Cognitive Daily

New research shows that Asian Americans have a very different understanding of consequences than European Americans: While European Americans say that a single pool shot has a bigger influence on the next shot, when asked about its influence several shots down the line, Asian Americans rate the first shot as more important compared to European Americans. Other, similar approaches across a wide variety of scenarios have found similar results.

But Chris of Mixing Memory is frustrated with this type of research:

It’s pretty easy to see how these results could be a consequence of holistic vs. analytical reasoning. Since holistic reasoning emphasizes context, peripheral consequences will be more salient for people who tend to reason more holistically. So the results of these four studies aren’t really surprising, though they do provide another demonstration of the implications of East Asian holistic thinking vs. western analytical thinking. Unfortunately, they don’t really provide any clues about the reasons why East Asians and westerners have different cognitive styles. So far, there’s been very little research designed to answer that question (see these two posts for descriptions of preliminary attempts to test two different hypotheses). I have to admit, I’m starting to get frustrated with this line of research, even when I find the results interesting (as I do in the case of the studies I just described). I know that interesting demonstrations are sexier than studies that test causal hypotheses (they definitely make for better blog posts), but it’s now pretty clear that East Asians and westerners reason differently, so it’s time to get our hands dirty and figure out why. My only hope is that each new demonstration will provide new avenues for testing causal hypotheses.

I’m a little less frustrated than Chris about all this. After all, describing the differences between East Asians and westerners is a difficult problem. And as we’ve pointed out on CogDaily, lumping all Asians into a single “collectivist” category is problematic, too. The research we describe in that article also suggests that Chris’ hope that new demonstrations will lead to tests of causal hypotheses may not be in vain.

Unfortunately, as intercultural connections grow, it will likely become even more difficult to identify specific cultural differences, let alone understand their causes.

In other news:


  1. #1 RyanG
    November 27, 2006

    Or it could just mean that Asians are better at pool.

  2. #2 noself
    November 27, 2006

    The top pool player is from the Philippines after all.

    But couldn’t be be because of the manner in which the game is structured? Top pool players tend to win the frame they start in and the one way they retain their turn at the table is to sink some balls in the first shot. And they are good enough to maintain their game.

  3. #3 David Group
    November 28, 2006

    I don’t mean to complicate things any further, but: Are there cultural differences in research into cultural differences?