Psychologist to Speak on 'Culture and Point of View'

Thursday, March 24, 2005 - 12:00pm

For immediate release
March 14, 2005

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. - Richard Nisbett, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and author whose work has focused on the ways in which Asians and Westerners think differently, will speak on "Culture and Point of View" on Wednesday, March 23, at 4 PM in the New York Room of Mary Woolley Hall on the Mount Holyoke campus.

Nisbett's work examines the different systems of thought-including perception, assumptions about the nature of the world, and thinking processes-that have existed in East Asia and the West for thousands of years. Nisbett argues that ancient Chinese philosophers and ordinary East Asians today share a "holistic" orientation - perceiving and thinking about objects in relation to their environments and reasoning dialectically, trying to find the "middle way" between opposing propositions. On the other hand, he maintains, ancient Greek philosophers were "analytic"-objects and people are separated from their environment, categorized, and reasoned about using logical rules - and the same is true of ordinary Westerners today. Differences in thought stem from differences in social practices, with the West being individualistic and the East collectivistic.

Nisbett is Theodore M. Newcomb Distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan, where he also is co-director of the Culture and Cognition Program. The author of more than 100 scientific articles and 11 books, he has received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association, the William James Fellow Award of the American Psychological Society, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. His most recent book, The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why, was described as "another landmark book" by Robert J. Sternberg, Yale University psychology professor and former president of the American Psychology Association. In 2002, Nisbett became the first social psychologist in a generation to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

The lecture is free and open to the public, and a reception will follow.

Nisbett's talk is made possible by the Barbara Reck Hastorf '43 Lecture Fund, which was established in 2001 by Albert H. Hastorf III to honor his wife on her eightieth birthday. The fund supports an annual lecture by nationally known scholars in the social sciences, especially in the fields of economics and psychology.

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