Americans Don't Always Understand Others
> 7/18/2007 10:46:05 AM

As many who have travelled abroad probably know, there is a stereotype that paints Americans as pushier, more aggressive and less interested in understanding the viewpoints of others. A new study released in the July Issue of the journal Psychological Science seems to offer some scientific support of this common belief, suggesting that Americans have a much more difficult time understanding and considering the viewpoints and perspectives of others.

The study, conducted at the University of Chicago, tested 40 participants. (20 Americas not-of-Asian decent and 20 Chinese). Two blocks were placed on a table across from each of the participants. A piece of cardboard was placed in front of one of the boxes, obstructing the view of that box by one of the study's directors. Once in place, the director asked each of the participants to move one of the boxes on the table. The researchers found that most of the Americans had difficulty in deciding which box to move, and did not take into consideration that from the directors vantage point, there was only one box visible on the table. In stark contrast, the vast majority of the Chinese participants knew exactly which block the director was referring to and took quick action. The study found that the Americans took twice as long to make a decision.

Live Science quoted co-author of the study and cognitive psychologist Boaz Keysar of the University of Chicago as saying:

"This cultural difference affects the way we communicate. That strong, egocentric communication of Westerners was nonexistent when we looked at Chinese. The Chinese were very much able to put themselves in the shoes of another when they were communicating."

Additionally, Japanese psychologists have found that Japanese people tend to observe peoples' eyes while Americans pay closer attention to the mouth. According to them, often times these differences can lead to miscommunication between the two.

The aim of this most recent study was not show that people from different places think differently—that often goes without saying. The study demonstrated in what ways each person is different and in what ways we can try to bridge a connection between different cultures.

As Keysar concluded to Live Science:

"If we are aware of how we think differently, this can go a long way toward not allowing these differences to get in the way of reaching mutual understanding."

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