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On the Non-Uniformity of Asian Thinking (for Speaking): A Response to Masuda and Nisbett
Nigel Duffield and Yayoi Tajima
28-39 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


This paper offers a response to Masuda and Nisbett (2001), in which observed differences between groups of American and Japanese participants in cognitive tasks are attributed to broad-range cultural factors ('How Asians and Westerners think differently...and why' (Nisbett 2003)). The present study examined the effects of a grammatical parameter-setting (Head Parameter, Travis 1984) in determining cross-cultural responses to visual recall. Two types of task were conducted, one purely linguistic and another involving visual recall, with 40 Japanese, 40 English, and 40 Chinese native speakers. The results of these experiments demonstrate that native-speakers of Japanese (a head-final language) consistently deviate from speakers of English and Mandarin Chinese (both predominantly head-initial languages). Given that the greatest divergence in all tasks was found between the Japanese and the Chinese participants, whose results should pattern together on Masuda and Nisbett's account, such findings present a challenge to the view that cognitive preferences are exclusively—or even largely—due to cultural factors.

Published in

Proceedings of the 2009 Mind/Context Divide Workshop
edited by Michael Iverson, Ivan Ivanov, Tiffany Judy, Jason Rothman, Roumyana Slabakova, and Marta Tryzna
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Printed edition: $195.00