How Toddlers Learn to See the World According to Their Culture

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Several studies indicate that children in more individualist culture countries learn to identify & classify objects faster than those in collectivist cultures. 

This could be language-related, as Asian languages don’t distinguish generic names that indicate category. In English, if I say “the ducks,” it is specific, but if I use just “ducks” it indicates the general category. Many Asian languages don’t make this distinction, making categorization more ambiguous.

But the western tendency to categorize objects rather than see holistically may go beyond the influence of language.  In at least one study, Japanese mothers would use toys to teach social norms. They might give a toy car to their child, then teach about politeness with language. “Here is the car. Say hello to the car. I give it to you. Now you give it to me. Very good! Thank you!” The American mothers tended to use descriptions, saying things like “cars have wheels, they go fast” or other things to teach the concept of the category of cars.

It may be that individualist cultures teach children to see unique differences in objects, while collectivist cultures emphasize inter-relatedness.

You can read the report about American and Japanese mothers here:

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