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Culture, education and cognition : a review and discussion of Chinese versus American cognitive styles

Authors Price, Lydia J.
Briley, Donnel A.
Issue Date 1999-06
Summary We propose that differences in the education practices prevalent in China and America are an important source of cognitive differentiation, and suggest that future research could benefit from greater exploration of 'experienced educational style'. Drawing on the literature in developmental psychology, we present an integrated model of cognitive development that appreciates both the influence of the individual's maturation process and the influence of society, as manifested particularly within the educational system. An important implication of the model is that school systems provide a natural arena for studying cross-cultural differences in cognition. We then present a comparative analysis of Chinese and North American school systems, focusing on three key elements: memorization versus abstraction as a key learning strategy, centralized/authoritarian versus decentralized/participatory classroom structures, and emphasis on mathematical versus verbal skills. We map these differences in school practices onto reported differences in Chinese and American thinking and decision styles including the use of holistic versus analytic reasoning, the tendency for information elaboration, and the assessment of risk. We draw implications of our analysis for cross-cultural differences in consumer behavior.
Language English
Format Working paper
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