do you think like a westerner? (repeat)

i offered up this little pop quiz back in 2013, and i’m resurrecting it ’cause i want to talk about this some more. first, the quiz:

in which group does the flower at the bottom belong: group a or group b?

east west flowers

feel free to leave your answer in the comments and — only if you like — the reason(s) for your choice and/or your ethnic background. (^_^) (you don’t have to be specific — you can say “eastern” or “southern” european, etc., if you prefer.)

a lot of you responded to this last time ’round — no need to do so again! (^_^)

the correct answer (i.e. if you think like a westerner) is here. see also here. no cheating!

this is (obviously) in nisbett’s The Geography of Thought territory.

that is all. for now!

previously: do you think like a westerner?

(note: comments do not require an email. jackass [penguin].)


  1. There’s a great insight here I’ll share after people have made their guesses.

    It’s getting harder to keep all this stuff to myself. :)


  2. @jayman – “It’s getting harder to keep all this stuff to myself. :)”

    would you just finish that mega-post already! =P

    yeah, i think i have an insight, too, which i’ll share in a day or two. (^_^)


  3. At first I picked “A”, because I noticed the single leaf on the flower and most flowers in group A have a single leaf, whereas only one flower in group B has a single leaf. But then I realized that group B flowers ALL have a straight stem, whereas group A flowers ALL have a curved stem.

    Our flower has a straight stem, so it obviously goes in B.

    That criteria is better to categorize because it is shared by all flowers in either group. It is a more binary criteria: Group A flowers are curved stem. Group B flowers are straight stem. It is law. It is a rule.

    So I picked B.

    Do I think like a westerner?

    Ethnicity: Turkish


  4. I first thought Group A because the flower had rounded petals and a single leaf, and three of the four flowers in Group A have those traits. Then I looked again and noted that all the Group B flowers have straight stems pointing slightly to the right while all Group A flowers have curved stems pointing slightly left, so Group B, because this flower goes with the group where all members have shared traits.

    I am from Texas and my family is entirely Southern hillbilly Celtic.


  5. There are 4 variables — stem, leaves, petals, and the center circle thingie. In each group there is variance on all EXCEPT the stem. The stem is the defining salient feature and thus the flower belongs in Group B.

    Also B just “feels correct” to me.


  6. The “obvious” answer to me was A. I was surprised to find that last time, I answered B. Reading that comment again, I seem to have given it a lot more thought the first time. This time, I thought “the stem is the only thing that consistently differentiates the two groups, sure, but who cares about that dumb little stem?


  7. I only thought about this for a minute. Initially I was gonna choose A because it felt right but then once I noticed the uniformity of the stems I switched to B. I’m guessing that makes me a “Western-style” thinker.

    My ethnicity is African-American.


  8. My wife and I both picked “A”, immediately. We’re both 100% western, bred, born, and raised.

    There really is no justification for classifying flowers based on which way the wind is blowing (which way the stems lean). As for the neatness of the stem as a classifier, who cares? Flowers are biological, and in biology statistical reasoning is superior to logical reasoning.

    I would like someone to take these nine flowers and score them on the first component in a PCA.


  9. First I thought it to be A, but as it wasn’t beyond doubt that it belonged to that category, I thought about it some more, noticed the stems and realized that it was B.



  10. A, again, the group looks more cohesive. Some time ago I made a test (via iSteve?) with the picture as one of tasks. In result, rather asian than european.

    Ethnicity – something between western and eastern european.


  11. I chose “A” after I noticed that the top left-hand flower in that category had an identical floral pattern to the example at the bottom. I considered the stems, but since flowers blow easily in the wind dismissed their significance – coulda been a windy day wherever “B” flowers were hanging out.

    My nationality is USA-born, with English and German ancestry. Ethnically, I guess that makes me a Redneck.


  12. 100% Euro here. I looked that this, didn’t think too hard, and picked A. It just looks more similar to the flowers in A than in B–the stem is not as important as all the other characteristics.


  13. Group A.

    Adding the flower to group B increases the balance in 4 parameters while making the fifth parameter of stalks even more “illogical” by increasing its conformity further. If I didn’t know of group A, and thus that flowers can have a curved stalk, then there’d be no problem adding the flower to group B, which would have been preferable as that would have increased the balance among the flowers in all 4 parameters in a non-fragile 2-to-5 configuration, which is perfect. But since there are 5 parameters, the “logical” choice is group A; adding the flower to it makes every flower unique in one single feature. I prefer “logical consistency” to non-fragility.

    Conversely, if the flower ITSELF didn’t exist, both groups would have been left “illogical” to the same extent, and there’d be no problem.

    I’m an Ashkenazi Jew from Israel. My grandfather possibly has Sephardic roots.


  14. I chose A because I thought: same looking petals, same type of flower.

    Australian with British ancestry.


