July 19, 2005

Culture switching

An interesting press release about an experiment in Hong Kong:

In the journal American Psychologist (July 2000), they showed how it might work. Hong Kong students, who are raised in traditional Chinese families but also immersed in Western education and culture, were shown photos of icons that were culturally neutral, American or Chinese before seeking their opinion of what was happening in a photograph of a lone fish swimming ahead of others.

Students who had viewed Chinese icons were more likely to see the lone fish as being chased, while those exposed first to American icons saw the lone fish as a leader.


For the new study, Hong and Wong worked with 171 Hong Kong Chinese college students who were faced with the prisoner's dilemma: to cooperate or defect. In such a scenario, each player gains if each cooperates, but only the defector gains more if another player cooperates.

Students were paired with friends or strangers and shown either Chinese or American icons; control groups viewed neutral geometric drawings.

Friends participating after viewing Chinese primes not only were more likely to cooperate, they were much more confident that their partners also would choose cooperation strategies than those shown American icons before facing the problem.

When partners were strangers, those viewing the Chinese primes were only slightly more likely (63 percent to 59 percent) to cooperate with each other, the researchers found.

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