Or that East and West represent completely different worldviews; West=Logical, East=Intuitive, for example.
But new research reveals that these differences are not what they seem and that past studies on the East-West divide might be flawed.
Dr Vivian Vignoles, Reader in Social Psychology at the University of Sussex, and Principal Investigator of the Culture and Identity Research Network points out that “…the prevailing cultural models of selfhood in Middle Eastern, East Asian, Sub-Saharan African or Latin American world regions are at least as different from each other as they each are from the Western model.”
In other words, cultures, like people, can’t be lumped in together.
For many years, some social psychology proponents were fascinated by the East and Eastern thought-culture, and even some believed that the East offered a better path towards psycho-spiritual well-being. Sometimes, even equating social psychology with Zen Buddhism, or finding complementary (and complimentary) overlap. Of course, there may be social psychologists with “Western” predilections too.
But even within the same Eastern countries and even religions, different subcultures experience self and community quite differently.
Now, 73 researchers, including Dr. Vignoles, worked in 35 nations and explored how people of different cultures see themselves and their relationships with others. There were 10,000 subjects from over 50 cultural groups on every continent (inhabited.)
And the conclusion was: we’re all different and our concept of self has both overlaps and differences. The divides that social psychologists, sociologists, and others perceived are more about blurred lines than canyons.
And within the “East” there are as many if not more differences than between East and West. Think Sufi whirling dervishes in Turkey vs. other Islamic sects; or Japanese Zen vs. traditional animist religions of Japan; or Tokyo dwellers vs. the Ainu of Hokkaido; or Siberian shamanic cultures vs. Bollywood society; and so on. Each of these represent the monolith we used to call the “East”, perhaps it’s time for a change.
So the interesting questions here, at least as we see it, are: Why are each of us utterly individual? What, truly is self—is it the construct 20th century thought says it is? What is the deeper meaning of culture and worldview? What are the spiritual ramifications, since self and soul are intertwined?
Photo: Ainu dress, Wikipedia