  15. I picked a, didn’t notice the stems, feel stupid now that commenters pointed it out, seems totally b now. kraut, pure bread, confused


  16. A is for Anglo.

    I picked it for the same reason you did – I weighted all the traits equally and matched it to the category that scored highest.


  17. I chose B. First, my brain like to see ALL flowers with the straight astes, second, then I thought the question was ” In that GROUP, the flower fits ”. In this sense, I found logical to choose which GROUP fits.

    Latin american, predominantly caucasoid.


  18. Just got half-way through “Geography of Thought”. I’m guessing that the Western-style of thinking comes about from their greater “tunnel-vision”, as Nisbett refers to it on p. 89, or their greater focus on individual details, rather than Easterner’s greater focus on the whole (holism).

    I couldn’t help wondering, “where do other Asians/Russians fit into this?” In the case of Russia, I was thinking that they may be even more holistic than East Asians because of their greater emphasis on Survival versus Self-Expression as per the Inglehart World Values Survey. Which seems counter-intuitive because of Russia’s greater geographic proximity to the individualist West.

    Any thoughts?


  19. And to piggyback off my question above, do you think the individualistic vs. holistic orientation is predominantly due to genetics (perhaps a byproduct of the inbreeding/clannishness you like to talk about so much), or can a person’s orientation change based on their social environment? Because what Nisbett seems to be implying so far.


  20. in which group does the flower at the bottom belong: group a or group b?

    It is an individual and prefers no group above another.

    But if it did, the question should be “with which group does the flower identify?”


  21. A.
    Because the upper left-hand flower in group A has all the features that the orphan flower has, except the stem (i.e. only 1 criterium is different).
    In group B there is no flower that has only 1 criterium missing, they all have 2 or more criteria that differ from the orphan.

    100% German, mostly from the Baltic Sea coast.


  22. Fascinating. In every test I choose the eastern choice. Every single one. Even the dox in the documentary made more sense to be connected with the other wooden block than with a similarly shaped object made of a different material.


  23. A – based on the general characteristics. I noticed the stem, but a straight stem can be an effect of environment (heat, wilt) so I chose to ignore it.

    English, Scot, German ancestry.


  24. I instinctively [as in, “instantaneously” – a 2 seconds decision] went for A first.
    Most flowers on that side have round petals, most of them have a simple ovary(?) [no small circle in the middle], and most of them feature a leaf. So our flower is most similar with that category, statistically.

    Just a couple seconds later though, I noticed that *all* the flowers in category A have curved stems, while *all* the flowers in category B have thick straight ones… which made me wonder whether what’s being categorised here is not flowers, but flower stems.

    I wavered only for a moment though, as the question was “in which group does the flower at the bottom belong”, not “what kind of stem does the flower have” or some such. If the question was honest, It makes a lot more sense to treat the stem issue as a sampling accident. So A again.


  25. Hmm, ok. This was so damn confusing and after reading through the comments and the previous link, I’m fairly confident that this test has a very poor goodness of fit with respect to psychological differences vis-a-vis ancestry/ethnicity. I don’t even need to do any analysis, since just by “eyeballing” the comments, the replies were obviously all over the place (both literally and figuratively).

    The conclusion seems correct to me (“westerners” more particularist, “east asians” more relational), but this flower category test looks like a pretty lousy measure of anything of the sort. I doubt the [category choice-ethnicity] correlation is strong (>0.1) or statistically meaningful, even in larger samples. So no, I do not think the “correct” answer is B.

    The cow, chicken, grass question is much better constructed. And yes, there I picked grass as the odd one out, unambiguously. Choosing the chicken as the odd one in the bunch “feels” odd to me in a way that placing the flower in category B does not, even though I still prefer placing it in category A.

    Interesting stuff in general though, and a nice pointer.


  26. B, straight stem. Stem is the only way to define absolute groups, all other traits are mixed up in A and B…..But I also see very clearly how A can be selected: Multiple traits of the new flower are more common in group A than B, so in the end it depend how you define categories: Grouping things that share many traits most of the time, or absolute divide by a trait? Statistical grouping, or absolute grouping? One maximize inference (u can predict more things, but you are sometimes wrong), the other minimize errors (you are absolutely certain, but only of a few things)
    Belgian french ;)


  27. Interesting, about 16 for A, 14 for B so far. Mostly european respondents.
    Doesn’t look too western. Unrepresentative test, too small sample, or there might be a selection bias.
    How many people are interested in HBD anyway? What kind of traits does person need to think about underlying (long term) processes in societies …


  28. Another part of the documentary I found fun was the picture of the happy person surrounded by happy people and then later by unhappy people. Westerners were shown to say the person in the middle was happy in both cases. Easterners would say the person in the second case is unhappy, because of the unhappy faces around him, regardless of his own face. Of course, my first thought on seeing the second picture was: He looks extra happy because he’s happy even when the others are not. Maybe that pegs me as a nut. Interestingly, I posted the flower picture above on my FB and got a lot of responses to this and to the cow/chicken/grass and Panda/Banana/Monkey questions. Yes responses differed, but they were always consistent: Flower A people also said the Monkey goes with banana over Panda and Cow goes with Grass over Chicken. But no one on my FB feed (made of of only a few people of east asian descent) was willing to identify the happy person surrounded by unhappy people as unhappy.


