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Book Review

Book Review Richard E. Nisbett The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently … and Why . New York: Free Press, 2003. ISBN 0‐7432‐1646‐6 (288 pp., $24). Richard Nisbett's book The Geography of Thought is subtitled How Asians and Westerners Think Differently … and Why . Nisbett summarizes a number of studies, including his own, establishing that many Asians and Westerners think differently: Asians, unlike Westerners, have difficulty disentangling objects from their surroundings; Western infants learn nouns more rapidly than they learn verbs, unlike Easterners; Easterners avoid the “fundamental attribution error” of imputing to personality what is a situational factor; and Westerners use formal logic, whereas Easterners entertain contradiction (which, Nisbett adds, can “sometimes be helpful in getting at the truth”). One obvious concern with such stereotypes is that they ignore the vast differences within groups. Nisbett admits the crudity of “East Asian” as a label for billions of people, yet says the generalization is justified (p. xxii). His valuable summary of empirical evidence does seem to establish differences among Asians and Westerners. To give just two examples, Imae and Gentner showed subjects a pyramid made of cork, identified as a “dax,” then presented two trays, one having http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy Wiley

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Publisher
Wiley
Copyright
Copyright © 2003 Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company
ISSN
1529-7489
eISSN
1530-2415
DOI
10.1111/j.1530-2415.2003.00030.x
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Richard E. Nisbett The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently … and Why . New York: Free Press, 2003. ISBN 0‐7432‐1646‐6 (288 pp., $24). Richard Nisbett's book The Geography of Thought is subtitled How Asians and Westerners Think Differently … and Why . Nisbett summarizes a number of studies, including his own, establishing that many Asians and Westerners think differently: Asians, unlike Westerners, have difficulty disentangling objects from their surroundings; Western infants learn nouns more rapidly than they learn verbs, unlike Easterners; Easterners avoid the “fundamental attribution error” of imputing to personality what is a situational factor; and Westerners use formal logic, whereas Easterners entertain contradiction (which, Nisbett adds, can “sometimes be helpful in getting at the truth”). One obvious concern with such stereotypes is that they ignore the vast differences within groups. Nisbett admits the crudity of “East Asian” as a label for billions of people, yet says the generalization is justified (p. xxii). His valuable summary of empirical evidence does seem to establish differences among Asians and Westerners. To give just two examples, Imae and Gentner showed subjects a pyramid made of cork, identified as a “dax,” then presented two trays, one having

Journal

Analyses of Social Issues & Public PolicyWiley

Published: Dec 1, 2003

References