East Versus West Division Essays Examples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Thinking, Literature, Difference, Books, Culture, Brain, People, Learning

Pages: 4

Words: 1100

Published: 2020/11/06

(Tutor’s Name)

Scientific observers have long been chasing down a question as to how there are apparent differences in the thinking strategies between the east and the west part of the world. There are a number of reports and suggestions based on the studies about this very aspect. However, ethnographic anthropologists and social psychologists have differentiated opinions about the existence of a significant difference between the Asians and the Westerners with regards to their cognitive and responsive abilities. Adding to the spirit of the debate, a review in the New York Times by a renowned cultural anthropologist Sherry Ortner criticizes the findings of the book, “Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently.and Why.”, by Richard E. Nisbett. However, the demerits Ortner indicating in the article cannot be approved with complete conviction simply because of the reason that Nisbett’s samples were among student groups. This paper will evaluate the fitness of the suggestions of Nisbett with the approval for the fact that there is considerable difference in thinking styles between the two ethnic counterparts of the world but with due consideration for the virtue of cross-cultural harmony among the global human population.

Cultural Significances

Arguments about the differences among diversified ethnic groups often draw the attention of most anthropologists with a considerable amount of concern for humanity and universal brotherhood. The class of scholars that has the silent claim for oneness among the human community may not recognize the intensity of cultural differences among the people of different origins. A series of books and other literary documents support the fact that there is the real existence of a difference between the people of east and west of the world. If thinking style is the topic under scrutiny, there is need for accepting the fact that cultural significances can influence the cognitive abilities of human beings. There can be plenty of counter arguments that the thinking style is not a matter associated with ethnicity like the one by Ortner in her article. However, as long as individuals are bound to unique psychological patterns and lifestyles, their requirement for accepting traditional models is evident in their daily life activities and the thought formation strategies. In her assessment, Ortner accepts that Nisbett has done enough studies and experiments before he explained his findings in the form of the book (“East Brain, West Brain..”), but a challenge she makes is the declining merit of the generalizations made in the book.
The ability of a learner to identify the multiple questions within the actual questions to form a platform for effective answering is an acquired skill in most people. This skill varies from person to person; however, there can be the traces of commonness among the individuals of the same ethnic geography in most cases. The choice adopted by people in responding to changing circumstances is generally based on the traditional learning and the methodological trainings they receive from their families and communities. As such, there is strong reason to believe that thinking styles can vary between east and west. Nisbett’s attention goes to the argument that difference in learning is a traditional factor rather than an intellectual one. For instance, he quotes the references of ancient Greek and Chinese philosophers as fitting examples. According to Nisbett, the ancient philosophers of the western world were specific in using empirical models of learning practices for formulating objectified knowledge about things (9). He further points out that the Chinese philosophers had the essence of following the practicability of knowledge than the attributes it adds to the wisdom of the learner. Thus Nisbett argues that the western logic of believing in the continuous and periodical transformation of learning and thinking styles was more significantly independent of traditional scaffolds for the people of the west while the Asian populations were largely bound to the traditional stereotypes about making their own choices about learning.

Logical Differences

While a large amount of focus is given on the flaws of the book regarding its competency to meet the universal fitness of cases classifications and samples, Ortner is not specific in telling out what could have been the right ones. For completing the meaningful search for a reliable fact, it becomes necessary to travel through the path that makes a logical perfection of thinking. For the least commonsense, it is implied that there is an action-reaction relationship with all the factors of the universe; so is there a active-passive aspect. This ideology is empirical in the traditional values of the east, particularly for the Chinese. The Chinese Taoist emblem of knowledge and thinking style, ‘yin-yang’ also emphasizes this fact.
Another aspect that supports the claim of thinking difference is the influence of language. Nisbett points out the fact that there is no word for ‘size’ in Chinese (17). In the absence of linguistic harmony, it can be presumed that there will be considerable differences between people with regards to understanding a concept with ease. This is also a point to support Nisbett’s argument about the east-west difference in thinking. In another claim, Nisbett observes that Asians focus on group goals and harmony of social bonding when it matters achievements (49), and for this specification, he notices the formal behavior of the westerners with regards to usual domestic deeds as well as some socializing moments in which they practice a ‘thanking and regretting’ mode. However, these interpretations are challenged by Ortner with her assessment that the details in the book are not competent enough to prove that there is a cultural divide between the Asians and the Westerners. This claim is serious, but Nisbett introduces the situational observation to assess the factor of responsive differences between the two ethnic groups. In the light of Nisbett’s experiments, the difference in perceptions occurs mainly because the Westerners primarily focus on the object as the reasons for happenings while Asians make a comprehensive evaluation of the context before arriving at a conclusion (127) he also points out the difference in the teaching techniques of the two categories. A tendency commonly found is that the American teachers mainly focus on the result while Japanese teachers focus on the details. Even in case of reasoning, the Asian students are found more sensitive in understanding the contrasts than the European and American students in many experimental studies.


There is no dispute about the fact that Nisbett has shown absolute dedication the successful completion of the book. The details about how cultural differences are associated with language and lifestyle clearly make sense for a scholar searching the facts about the actual existence of a divide between the thinking styles of both the Westerners and the Asians. However, the claim by Ortner that the book lacks the fitness of generalization of most of the finding because of the limitations of interpretations draws the attention of critical readers. As a final note in support of the original argument in this essay, it must be seen that the sample cases in the book are enough to believe in the actuality of the divide as long as it is proven otherwise.

Works Cited

Nisbett, Richard E. Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently.and Why. NY: The Free Press, 2003.
Ortner, Sherry. “East Brain, West Brain”. The New York Times, April 20, 2003.

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WePapers. (2020, November, 06) East Versus West Division Essays Examples. Retrieved October 04, 2022, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/east-versus-west-division-essays-examples/
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East Versus West Division Essays Examples. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/east-versus-west-division-essays-examples/. Published Nov 06, 2020. Accessed October 04, 2022.

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