People from Western cultures such as the United States are particularly challenged in their ability to understand someone else’s point of view because they are part of a culture that encourages individualism, new research at the University of Chicago shows.
In contrast, Chinese, who live in a society that encourages a collectivist attitude among its members, are much more adept at determining another person’s perspective, according to a new study.
One of the consequences of Americans’ and other Westerners’ problems of seeing things from another person’s point of view is faltering communication, said Boaz Keysar, Professor in Psychology at the University of Chicago.
“Many actions and words have multiple meanings. In order to sort out what a person really means, we need to gain some perspective on what he or she might be thinking and, Americans for example, who don’t have that skill very well developed, probably tend to make more errors in understanding what another person means,” Keysar said.
Keysar is co-author with University graduate student Shali Wu of “The Effect of Culture on Perspective Taking,” which discusses their research and is published in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science.
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