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The difference between China and the West originated from agriculture.

  • Author:Max Lin
  • Release on :2016-08-30


Scientists have long wondered why the U.S. and Europe are so culturally different to China and other countries in Eastern Asia.

Now one study claims the answer lies in anunexpected area: the different farming methods used by people living in theEast and West.

While Westerners are known for theirindividualism and analytical thinking, eastern culture tends to beinterdependent and holistic, the study claims.

Theories explaining the differences have included wealth and education fuellingindividualism in the West, and high rates of infectious disease in the Eastcausing people to be wary of outsiders.

But the real reason may simply be the waypeople at both ends of the world cultivate rice and wheat, say the scientists.

Paddy rice cannot be grown without ample supplies of water, forcing neighboursto work together to irrigate their crops.

It is also highly labour-intensive,requiring about twice the number of hours from planting to harvest as doeswheat.

Wheat farmers, in contrast, can rely on the rain and operate much moreindependently.

To test their theory, the scientistsassessed known measures of individualism and collectivism in 1,000 people fromdifferent regions of Chinawhere rice and wheat are grown.

The results, published in the journalScience, showed distinct psychological differences that mirrored those betweenthe East and West.

‘It’s easy to think of China as a single culture,’ said lead researcherThomas Talhelm, from the University of Virginia.

‘But we found that China has very distinct northern and southernpsychological cultures and that southern China’shistory of rice farming can explain why people in southern China are moreinterdependent than people in the wheat-growing north.

‘The data suggests that legacies of farmingare continuing to affect people in the modern world.


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