Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Us or I

During the much hyped opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, the Chinese national anthem was sung by a 'picture-perfect schoolgirl'. Unfortunately, the whole thing was faked and was lip synched to the 'voice-perfect schoolgirl' who was not shown because of her physical impediment - she was buck toothed and her buck teeth made her incompatible with the national image that China wanted projected.

From an official who coordinated parts of the show: "We should all understand it like this: it is a question of the national interest. It is a question of the image of our national music, our national culture. Especially at the entrance of our national flag, this is an extremely important, an extremely serious matter. The child on the screen should be flawless in image, in her internal feelings, and in her expression."

In America, this would tantamount to trickery, deceit and feelings of betrayal. In Asia, this is the norm - the collective sentiment rising over individual ability. David Brooks of the NYTimes has an interesting take on the differences between the 'I am an island' nature of individualism and the all encompassing nature of collectivism in an illuminating way. The following tests are also interesting to see what might be your core tendencies. I leaned Asian in the second scenario below (not very surprised at that!)…

If you show an American an image of a fish tank, the American will usually describe the biggest fish in the tank and what it is doing. If you ask a Chinese person to describe a fish tank, the Chinese will usually describe the context in which the fish swim.

When the psychologist Richard Nisbett showed Americans individual pictures of a chicken, a cow and hay and asked the subjects to pick out the two that go together, the Americans would usually pick out the chicken and the cow. They’re both animals. Most Asian people, on the other hand, would pick out the cow and the hay, since cows depend on hay. Americans are more likely to see categories. Asians are more likely to see relationships
.

The individualistic countries tend to put rights and privacy first. People in these societies tend to overvalue their own skills and overestimate their own importance to any group effort. People in collective societies tend to value harmony and duty. They tend to underestimate their own skills and are more self-effacing when describing their contributions to group efforts.

2 comments:

JafaBrit's Art said...

I picked the cow and the hay because of the relationship. That is really interesting.

In regards to the little girls, I do think it a shame that any society caters to the superficial.

Sunil said...

I think the cow and the hay is a natural. I am yet to meet someone who picked otherwise...