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The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  1,155 ratings  ·  151 reviews
When psychologist Richard E. Nisbett showed an animated underwater scene to his American students, they zeroed in on a big fish swimming among smaller fish. Japanese observers instead commented on the background environment -- and the different "seeings" are a clue to profound cognitive differences between Westerners and East Asians. As

Nisbett shows in The Geography of Th

ebook, 288 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Free Press (first published February 25th 2003)
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i think the crux of the book is

(1) object-based thinking vs (2) context-based thinking and how through the years, the Westerners and the Easterners have differed in their thinking process

i think the idea can be equally applied to all of us, as some are more bound to object-based thinking vs context-based.

if you have to choose 2 things out of the following 3 things:
(1) monkey
(2) banana
(3) lion

and you choose
(1) monkey and banana - u are more likely a context-based thinking person
(2) monkey and li
Ahmad Al-Maaini
(نُشر هذا العرض في ملحق شرفات بجريدة عمان بتاريخ 14 أبريل 2010)

هناك نكتة تقول بأن الأمم المتحدة وزّعت استبانة حول العالم تسأل فيها السؤال التالي: "من فضلك هلاّ قدّمت لنا رأيك الشخصي الصادق حول الحلول لمشكلة نقص الغذاء في بقية أنحاء العالم؟"، وتبيّن من النتائج أنه في أفريقيا لم يفهموا كلمة "غذاء"، وفي الشرق الأوسط لم يفهموا كلمة "حلول" وفي الصين لم يفهموا معنى "الرأي الشخصي" وفي أميركا لم يفهموا معنى "بقية أنحاء العالم"! هي مجرد طرفة لا تعميمات تُرجى منها، ولكنها قد تشير إلى فروقٍ كبيرة بين شعوب
Matthew Vacca
While this book certainly sheds a lot of light on the different approaches in the thinking of Easterners and Westerners (and the origins of both), that does not necessarily add up to an enjoyable or engaging read. This book comes off a bit like a graduate thesis and certainly has done the homework to back everything up.

Having lived in South Korea for the last two years, I have often wondered about (and even laughed out loud at) the subtle cultural differences in my day-to-day life here that tou
For much of my life, I've been a bridge: trying to connect people into communities and communities into networks, helping our world hold together. I was born with/grew into a dislike for arguments (of the quarrel variety) and an affinity for transforming conflicts. Often, I've felt uneasy with the values of my own country or other parts of the West I've been to.

This book helped me understand why.

Among the brighter insights were:

- why I say 'I' so much--and often still feel disconnected from othe
Tim Pendry
This is an important work in the undermining of the universalism that has afflicted private discourse and public policy in the West since the age of Plato.

Nisbett explores a simple issue - whether, how and why East Asians and Americans (though he insists on referring to them as Westerners) think in different ways.

It is more exploratory than decisive. There is no psychological experiment that is not contingent in time and space by the very nature of its subject matter but much of his material is
The differences in thoughts between Asians and westerners have often been elaborated from the perspectives of history, culture, politics, and philosophy. Therefore, it's good to read on a psychology approach on this analysis.

The author developed his argument on the basis of case studies carried out among Asians, Asian-Americans, and westerners. Of course, the results of each case study is never conclusive, but in the end, as a whole, the author's work should be commended. Indeed, he merely reco
Sarah Oh
The Geography of Thought was definitely enthralling, captivating and stimulating. I came across this book in my mum's bookshelf and was captivated by the title " How Asians and Westerners Think Differently". This question has been in my thought for a couple of months after I have arrived in Korea. As I observed the difference between Westerns at this school and the Easterns (Asians), I started seeing the divergence between two cultures. Simple observations resulted in constant pondering and inqu ...more
Superb. There is no need for me to add another summary to the excellent summaries submitted by other readers. This book had me gripped from beginning to end. Occasionally I had to raise my eyebrow at the use of the term Westerner, when clearly the author meant American, and was describing cultural experiences I cannot relate to at all as an English woman. Also there were many discussions which I felt could have benefitted from feminist analysis - experiences and descriptions of cultures appear v ...more
This book is a cognitive psychologist’s look at how differences between Asian (mainly Chinese) and Western (mainly American) thinking influence what Nisbett refers to as “habits of mind.” He asserts that differences between Asian and Western “habits of mind” are essentially cognitive. With reference to the intellectual traditions of Aristotelian and Confucian logic, cognitive psychology experiments performed by both Asian and Western researchers, and several of his own experiments, Nisbett claim ...more
Fascinating book! While reading another book by a guy who had moved to Thailand, this was recommended. I ended up putting aside the Thailand book in favor of this one. It was just so thought-provoking. Here we are, immersed in a huge country, with this culture that has infiltrated most areas of the world, and most of us are quite unaware that not everyone has the same underlying assumptions that we do as they look at life. In essence, the West is based on the philosophical ideas of the Greeks, w ...more
Nabili ko itong librong 'to sa National Bestseller sa Robinsons, Galleria. Natuwa ako kasi discounted, at saka sakto 'tong librong 'to sa gusto kong matutunan ng mga panahong yon. Kaya binili ko kahit wala akong pera.
Paano nga ba mag-isip ang mga tao? Saan nagsimula ang pagkakaiba ng Western at ng Eastern pagdating sa system of thought? Mayroon nga bang universal psychology o Western lang talaga yun at ang plano nila ay gawing Western ang buong mundo?
Nasagot naman lahat dito sa librong ito.
Anthony Bello
The book's main value comes at the end where it justifies the value of the studies contained therein. The book's second major value comes from the various and diverse experiments cited. All in all, I would not recommend this book.

