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Modern and Traditional Japanese Culture: The Psychology of Buddhism, Power Rangers, Masked Rider, Manga, Anime and Shinto. 在日イギリス人男性による日本文化論.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Sorting by Words and Images

Sorting by Words and Images

Norenzayan, Smith, Kim, & Nisbett (2002) cool research on how Westerners and Asians sort shapes into groups (figure 4 of which reproduced above without permission) is described as a preference for formal or intuitive reasoning. Masuda (2010) describes it under the rubric of his and Nisbett's (2004) distinction between "analytic and holistic thought." Asians sort the left target images into the left hand groups and the right target images into the right hand groups whereas North Americans sort them in the reverse ways.

The reason for this difference is, it seems to me, that the Asians are sorting the target images according to visual similarity according to their face since the visual is felt to be important and alive.

W.I.E.R.D. (Henrich, Heine & Norenzayan, 2010) Westerners, infected as they are by the addiction to hearing themselves speak are looking for a linguistic rule to apply and find it in the 'hair' of the shapes right and the stalks of the flowers left and apply that rule. The hair and the stalks are in a sense in the background. The faces of the little men and flowers are focal and yet, Westerners are not talking to the "The Boss" (Masuda, 2010) the faces of the men and flowers, but to the "trees" (Nisbett, 2004) the minor background details. The reason for this is that Westerners believe that language is the vector of meaning and life.

To humans, life is meaning (Heine, Proulx, & Vohs, 2006) but Westerners hear meaning in words, and Japanese see meaning in faces and characters.

Image based upon figure 4 page 664 of (Norenzayan, Smith, Kim, & Nisbett, 2002)
Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). Most people are not WEIRD. Nature, 466(7302), 29–29.
Heine, S. J., Proulx, T., & Vohs, K. D. (2006). The meaning maintenance model: On the coherence of social motivations. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10(2), 88–110.
Masuda. 増田貴彦. (2010). ボスだけを見る欧米人 みんなの顔まで見る日本人. 講談社.
Nisbett, R. (2004). The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why. Free Press.
Norenzayan, A., Smith, E. E., Kim, B. J., & Nisbett, R. E. (2002). Cultural preferences for formal versus intuitive reasoning. Cognitive Science, 26(5), 653–684.

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This blog represents the opinions of the author, Timothy Takemoto, and not the opinions of his employer.