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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2000 May;78(5):943-55.

Culture, control, and perception of relationships in the environment.

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Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor 48109-1109, USA.


East Asian cognition has been held to be relatively holistic; that is, attention is paid to the field as a whole. Western cognition, in contrast, has been held to be object focused and control oriented. In this study East Asians (mostly Chinese) and Americans were compared on detection of covariation and field dependence. The results showed the following: (a) Chinese participants reported stronger association between events, were more responsive to differences in covariation, and were more confident about their covariation judgments; (b) these cultural differences disappeared when participants believed they had some control over the covariation judgment task; (c) American participants made fewer mistakes on the Rod-and-Frame Test, indicating that they were less field dependent; (d) American performance and confidence, but not that of Asians, increased when participants were given manual control of the test. Possible origins of the perceptual differences are discussed.

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