Monday, March 15, 2010

What Americans See: the Biggest, Fastest, and Shiniest

Mr. O'Connor recently mentioned how the first images we see shape how we see the rest of the world. I read a really interesting article somewhat related to that, which talked about the differences between the way people perceive things/think in different parts of the world.

An experiment was done in which people in America and Japan were shown an animated underwater scene, much like a desktop screensaver (example), which featured one large fish that swam around among other, smaller fish, and other wildlife. They were then asked to describe the scene.

The Japanese subjects were way more likely to begin their description with the background, while Americans tended to comment on the largest fish first, and focus their attention on the biggest, fastest, or shiniest objects. In general, the Japanese subjects' ways of seeing things were more contextualized:

"Japanese subjects in the study made 70
percent more statements about aspects of
the background environment than Americans,
and twice as many statements about the relationships
between animate and inanimate objects"

Another difference between American and East Asian (Japanese & Korean) subjects was how they responded to contradiction.

"[When] presented with weaker arguments running
contrary to their own, Americans were likely to solidify their
opinions... clobbering the weaker arguments, and resolving
the threatened contradiction in their own minds. Asians,
however, were more likely to modify their own
position, acknowledging that even the weaker
arguments had some merit."

Overall, the studies suggested that while Americans tend to think in a more linear fashion and have a lower tolerance for contradictions, East Asians tend to have more ease seeing things in a more contextualized/holistic manner. It also shows that ways of perceiving images and thinking logically change from culture to culture. (There are some better explanations and more examples in the article.)

Where do you see these sorts of characteristics reflected in American culture?

No comments:

Post a Comment