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Re: [xmca] interesting perspective on Luria's work in Asia


This summary is interesting for two extra reasons to XMCA readers at

It totally overlooks massive evidence of the context specificity as defined
by situation of data collection on the effects: its possible to reverse them
with small changes in procedure AND

the article for discussion uses this kind of general reason concerning
cognitive style as a theoretical background to the discussion, already
ongoing, of classroom discourse patterns.


PS-- An look at all that brain talk!! yee gads.

On Sat, Nov 28, 2009 at 12:24 PM, Peter Smagorinsky <smago@uga.edu> wrote:

> David Brooks: Gail, I don't know if you had a chance to see my
> <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/17/opinion/17brooks.html>  column Tuesday,
> but China always gets me thinking big. I look at the long history and
> bright
> future of that civilization-state and suddenly you've got to chase me down
> with a butterfly net to impose the grip of reality on my grandiose and
> free-floating ideas. It's runaway Spengler Syndrome.
> Asians place emphasis on context while Westerners place more emphasis on
> individuals.
> But I do have one more Grand Historical Theory to spin out for you, and it
> involves thinking styles. Different cultures and groups have different
> styles of thinking, or to be more precise, the average behavior is
> different
> from one group to another. So is it possible that Westerners, on average,
> have thinking styles that make them ill-suited for the problems of the
> future while Asians have styles that make them better suited?
> Gail Collins: David, I still remember when Japan was going to eat our lunch
> with their natural inclination toward teamwork. I'm issuing an early
> protest
> because when it comes to anything having to do with the brain, you are so
> far ahead of me that when you're done I know I won't have a good rejoinder.
> David Brooks: Asians place emphasis on context while Westerners place more
> emphasis on individuals. This seems like a gross generalization but it is
> robustly supported by hundreds and hundreds of studies. Richard Nisbett's
> book, "The Geography of
> <http://www-personal.umich.edu/~nisbett/selected.html<http://www-personal.umich.edu/%7Enisbett/selected.html>>
>  Thought" summarizes
> some of the evidence.
> If you show Americans a fish tank, they'll talk about the biggest fish in
> the tank. If you show Asians a tank they will make, on average, 60 percent
> more references to the context and the features of the scene. Western
> parents tend to emphasize nouns and categories when teaching their kids,
> Korean parents tend to emphasize verbs and relationships. If you show
> Americans a picture of a chicken, a cow and grass, they will lump the
> chicken and the cow, because they are both animals. Asians are more likely
> to lump the cow and the grass because cows eat grass. They have a
> relationship.
> The mode of thought more common in Asia is better suited to the complex
> networks that make up the modern world. The contextual, associational style
> is simply more valid. The linear style we've inherited from the Greeks is
> less adaptive toward the modern age. I think the West may be doomed.
> Avoid giving too much credence to theories about how any group is
> particularly well adapted to anything.
> Gail Collins: David, you may be the one who understands how the brain works
> but I am so far ahead of you on doom that you will never catch up. I was
> educated by nuns. My classroom had a map in which countries were only red
> (communist) or pink (leaning communist) or white (free - for now). The only
> white countries were the United States and Ireland.
> David Brooks: I haven't even mentioned gender differences yet. I think the
> same things I've said about Asians can be said about women as compared to
> men.
> I don't know if you've had a chance to read this stuff as part of your book
> research, but my understanding is that the cognitive processing of male and
> female brains is mostly the same except for in one area: social cognition.
> Women, on average, pick up more social signals.
> Gail Collins: Still skeptical. Given the long span of time in which women
> were said to be particularly well-suited for everything from typing (tiny
> fingers) to domesticity ("She has a head almost too small for intellect and
> just big enough for love.") I'm becoming increasingly leery of giving too
> much credence to theories about how any group is particularly well adapted
> to anything.
> David Brooks: I actually don't care if this is genetic or cultural (to the
> extent there is a difference between these things). My point is that in a
> service economy, the ability to pick up social cues is a huge advantage.
> Basically, I'm saying that two groups I'm a member of - Westernized men -
> may have been well adapted to the agricultural and industrial societies,
> but
> our thinking styles are not well adapted to the networked age of social
> information flows.
> I'm not just saying the West is doomed. I think Western men, like me, are
> doomed unless we change and adapt quickly!
> Gail Collins: Ah, what I hear is the sound of a group that was on top for
> so
> long and then goes into a funk at the first sign of really serious
> competition. As a nation, we're in trauma over the very idea that anybody
> else might be the economic superpower. As a gender, guys who were perfectly
> fine with the idea of women in business or in Congress are totally unnerved
> with the thought that their gender someday actually might not be running
> the
> show.
> The one advantage China definitely has is its longer view of history. One
> day you're perfecting gunpowder and toothpaste and moveable type - then you
> fall into a 500-year slump. There's no inevitable winner - in fact, there
> doesn't need to be a winner at all. We can all do fine.
> As far as China goes, my main concern is that we don't let this turn of
> events make us nuts. We're not going to be able to go back to borrowing our
> way to an ever-higher standard of living and we're going to have to be
> smarter, especially in the way we run our politics.
> For Western men, the good news is that we Western women do not intend to
> maintain economic prowess on our own. You're coming along, too. Otherwise,
> it really wouldn't be any fun.
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