universalism vs. particularism again

via t. greer (thanks, t!), here are some excerpts from nisbett‘s The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why [pgs. 62-65, 69 – links and highlights added by me]:

“Similar data have been collected by Charles Hampden-Turner and Alfons Trompenaars, who are professors at an international business school in Holland. Over a period of several years they gave dozens of questions to middle managers taking seminars they conduct throughout the world. The participants in their seminars — fifteen thousand all told — were from the U.S., Canada, Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Singapore, and Japan (and a small number from Spain and Korea, as well). Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars presented their students with dilemmas in which independent values were pitted against interdependent values.

“To examine the value of individual distinction vs. harmonious relations with the group, Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars asked the managers to indicate which of the following types of jobs they preferred: (a) jobs in which personal initiatives are encouraged and individual initiatives are achieved; versus (b) jobs in which no one is singled out for personal honor, but in which everyone works together.

More than 90 percent of American, Canadian, Australian, British, Dutch, and Swedish respondents endorsed the first choice — the individual freedom alternative — vs. fewer than 50 percent of Japanese and Singaporeans. Preferences of the Germans, Italians, Belgians, and French were intermediate….

“Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars asked their participants to choose between the following expectations: If I apply for a job in a company, (a) I will almost certainly work there for the rest of my life; or (b) I am almost sure the relationship will have a limited duration.

More than 90 percent of Americans, Canadians, Australians, British, and Dutch thought a limited job duration was likely. This was true for only about 40 percent of Japanese…. The French, Germans, Italians, and Belgians were again intermediate, though closer to the other Europeans than to the Asians.

“To examine the relative value placed on achieved vs. ascribed status, Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars asked their participants whether or not they shared the following view: Becoming successful and respected is a matter of hard work. It is important for a manager to be older than his subordinates. Older people should be more respected than younger people.

More than 60 percent of American, Canadian, Australian, Swedish, and British respondents rejected the idea of status being based in any way on age. About 60 percent of Japanese, Korean, and Singapore respondents accepted hierarchy based in part on age; French, Italians, Germans, and Belgians were again intermediate, though closer to the other Europeans than to the Asians….

“Westerners prefer to live by abstract principles and like to believe these principles are applicable to everyone. To set aside universal rules in order to accomodate particular cases seems immoral to the Westerner. To insist on the same rules for every case can seem at best obtuse and rigid to the Easterner and at worst cruel. Many of Hampden-Turner and Trompenaar’s questions reveal what a marked difference exists among cultures in their preference for universally applicable rules vs. special consideration of cases based on their distinctive aspects. One of their questions deals with how to handle the case of an employee whose work for a company, though excellent for fifteen years, has been unsatisfactory for a year. If there is no reason to expect that performance will improve, should the employee be (a) dismissed on the grounds that job performance should remain the grounds for dismissal, regardless of the age of the person and his previous record; or (b) is it wrong to disregard the fifteen years the employee has been working for the company…?

More than 75 percent of Americans and Canadians felt the employee should be let go. About 20 percent of Koreans and Singaporeans agreed with that view. About 30 percent of Japanese, French, Italians, and Germans agreed and about 40 percent of British, Australians, Dutch, and Belgians agreed. (Atypically for this question, the British and Australians were closer to continental Europeans than to the North Americans.)

“As these results show, Westerners’ commitment to universally applied rules influences their understanding of the nature of agreements between individuals and between corporations….

“The work of Hampden-Turner and Trompenaars makes clear that the West is no monolith concerning issues of independence vs. interdependence. There are also substantial regularities to the differences found in Western countries. In general, the Mediterranean countries plus Belgium and Germany are intermediate between the East Asian countries on the one hand and the countries most heavily influenced by Protestant, Anglo-Saxon culture on the other….
_____

i see dead people more or less this same pattern over and over again:

– brits, americans, canadians, australians, dutch, swedes
– germans, italians, belgians, french, other mediterraneans
– japanese, koreans, singaporeans

the top group — especially the anglos wherever they be in the world — are:

– the most outbreeding of populations in the world — AND have a long history of doing so (see mating patterns series below ↓ in left-hand column)
– the most civic
– amongst the least corrupt
– the best at handling liberal democracy — in fact, they invented it
– and, what else … oh yes … are amongst the least violent populations in the world.

and the funny thing about that last point is that the violence rates — the homicide rates — dropped in these various countries over the course of the medieval period in pretty much (afaict) the very same pattern as hampden-turner and trompenaars’ independence/universalism vs. interdependence/particularism pattern above:

– england
– belgium/netherlands
– germany/switzerland
– scandinavia
– italy

i find it hard to believe that all of these co-incidences are all just a bunch of coincidences.

and given that the history of outbreeding in all of these places also seems to fit the same pattern (again, see mating patterns series below ↓ in left-hand column), i think (as you already might have started to suspect) that the mating patterns and all these behavioral/cultural patterns are tied together.

