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Farming practices have shaped thinking styles

In China, growing rice versus wheat has sown long-lasting cultural differences

2:00pm, May 8, 2014

AS YE SOW  Chinese people from wheat-growing provinces are more individualistic and analytical than those from rice-cultivating provinces, raising the profile of farming practices as influences on thinking styles, a new study suggests. 

Differing thinking styles between Chinese people and Westerners, as well between northern and southern Chinese people, can trace their roots to rice paddies and wheat fields, a new study suggests.

Rice farming cultivates a holistic focus on discerning relationships among people and objects, valuing others as much or more than oneself and showing favoritism toward friends even if they’ve been untrustworthy, say psychologist Thomas Talhelm of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville and his colleagues. Holistic thinking among many modern Chinese people partly reflects regional histories of building communal irrigation systems and cooperatively planting and harvesting rice paddy fields over thousands of years, the scientists propose in the May 9 Science.

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