[ExI] [Cog, Context, Empathy] Independent thinkers judge distances differently than holistic types

Jef Allbright jef at jefallbright.net
Thu Jun 26 19:04:01 UTC 2008

Here's a study supporting what may be obvious to some and unreasonable
or even repugnant to others on this list.


Every day we're faced with decisions that involve spatial judgments.
Which line should we choose at the supermarket? Which route should we
take to work? A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research shows
that thinking styles affect spatial judgment.

Authors Aradhna Krishna (University of Michigan), Rongrong Zhou (Hong
Kong University of Science and Technology), and Shi Zhang (UCLA),
designed a series of experiments that tested participants to assess
their thinking styles. The participants, who lived in China, Hong
Kong, and the United States, fell into two categories: independent
thinkers (self-focused) and interdependent (relationship-focused).

The researchers found significant differences between Western and
Eastern participants. "The independent self-construal is more dominant
in Western cultures, where people believe in the inherent separateness
of distinct persons and view the self as an autonomous, independent
person," write the authors. "The interdependent self-construal is more
dominant in Eastern cultures, where people believe in the
connectedness of human beings to each other and view the self as part
of a larger social group."

They tested participants' ability to judge spatial distances. One
experiment asked participants to imagine they were going to a football
stadium to buy tickets. They were given a map showing two lines, one
straight and one looped, and to estimate the number of dots in each
line. The study found that independent thinkers are more likely to
misjudge distance when they need to take multiple features into
account (like how winding a road is). Interdependent thinkers are less
likely to make distance errors but more prone to other kinds of
spatial errors (such as when intersecting lines on a map make one side
of the line appear longer than the other).

"Our data indicate that individuals with an independent (vs.
interdependent) self-construal are more likely to pay attention to
only the focal aspects of stimuli and to ignore the context and
background information in forming spatial judgments, resulting in
biases. In contrast, interdependents are capable of going beyond the
most salient dimension (e.g., direct distance) and incorporating other
information (e.g. line configuration) in their judgments, leading to
greater accuracy in these tasks."

Next time you pull out a map, remember that your thinking style may
affect your perception.

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