(however, if some of the apparent cognitive differences are also tied to the mating patterns, i will be genuinely shocked!)

need to have a look at the hampden-turner and trompenaars book to see where the scores of the middling european countries fall. another reason to get out of my pjs (and put on some street clothes!) and head to the library. (^_^)
_____

see also t. greer’s “West and East and How We Think.”

previously: universalism vs. particularism

(note: comments do not require an email. not my pjs. =( )

7 Comments

  1. Wow, I thought the same as the East-Asians on every question except the first one… must be my Finnish genes.

    Reply

  2. Awesome.

    .
    from Nesbitt (i think)
    “Westerners prefer to live by abstract principles and like to believe these principles are applicable to everyone. To set aside universal rules in order to accomodate particular cases seems immoral to the Westerner.”

    I don’t think it’s a case of preference. I think it became a *necessity* after the break-down of kin-gravity and that new environment changed people.

    .
    “and, what else … oh yes … are amongst the least violent populations in the world.”

    Although by (counter-intuitive) extension, less internal fighting can lead to more external fighting.

    .
    “(however, if some of the apparent cognitive differences are also tied to the mating patterns, i will be genuinely shocked!)”

    I’d be interested to know if Old English / Dutch is more noun-centric. We already know about the context-nouns for different types of cousin/uncle/aunt changing to just one word for each but i wonder if there’s more to it than that i.e. if the languages became more noun-centric and less verb-centric during the centuries this process was happening?

    .
    “Wow, I thought the same as the East-Asians on every question except the first one… must be my Finnish genes.”

    Well that’s the point. These differences have been labelled “Easterner” and “Westerner” but is it really another example of the W.E.I.R.D thing with the disproportionate testing in the US creating a false impression of how “Westerners” are i.e. the northwest corner of Europe, and possibly America even more so, are outliers.

    On this blog things are mainly looked at from the perspective of long-term marriage forms with the expectation of similar outcomes with similar marriage forms (over the long-term) in which case Finns (in Finland) not matching isn’t surprising.

    (And seeing if Finns in Finland are different to people of Finnish descent in America would be interesting also.)

    Reply

  3. One caution on this theme. As I wrote in my post on the matter:

    “The problem is worsened by the many studies of bicultural individuals discussed in the book. When given contextual prompts that they were an encountering an “Eastern” or “Western” situation these individuals unconsciously flipped their world views and cognitive biases. (p. 67-68, 118-119, 228-229). This suggests that many of these cognitive quirks are not deeply rooted in history or socioeconomics [or genetics], as Professor Nisbett suggests. ”

    I am rather partial to the view that language is at the root of these things (Nisbett devotes a chapter to this idea, but does not favor it himself), but I do not think enough research has been done to conclusively state if the foundation for these cognitive quirks are linguistic, social, or genetic. All are acceptable hypotheses; I wish we had more data to prove them.

    (I also wish Nisbett’s book – and the research it reflects – was further reaching. Anglosphere and Sinosphere are nicely covered; less so other European countries, the Middle East, India, or Southeast Asia.)

    Reply

  4. @t. greer – “I wish we had more data to prove them.”

    yes, please!

    @t. greer – “I also wish Nisbett’s book – and the research it reflects – was further reaching. Anglosphere and Sinosphere are nicely covered; less so other European countries, the Middle East, India, or Southeast Asia.”

    me, too. i’d love to see how my pals the arabs respond to these sorts of questions. more eastern europeans as well.

    Reply

  5. @esoteric research – “Have Asian adoptees raised by Westerners been studied, to control for the influence of culture?”

    good question! i don’t know.

    Reply

  6. […] individualism-collectivism – a curious paradox?: – individualism-collectivism – national individualism-collectivism scores – kandahar vs. levittown – universalism vs. particularism – universalism vs. particularism again […]

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