  29. @Sisyphean
    “Of course, my first thought on seeing the second picture was: He looks extra happy because he’s happy even when the others are not.”

    I found him either laughting at the surronding people or being sarcastic but not happy.


  30. So, it occurred to me to ask my paternal grandmother, my parents, and 3 of my younger brothers (big family) what they would pick. With such a small sample it’s more anecdote than data, but…

    – according to my grandmother, there is *no* outlier in the {chicken, cow, grass} set because “both cows and chicken can eat grass” [relational]. she placed the flower in category A because of the petals [relational…?]

    – according to my mother, there is again no outlier(!) in the {chicken, cow, grass} set because “cows eat grass but chicken can eat grass too” [relational]. however, she placed the flower in category B, because the ones in category A seemed to her to be bending in the wind, while the others seemed not to. [context dependent/relational]

    – according to my father, the outlier of the set is the chicken, because “cows eat grass, but you have to train a chicken to eat it too” [relational]. he placed the flower in category B, because they were all standing upright there. [relational?]

    – according to one of my brothers, the outlier in the set is the grass, because “the cow and the chicken are both animals” [analytic]. he placed the flower in category B, because it has a straight stem like all the other ones there. [analytic]

    – according to the 2nd brother, the outlier in the set is the chicken, because “of the other two, one eats the other” [relational]. he placed the flower in category B, because he felt that’s where it fits better. [impressionistic answer/relational]

    – according to the 3rd brother, his first answer to the set belonging problem was the grass, because “it’s not an animal”, but just a couple of seconds later he continued with “or maybe the chicken, because the cow and the grass share a relationship – one eats the other. but wait, chicken can eat grass too… so I’ll just go with my first (option)” [analytic? relational? in-between?]. he placed the flower in category A, because there, 3 are healthy and one is withered, so he wanted to replace the withered one. [more relational? he wanted to think more about it though, because it seemed to him that it could also fit in category B, but I cut him off with an “it doesn’t matter”. I think you can guess why]

    …adding my answer to the mix, my hunch is that this is about what you’d expect for an eastern european sample, right?

    On the “analytic thinking – relational thinking spectrum” I mean, because as far as where the flower goes, the choice seems to be indeed not that different from a coin toss. I bet this pattern holds in general.


  31. Before I looked at comments and the answer, I eventually chose ‘B’, because the *only* common element to each of A and B was the shape of the stem, and the extra flower had a ‘B’-type stem.


  32. Group B – the stem seems to be the only factor common to group B and the flower at the bottom – I’m 2/3 European (incl 3% Neanderthal) and 1/3 Native American. So what’s the diagnosis?


  33. About “boy is happy or angry??”. The question is very Clear. THE BOY is happy or angry?? The logical answer: THE BOY is happy even when others around are’t.
    Eastern thinking as the video show, look to context, suppposedly, a holistic way. But the question was well clear. And not ask “boy and your friends are happy or not??!!”. In a admission test, eastern thinking would be wrong??


  34. I’m fascinated by this topic so that’s why I keep writing repetitive comments over and over and over……

    According to the Geography of Thought and comments in this post:

    European particularism = greater focus on details, less on backgrounds, individualist/reductionistic
    Asian contextualism = greater focus on whole, more on backgrounds, collectivist/holistic

    Then how is it that Asians have more autistic/detail-oriented traits than Europeans? And Europeans have more ADHD traits, which have to do with less focus?

    If Asians were more holistic, you would think they would be less focused on details. But that’s not the case, as you can see in their career and educational choices (STEM, which requires a strong detail-orientation), and a lack of aforementioned ADHD traits, which would hamper their success in STEM fields. It seems to be Europeans, at least nowadays, that prefer more holistic fields instead of detail oriented fields like electrical engineering, for example.

    I should probably finish Geography of Thought before I write anymore rambling question-comments.


  35. Shit, I have to write that over again…

    Sorry for another rambling comment from Lion of the Judah-sphere (no relation to Lion of the Blogosphere), but for some reason my last comment didn’t go thru, I guessing because I didnt put my email

    If Europeans = particularism, detail-orientation, individualism, analytical, reductionist
    Asians = holistic, background-orientation, collectivist, relation, etc.

    Then you would expect Europeans to have more attention-enhancing genes to assist in their greater particularism, right???

