    The book "Imagine: How Creativity Works" has been pulled from shelves as the author has admitted that some of the content was made up. Thanks, Donna for pointing this out. See http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/1234499--new-yorker-writer-faked-bob-dylan-quotes-in-bestseller
    As such, I've switched the book to the runner up.

    August 4, 2012

  • RK

    Each month, the book is in the title of the meetup. This meetup is "Imagine: How Creativity works"

    August 3, 2012

    • donna

      Wondering... are we still reading it, since it's recently been pulled from the shelves?

      August 3, 2012

  • Dean K.

    RK, another question, what book are we supposed to read for this meetup?

    July 31, 2012

  • RK

    The Fox and Fiddle is great and is still an option, though we have accepted a sponsorship from the Reference Library and will start meeting there in Sept - for details, including the 10 dates that have been booked, see the post on the discussion list/message board (emailed to everyone in May). Numerous regular members were interested in a venue where there was no pressure to buy food. There was a unanimous vote to accept the library sponsorship at the May meeting. Many of us feel it's a win-win.

    July 30, 2012

  • Marilyn D

    Quick question. How long has the group been meeting at the Reference library? Is Fox and the Fiddle not on option any longer?

    July 29, 2012

  • RK

    Hi Sarah,
    1. We meet monthly to discuss a non-fiction book in a moderated discussion based on a set of questions about the book. A $2 contribution covers meetup expenses.
    2. Members are encouraged to make book suggestions on the meetup discussion board, indicating why they would us to read a particular book.
    3. Each month we have a poll of five books selected from the book suggestions, where members are asked to vote on books that they would be willing to read and come to discuss.
    Rose

    July 29, 2012

  • Sarah

    Hi,
    It is first time in a book club. How does it work?

    July 28, 2012

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