The Geography of Thought

How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why

The Geography of Thought

A “landmark book” (Robert J. Sternberg, president of the American Psychological Association) by one of the world's preeminent psychologists that proves human behavior is not “hard-wired” but a function of culture.

Everyone knows that while different cultures think about the world differently, they use the same equipment for doing their thinking. But what if everyone is wrong?

The Geography of Thought documents Richard Nisbett's groundbreaking international research in cultural psychology and shows that people actually think about—and even see—the world differently because of differing ecologies, 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 attributes to assign them to categories, and apply rules of formal logic to understand their behavior.

From feng shui to metaphysics, from comparative linguistics to economic history, a gulf separates the children of Aristotle from the descendants of Confucius. At a moment in history when the need for cross-cultural understanding and collaboration have never been more important, The Geography of Thought offers both a map to that gulf and a blueprint for a bridge that will span it.
  • Free Press | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743255356 | 
  • April 2004
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About the Author

Richard Nisbett

Richard E. Nisbett, PhD, has taught psychology at Yale and currently teaches at the University of Michigan, where he is the Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished University Professor. He has received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association, the William James Fellow Award of the American Psychological Society, and, in 2002, a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. He is the author and editor of several university press titles. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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