“The Geography of Thought” by Richard E. Nisbett

Are there basic differences in thought processes between the Chinese-Confucian societies of East Asia and Western societies? The author answers “yes” and makes a compelling case.

This book’s subtitle is: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why. Nisbett’s thesis is that there is no universal human cognition – all cognition is culturally affected.

Through the use of numerous psychological studies he shows a stark difference in the way Westerners and East Asians perceive, reason, and “see” the world. Nisbett begins by tracing the origins of Western and East Asian philosophy, science and society. On this foundation he builds a case that Western and East Asian cognition is very different.

He completes the book with two chapters on the implications of such differences to our modern world.

After 20 years living and working in 3 countries in Asia I can say that there are fundamental differences in the way people from different cultures process, evaluate, and act on information. Everyone views the world through cultural “glasses,” and the glasses are all different. Being aware of your own glasses and the glasses of others is a beginning to cross-cultural understanding.

My Japanese colleague has stopped trying to explain to Americans the way Japanese people think – now he just allows Nisbett’s book do it.

This book provides important research foundations for leaders, trainers and coaches who work cross-culturally in Asia.

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    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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