The East-West Divide in Thinking

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Studies in western societies show people have an inflated view of self. Whether it’s drivers, students, or college professors, most rate their own abilities as higher than others, & westerners evaluate themselves as unique in ways they aren’t. This overconfidence bias, however, appears to weaken as it crosses the East-West divide. 

An experiment may suggest why cultures think differently in self-assessment. Japanese & Canadian students were given a fake creativity test that randomly gave positive or negative evaluations. After the feedback, subjects were left alone & told they could work on a similar test to improve. Observations showed that Japanese with low scores worked longer, while it was high-scoring Canadians who showed interest in improving—Canadians assigned low scores dismissed the critique. 

Japanese live in a collectivist culture, where one’s role in & contribution to society is more highly valued. The reaction to criticism is to get better at filling the role. Canadians in individualist culture are more focused on standing out with unique characteristics. They want to enhance their individuality by improving perceived strengths.

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