Many things about this book disappointed me. For one thing, I found that the author incorrectly characterizes much of the Western thinkers and thoughts in this book. He claims that Eastern Asians are at fault for discrediting action at a distance, whereas Einstein's di
Charlie Canning
Walls of the mind

Throughout history, there have always been barriers between cultures. Many of the first boundaries were physical ones drawn along the natural divisions created by continents, oceans, mountain ranges, rivers, and lakes. When these weren't enough to keep some groups of people separated from others, nation states built castles and walls.

Over the last thirty years, things have changed dramatically. Countries once closed are now open and people are traveling more than ever. The Berli
"في عام 1991 وقعت جريمتان جماعيتان، إحداهما في الصين والأخرى في أميركا، الأولى قام بها طالب فيزياء صيني خسر جائزة تنافسية، وفشل على إثر ذلك في الحصول على وظيفة أكاديمية، فأطلق الرصاص على المشرف وعلى عدد من زملائه وبعض من صادف وجودهم، أما الجريمة الأميركية فقد أقدم عامل بريد على إطلاق النار على رئيسه في العمل وعلى زملائه وعدد ممن صادف وجودهم ثم انتحر.

فسر الأميركيون الجريمتين بوجود الاستعدادات المفترضة لدى الجاني، وهي استعدادات راسخة لدى القاتل، ورأوا أن جرائم القتل ستقع دون اعتبار لاختلاف الظروف.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Panpan Wang
Understanding differences in how people from "The East" or "The West" think has profound insights not only on a theoretical level, but can have important implications on a practical level whether in our homes, our communities, or the grander stage of international affairs. Perhaps more than simply explaining sociological through and behavior, a better understanding can help predict actions, or at the very least provide a better informed prediction. Using field research conducted across continent ...more

As someone who lives in the between the words of Western and Asian thought, I had to get my hands on this book. This book had some wonderful material but could have used some just never had that WOW moment where something just clicked. It's really a shame because this topic is really just up my alley.

The difference can be summarized as follows: Eastern thought tends to be more holistic, cyclical, and relationship-oriented. While Western thought tends to be more modular, linear, and object-orient
The Korean graduate student I am tutoring in ESL recommended this excellent summary of the cross cultural psychological research on how people think. East Asians and Americans may be born with the same gray matter but we think in fundamentAlly different ways. East Asians see context, relationships and change where we focus on objects, characteristics and logic. Interestingly enough, this has been true since the time of Aristotle and Confucius. Dr Nesbit, President of the American Psychological A ...more
رياض المسيبلي
طالما شغلني التفكير عن أسباب تقدّم الغرب وتخلفنا.
وكانت قراءاتي لمن حاول الإجابة عن هذا السؤال, أو حتى اجتهاداتي الذاتية, لا تسمن ولا تغني من جوع.
حتى وقع في يدي هذا الكتاب الرائع, وقرأته حينها, ثم أعدت قراءته مرّة أخرى قريباً.
في هذا الكتاب يشرح الكاتب أنّ طرق التفكير المتباينة عند الشرق والغرب, ليست نابعة عن أي الجانبين أفضل, بل نابعة
عن الاختلاف بين أساليب التفكير, فليس هناك أفضل أو أدنى, بل ندّية ناشئة عن الاختلاف في البيئات والمجتمعات وغير ذلك.
يتحدّث "نيسبت" عن الطريقة "الجماعية" للتفكير في الش
Muhammad Nusair
Interesting book. This paragraph is the book in a nutshell :“The Chinese believe in constant change, but with things always moving back to some prior state. They pay attention to a wide range of events; they search for relationships between things; and they think you can't understand the part without understanding the whole. Westerners live in a simpler, more deterministic world; they focus on salient objects or people instead of the larger picture; and they think they can control events because ...more
Mike Koscielny
I've been teaching in China for a year, and I felt like this book did a good job articulating a lot of the things that I've observed with my students, but couldn't quite make sense of, in terms of their behaviour and understanding of knowledge that I teach. Other parts were quite enlightening...

