Culture, Lay Science, and Analogies: Westerners think X -> Y, Easterners think X :: Y

Gilbert, Elizabeth, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Oishi, Shigehiro, Department of Psychology, University of Virginia
Spellman, Barbara, Law, University of Virginia

Myriad research establishes that Easterners think more holistically (i.e., attend to the “big picture” of how the world fits together and rely more on intuition) than Westerners do. Yet little is known about how Easterners integrate, structure, and make sense the information gleaned through holistic thinking. This paper proposes that, compared to Westerners, Easterners may rely more on analogical reasoning to integrate information and gain a sense of understanding their worlds. Four studies provide evidence that Easterners rely more on analogical reasoning that Westerners do. Compared to Westerners, Easterners found it easier to generate analogical explanations for understanding an outcome, preferred analogical to non-analogical explanations, showed some evidence of being more likely to spontaneously apply analogical solutions to the Duncker ray tumor problem, and tended to use more individual analogies in cultural products like children’s stories. Easterners, however, did not show evidence of being better at highly structured analogical reasoning (e.g., the Raven’s matrices) than Westerners. These findings suggest that Easterners and Westerners may both be able to reason analogically when required, but Easterners may spontaneously rely more on analogical reasoning to gain a sense of understanding of the world.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
analogical reasoning, cultural differences, explanations, East Asia, causal reasoning, counterfactuals
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