Angela Meng reports:
Researchers have found that people from rice-growing southern China are more interdependent and holistic thinkers, while those from the wheat-growing north are more independent and analytical.
The researchers call it “rice theory”, and they believe the psychological differences of southern and northern Chinese stem from their ancestors’ subsistence techniques – rice farming needs co-operation and planning; wheat farming requires less co-operation between neighbours.
…The last experiment assessed the nepotism, or group loyalty, of the participants. Students were given hypothetical scenarios and asked how they would treat friends and strangers in reaction to helpful or harmful actions. A defining characteristic of holistic culture is that people draw sharp contrasts between friend and stranger.
“The data suggests that legacies of farming are continuing to affect people,” Thomas Talhelm, of the University of Virginia and lead author of the research, said. “It has resulted in two distinct cultural psychologies that mirror the differences between East Asia and the West.”
Talhelm and his team concluded that the co-operative nature of rice-growing has cultivated a culture of interdependence, while wheat-growing has cultivated independence.
“I think the rice theory provides some insight to why the rice-growing regions of East Asia are less individualistic than the Western world or northern China, even with their wealth and modernisation,” Talhelm said.
For the pointer I thank the excellent Mark Thorson.