I was left with one question... if my Chinese students view the world holistically, with such a stress on context, why can they not use context clues to understand words they don't know in passages I giv
Mary Catelli
Did you know that American and European children learn nouns a lot faster than verbs, and Chinese, Japanese and Korean children learn verbs about as fast as nouns?

That Americans are better at picking out foreground objects and recognizing them in different situations, while Japanese are better at taking in the whole picture?

That native speakers of English are likely to correlate object by category, and native speakers of Chinese, by relationship? But if you teach native speakers of Chinese Engli
3.5 stars. Started out superbly, but ended up a bit long winded in the middle. It's an excellent reference book for anyone living in an East Asian country, or working in an East Asian company. I've been in Japan for over 6 years, married to a Japanese lad, teaching gaggles of Japanese children daily, and I still had quite a few 'a-ha!' moments while reading. My main issue with the book is that it is extremely America-centric, the use of 'westerner' as an umbrella term was misleading.
Richard E. Nisbett's The Geography of Thought examines the age-old question that has intrigued psychologists (and anyone, really) for centuries: how do Eastern and Western modes of thought differ, and why?

In the book, Nisbett begins by explaining the core foundations of thought on either side. In the East,Confucianism states that the world is a complex place that "consists of continuous substances." In the West,Aristotelianism asserts that "theworld is composed of discrete objects or separate at
Having just relocated to South East Asia as part of my work, I have been reading books to help me understand how people from East Asia think and work. Whilst not actively looking, the CEO for the company I work for, recommended this as one of the top books he read in 2014. So I ended up picking this one up and reading it within a few days.

An easy and fairly quick read (229 pages), this book was written in 2003 by Richard E. Nisbett who has taught psychology at Yale and taught at University of M
Rachel S
I liked the book, but I thought the focus groups were too narrow (i.e. comparing Asian college students on American college campuses with U.S. students). I would have liked to see more conclusive studies with broader age ranges and more international studies. The author was too quick to make assumptions in certain parts. Generally, I still liked the book, though. I'd recommend it to someone who likes psychology and is interested in the book's title.
Too general, and lots of the research, as an Asian, I found to be untrue.
Moreover, the books does many of its research on Asian Americans, which is quite different from Asians.
Ghada Azzam
أكتر حاجه عجبتنى فى الكتاب انى عرفت اخيرا سر جمله الجمله فى الانجليزى بتبقى جمله اسميه وفى العربى فعليه اللى كنت بدرسها من ساعه ما دخلت حضانه وبدأت اعرف انجليزى او لغات عموما من غير ما افهم السر فى كدا :D
وأخيرا عرفت السبب النفسى والاجتماعى العلمى اللى ورا الفرق الشاسع بين اللغه العربيه والاجنبيه!!

وتانى حاجه عجبتنى وانا بقرا الكتاب دا التحليل المنطقى والعلمى لمدى اعتماد الغرب عموما على المنطق والجدال والمناقشات واختلاف الآراء بينما فى الشرق قليل لما بنعتمد على المنطق والجدال والمناقشات ولو واحد
Good snippets for superficial-but-slightly-sexy cocktail talk or for insertion into speeches for slightly-smart-but-actually-simplistic audiences.
It was nice think about, although it was a bit dry and repetitive in patches. Some good food for thought.
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“‎The Chinese believe in constant change, but with things always moving back to some prior state. They pay attention to a wide range of events; they search for relationships between things; and they think you can't understand the part without understanding the whole. Westerners live in a simpler, more deterministic world; they focus on salient objects or people instead of the larger picture; and they think they can control events because they know the rules that govern the behavior of objects.” 2 likes
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