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The Geography of Thought

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  2,508 ratings  ·  275 reviews
Everyone knows that while different cultures may think about the world differently, they use the same equipment for doing their thinking. Everyone knows that whatever the skin color, nationality, or religion, every human being uses the same tools for perception, for memory, and for reasoning. Everyone knows that a logically true statement is true in English, German, or Hin ...more
Hardcover, 263 pages
Published February 25th 2003 by Free Press
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Matthew Vacca
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
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
Loved this book! I am certainly Western, and yet... there are aspects of my thinking that conform to Eastern trends and sometimes make me feel out of place, but I couldn't have quite put into words what was going on.

For example, I am probably somewhat more holistic than the average Westerner - I do tend to think that many theories are hopelessly oversimplified. Is this because I was a statistics minor, and have developed an interest in complexity? I also am deeply ambivalent about intuitive noti
Charles J
This is a short book with a sweeping thesis. In essence, the thesis of "The Geography of Mind" is that many important cognitive processes dominant in East Asian (i.e., Chinese, Japanese and Korean) cultures are substantially different from those processes in Western (i.e., American and European) cultures. This proposition explains a variety of dissimilarities in how people from each culture approach the world and each other, and it is also a partial explanation of the Great Divergence—why the mo ...more
☘Misericordia☘ ~ The Serendipity Aegis ~  ⚡ϟ⚡ϟ⚡⛈ ✺❂❤❣
Some interesting points made in here. Even though the overgeneralization seems to be sort of pervasive.

A few years back, a brilliant student from China began to work with me on questions of social psychology and reasoning. One day early in our acquaintance, he said, “You know, the difference between you and me is that I think the world is a circle, and you think it’s a line.” Unfazed by what must have been a startled expression on my face, he expounded on that theme. “The Chinese believe in con
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
Laryssa Almeida
Mar 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
america, sit your ass down and listen.
Feb 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, culture
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
May 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
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
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In the U.S., we say “watch your back” to indicate that one should watch the vulnerable aspect of one’s rear and not assume that all allies can be trusted. In Japan, to “watch your back” means to make sure that what you do doesn’t inconvenience others (like those behind you in a crowd—p. 89). The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why is a fascinating survey of similar differences published in 2003. The differences recounted are interesting, but the possible und ...more

- It documents research in cultural psychology and shows that people actually think about-and even see-the world differently because of differing ecologists, social structures, philosophies, and educational systems that date back to Ancient Greece and China.

- As a result, East Asian thought is “holistic”-drawn to the perceptual field as a whole and to relations among objects and events within that field. By contrast, Westerners focus on salient objects or people, use attribute
Ann Hidayat
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-paper
As an Easterner living in a Western environment, I can relate to most of the content presented in this book. It's hard to keep your interest up while reading this book because all of the ideas and claim come with lab-setting experiments, heavy with examples and data. But, it's a worth-reading if you're interested in how language, culture, history, and philosophy could shape your thought.

I would say the chapter that talks about how the syntax of language also illustrates how we think. Some resou
汗屍 勞
Apr 30, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horrible
I think it is interesting to scientifically examine the well-known myths about how the East and the West think differently.

However, the book fails (or neglects) to address that much of these myths were originated in the 19th century to justify European superiority (recommend reading Keevak (2011) Becoming Yellow). And indeed, the book reads very much like something written by a 19th century anthropologist, who felt the need justify Western military dominance over the 'lesser' races in terms of
Jessica Lu
It took me nearly 8 months to finish this book, as I often got annoyed (by its repeating concepts, unstructured content and sometimes wrong arguments) and put it down for a while before picking it up again.

The book was published in 2003 and most of the “findings” were not very new even at that time, in my humble opinion. The more “interesting” part for me was the psychological tests the author and his assistants did with “easterners” and “westerners” to prove their arguments. However, descripti
Tony Selhorst
“The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently... and Why” is a book filled with laboratory experiments – done by the writer Richard Nisbett and colleagues - that substantiate the statement that Westerners and Far Easterners (Chinese, Koreans and Japanese) think differently, and that therefore thinking is culturally based. For instance: Westerners see objects, Easterners see relations between the objects. In some parts Nisbett even goes so far as to compare Asian male thi ...more
Dec 19, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 "the world is composed of discrete objects or separat
Feb 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the smoothest read, but if you can labor through the academic language the ideas expressed are fascinating.
Oct 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hannah Zheng
Apr 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There’s plenty of criticism of this book, but I liked it. As someone who struggled and clashed in pretty much every aspect of my relationship with my Chinese in-laws, I felt vindicated in a way I hadn’t before.
It was a light bulb moment of “wow, it really actually wasn’t my fault”, which is both sad and welcome in equal measure.
I’m sure I’ll come back to read it again in the future
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
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first saw this title referenced in Eric Liu's "Chinaman's Chance," intrigued by the concept of language influencing thinking processes (Sapir Whorf Hypothesis).

From reading the reviews, I was initially wary of the somewhat negative commentary on the book focusing on linguistics, but this turned out to be what I liked most. That said, it is difficult to appreciate the lengths to which Mr. Nisbett has gone to understand and detail the differences in languages, if the reader does not have a basi
Charlie Canning
Apr 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 11, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Anthony Bello
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Aw darn! I wrote a long review and it got erased. Short recap: Found this book at Anna + Ben's house. Had to pick it up, of course, since I'm bi-racial (Asian + White) and in an interracial relationship.

Nothing particularly earth-shattering, since Nesbitt himself explains that much of what he explores as a social scientist (psychologist) has already been proposed by scholars in the humanities, but it was interesting + satisfying to read about the experiments + their results (perhaps the Westerne
Eric Sbar
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Understanding the difference between Western and Eastern cultures is a complicated task. This book dissects differences according to philosophy, language and psychology. An interesting read
Chi Vo
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
[This book is way too much for me. I could smell my neurons burning with each sentence.]

All claims were made based on lab-controlled experiments. Even his definitions of "Westerners" and "Easterners" (or "Asians") were strictly confined, as he stated at the beginning of the book. The book did offer insights into the cognitive processes of Asians and Westerners. My takeaway is that Asians and Westerners do think differently due to thousands of years of cultural differences, hence the geography of
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
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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.” 11 likes
“objectivity arose from subjectivity—the recognition that two minds could have different representations of the world and that the world has an existence independent of either representation. This” 6 likes
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