Do Easterners and Westerners Treat Contradiction Differently?

Journal of Cognition and Culture 15 (1-2):45-63 (2015)
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Peng and Nisbett put forward an influential theory of the influence of culture on the resolution of contradiction. They suggested that Easterners deal with contradiction in a dialectical manner, trying to reconcile opposite points of view and seeking a middle-way. Westerners, by contrast, would follow the law of excluded middle, judging one side of the contradiction to be right and the other to be wrong. However, their work has already been questioned, both in terms of replicability and external validity. Here we test alternative interpretations of two of Peng and Nisbett’s experiments and conduct a new test of their theory in a third experiment. Overall, the Eastern and Western participants behaved similarly, failing to exhibit the cross-cultural differences observed by Peng and Nisbett. Several interpretations of these failed replications and this failed new test are suggested. Together with previous failed replications, the present results raise questions about the breadth of Peng and Nisbett’s interpretation of cross-cultural differences in dealing with contradiction.



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