    But they don’t:

    Europeans are more ADHD-prone. Which can be seen by anyone at a tech school in the US, where whites channel into degrees that require less detail-orientation, while Asians channel into degrees that require more of it, like electrical engineering (or most STEM for that matter).

    What’s up with that? I’m guessing I need to finish Geography of Thought for more insight.


  36. Hi hbd chick and all y’all,

    First time poster here, and enjoying your blog immensely. I reposted this article with the line “Pop culture invades science”. Great fun.

    I also wondered if there is a physiological basis for this cultural phenomenon. That is, Asians incorporate the background by moving their eyes, while Europeans incorporate with peripheral vision. I’ve lost the source, but have read that Asians do not have as good peripheral vision as Europeans do.

    Thank you, I appreciate your additions to the discourse.


  37. Hi hbd chick and all y’all,

    Thank you for helping, if you can, with this. I’ve lost the source, unfortunately.

    I read that any two Europeans need go back no more than 700 years to find a common ancestor, any two Asians need go back no more than 6,000 years, any two Africans need go back no more than 100,000 years.

    Based on this I call Europeans “the people of the itchy feet”, but I don’t want to go around spreading misinformation.

    My little invisible friend Light Bulb told me to ask you that.

    Thank you for your help, if possible, and if this fits in anywhere, I will be happy.


  38. @the lion – “Who what happened to my last comment??”

    ack! sorry. wordpress comments has been acting up over the last couple of weeks. your comment got stuck in the spam box. no idea why. sorry!

    (gonna start working on the follow-up post to this RIGHT NOW! hopefully i’ll finish it today. (^_^) i find it really interesting, too. especially since my response was “A”!)


  39. @ Lion of the Judah-sphere –
    “Europeans are more ADHD-prone. Which can be seen by anyone at a tech school in the US, where whites channel into degrees that require less detail-orientation, while Asians channel into degrees that require more of it, like electrical engineering (or most STEM for that matter).
    What’s up with that? I’m guessing I need to finish Geography of Thought for more insight.”

    Depends which ‘Europeans’ you mean I suppose. I haven’t a clue how autism and ADHD rates vary within and between different European populations, but I’m sure that they are not homogenous. I don’t know why but my suspicion is that ‘core’ Europe, hbd chick’s ‘outbreeding zone’ [NE France/SE England/Holland/Belgium/N Germany/Denmark], is some kind of balance between ADHD and autistic type traits; while Southern Europe and Ireland/Scotland/Scottish Borders/Northern England are a bit more in the ADHD zone; and Germans/Scandinavians/Slavs are a bit more in the autistic zone.


  40. @the lion – “And to piggyback off my question above, do you think the individualistic vs. holistic orientation is predominantly due to genetics (perhaps a byproduct of the inbreeding/clannishness you like to talk about so much), or can a person’s orientation change based on their social environment?”

    yes, (yes,) and no, not really. (^_^) perhaps some slight shifting is possible, but within a given, genetically determined range.


  41. I apologize that in my enthusiasm I forgot to register my results. I am European derived American: English/Irish/Scottish/Welsh/French. I voted A based on the best overall category of “flower” and the largest most obvious defining characteristics of the petals.


  42. hbd chick: “and the red square on the border of france and spain represents the person who said they were ashkenazi + sephardic jewish.”

    Light bulb: If “(of only those people who said they were wholly european, so sorry jayman and santoculto, you guys are not on the map!)”, then how can the responded with J be included as wholly European. :-)


  43. 1. Group B.
    2. All flowers in group B have the same stem as the flower at the bottom. There is no one feature (stem, leaf, petals, “face”) that is shared with the flowers in group A and the flower at the bottom.
    3. 1/2 German, 1/4 Scottish, 1/4 English.


  44. B, because of the straight stem being the only feature unique to that side, where it is universal. Anglo-Celtic ancestry – English, Scots and a distant dash of Cornish.


  45. Without looking at other answers … intitially (A) because I thought it looked like top-left A, then i noticed stems were straight in (B) so will go with that. Drunk (third of bottle of rum), White, 44, Northern European.


  46. (I chose B because I can tell that was expected as an answer, though of course A makes more sense)


  47. @dave – “Drunk (third of bottle of rum)…”

    third bottle?! it’s a wonder you can think at all! (~_^) (i hope you meant those little bottles you get on the airplane….)


  48. It belongs in B, solely because of the direction the flower leans on the stem. The two groups of flowers share no other commonality.

    Ancestry (alleged): English, German (Palatinate), Irish, Scottish (NOT Scots-Irish).

    Outis on Twitter.


  49. A more interesting, to me, question would be: If you were starting with the nine flowers given, how would one classify them?


  50. A, because the flower has more features in common with that group. Group B has 7 features in common, group A has 9 features in common.

    I’m from southern Portugal, on the best side of the Hajnal line.


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