Scorpio’s World

Thoughts on Politics, Race, and Middle Earth

“Try it!”

Posted by scorpiomkm on July 18, 2007

Study: Americans Don’t Understand Others

Corey Binns
Special to LiveScience 

Rugged American individualism could hinder our ability to understand other peoples’ point of view, a new study suggests.

And in contrast, the researchers found that Chinese are more skilled at understanding other people’s perspectives, possibly because they live in a more “collectivist” society.

“This cultural difference affects the way we communicate,” said study co-author and cognitive psychologist Boaz Keysar of the University of Chicago.

Simple study

The study, though oversimplified compared to real life, was instructive. Keysar and his colleagues arranged two blocks on a table so participants could see both. However, a piece of cardboard obstructed the view of one block so a “director,” sitting across from the participant, could only see one block.

When the director asked 20 American participants (none of Asian descent) to move a block, most were confused as to which block to move and did not take into account the director’s perspective. Even though they could have deduced that, from the director’s seat, only one block was on the table.

Most of the 20 Chinese participants, however, were not confused by the hidden block and knew exactly which block the director was referring to. While following directions was relatively simple for the Chinese, it took Americans twice as long to move a block.

“That strong, egocentric communication of Westerners was nonexistent when we looked at Chinese,” Keysar said. “The Chinese were very much able to put themselves in the shoes of another when they were communicating.”

The results are detailed in the July issue of the journal Psychological Science.

Collectivist societies, such as the Chinese, place more value on the needs of the group and less on the autonomy of the individual. In these societies, understanding other peoples’ experiences is a more critical social skill than it is among typically more individualist Americans.

Gross oversimplification

“Of course, these are very gross oversimplifications,” said Keysar. “Even in America, you can find collectivist societies. For example, working class people tend to be much more collective.”

Culture appears to direct our eyes to read others’ emotions, too.

Psychologists at Hokkaido University in Japan have found that Japanese gaze at the shape of a person’s eyes, while Americans focus on the mouth. When people from the two cultures interact, these crisscrossed sightlines can lead to miscommunication.

“We all know people from different cultures are different. This is not new. But what research is now showing is how they’re different and what are the implications,” Keysar told LiveScience. “If we are aware of how we think differently, this can go a long way toward not allowing these differences to get in the way of reaching mutual understanding.”

Visit for more daily news, views and scientific inquiry with an original, provocative point of view. LiveScience reports amazing, real world breakthroughs, made simple and stimulating for people on the go. Check out our collection of Science, Animal and Dinosaur Pictures, Science Videos, Hot Topics, Trivia, Top 10s, Voting, Amazing Images, Reader Favorites, and more. Get cool gadgets at the new LiveScience Store, sign up for our free daily email newsletter and check out our RSS feeds today!


FINALLY, an Article that condenses what I’ve held to be the crux of the ‘Major Problems’ Americans have in Understanding the World in which they live:


And not only Internationally either: but differences in Perspective is at the root of Racial Relations in this country as well.

You can even run this ‘Differing In Perspective’ idea between Men & Women!

Intended, or not, but this Issue was at the crux of Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”. After all, Hobbits believed that they were Middle Earth’s greatest thing since sliced bread …. as too did Elves, Men, and even dwarves. But in the end, the Enemy (Sauron and his minions) could not be adequately addressed until those Groups WENT BEYOND their Narrow PERSPECTIVES and reached out towards one another, is that not correct?

See. That’s why I ALWAYS encourage Young People to go to college; because this is one opportunity for a person to escape from the parochial upbringing of their childhood and expand one’s Perspective about another’s gender, country, Race, political proclivities, and even Religious Beliefs. In fact, I owe MOST of my current Perspectives re how I perceive the world …. back to my leaving my small Ohio Hometown and attending a 4 year college (Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio ~ a predominately Black University). For had I not attended a Black University at the tender age of 18 …. I probably would have reached adulthood and had a developed ‘mind set’ comparable to that of Uncle Thomas, Aunty Rice and Step N’Fetchit Powell!   : )

See. A ‘Narrow Perspective’ severely limits one’s ability to think ‘outside the box’. And Societly speaking, this is of a far greater danger than mere attitudes of prejudice or hate ~ because by Limiting Our Perspectives we can’t even begin to THINK in ways to Resolve the critical Issues facing Mankind in the Twenty-first Century.

TODAY’s ISSUES go far beyond Race, Gender, Class, Education or even Nationality.

We can no longer even begin to ‘THINK’ ~ in this context meaning to at least open the channels of our expanded Perspectives ~ in order to change sufficiently to meet the New Demands of TODAY. 

Hell. We, as a People, are so locked into “Old Twentieth Century Thinking” that we are completely unable to Decide on how best to End a War in Iraq; or trip over ourselves with “Gosh …. if we Impeach George Bush, who I KNOW has broken Laws: what will we do then with al Qaeda and those Islamo Faschist running loose everywhere??” ideas; or even entertain such thoughts as, “Can a Woman or Black really run the country?”.

And lawd knows when it comes to the NEED for some kind of National Health Insurance; or Immigration; or even Quality of Life Issues?????

Hell. “Dating Services” have become a muti-Million Dollar business because Men & Women don’t even know how to RELATE and/or correctly PERCEIVE how the Opposite Sex THINKS today!

WE’re stuck!

Stuck as a bug in a rug!  

Let me offer a suggestion, since all the ‘Self Improvement Books’ and TV watching gets us nowhere, okay!

Go take a WALK in the Deep Woods. While there, Reflect on how YOU perceive the World (and the People in it); and also Examine YOUR current THOUGHTS about same …. and where (or how) YOU first acquired these Perspectives.

Don’t form any Value Judgments or Defend the way you FEEL about YOUR ATTITUDES ….. just Reflect on these perspectives.

Now LISTEN to the sounds of the Deep Wood that is all around YOU.

Marvel at the ‘Sights’; FEEL the wind and shafts of sunlight on YOUR skin and moving through YOUR hair ~ as if YOUR God is walking right next to YOU. In YOUR Heart, ask YOUR GOD simply:

“Can I expand my THINKING and ATTITUDE about the things I currently hold dear ….. in ways that are more closely aligned to the Ways that you, God, want ME to? And if so: HOW?”

              That’s the First Step, baby!

And you know what: if YOU’RE Sincere about Growth, then the Answer (and Means) to YOUR QUESTION will be made available to YOU in ways that will be KNOWN!

                                     Try it!


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