Analogical Reasoning in Chinese and US Adults
Minds differ across cultures. According to a long-standing dogma, Westerners are more capable of thinking abstractly than East Asians, who tend to be “more concrete in their conceptualizations” than Westerners (Moser, 1996, pg. 134). Here, we challenge this generalization by comparing Chinese and US adults on a paradigm case of abstract thinking: analogical reasoning. Chinese and US participants completed the most difficult subset of questions from Raven’s (2003) Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM), a widely used test of analogy. Compared to US participants, Chinese participants produced significantly more correct answers on the SPM task, indicating more successful analogical reasoning. This cross- cultural difference remained significant when demographic factors including age, sex, and education were controlled. These results are inconsistent with the belief that East Asians are impaired in their ability to think abstractly; they are consistent, however, with a more recent proposal (Singh, Wang, & Casasanto, 2019) according to which East Asian’s sensitivity to contextual relationships gives them an advantage over Westerners in various kinds of abstract thinking, including analogy. Further studies are needed to evaluate whether Chinese participants’ superior performance on Raven’s SPM extends to cognitive tasks in general, or whether the cross-cultural difference we report here is selective for cognitive tasks that require using abstract concepts or discerning abstract relationships.
Abstract thought; Analogy; Cultural Psychology; Raven's Progressive Matrices
M.A., Human Development
Master of Arts
dissertation or thesis