The geography of thought

Do Asians think differently than Westerners? This important book provides some pretty compelling reasons to think so. Asians, or more accurately East Asians, or even more accurately, people from China, Japan, and South Korea show important differences in the way they perceive, classify, and judge objects and events from people in the United States and Western Europe. Westerners believe in the primacy of objects and logic, that is, logic as defined by early Greek scholars. Thus, if there are two contradictory statements, one must be wrong, the other right. Westerners tend to see objects and when learning a language, to learn nouns before verbs. East Asians believe in relationships and context. When there are contradictory statements, they try to understand the context and find a resolution that accepts both — think Yin and Yang. East Asians tend to see contexts and place as much importance on the background as the foreground. In learning a language they learn relationships first, which means verbs rather than nouns.

The book is readable and convincing. The author, Richard Nisbett, is a senior, well-known and respected social psychologist. In this co-mingled world, where West interacts with East on a continual basis, the more we understand about one another, the better all of us will be. This book is required reading.

Excerpts from Chapter 1.

Link to book at