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VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality

4. A Complementarity of Civilizations: East and West is Best

Poppel, Ernst. East of West, West of East: A Matter of Global and Local Identity. Cognitive Processing. 19/S.1, 2018. The Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich medical psychologist continues his insightful proposal (search), often with colleagues Yan Bao and Shihui Han, that archetypal phases of individual being and social perception can distinguish how peoples visualize, think and witness in global cultures. Here these natural, cognitive complements are seen to apply, as this section conveys, the Eastern and Western hemispheres. To recite again, akin to a bicameral brain, the West tends to fine object focus while the East prefers a contextual field, which are evident is their artistic modes. See also Complementarity as Generative Principle by Bao, Yan, et al in Frontiers in Psychology (May 2017).

The conceptual frame of this attempt is to look for anthropological universals and cultural specifics. Much can be learned from spatial representations in the arts. Whereas in the West since Renaissance time the central perspective has become dominant in visual art, in Eastern landscape paintings the “floating view” is typical. Research on spatial attention has disclosed two different attentional systems being responsible either for near-fovea vision or for the far periphery. This fundamental principle as a global characteristic of visual processing is neglected in Western art. In Eastern art with a floating view geometric laws are violated, and different potential perspectives are integrated within a holistic pattern. Whereas in the tradition of Western science visual percepts are built up with local elements like feature detectors, in an important Chinese theory global topological features are analyzed first. An important task of the brain is to create the identity of a percept on the basis of spatially and temporally distributed neural activities. It is suggested that one should leave behind a monocausal reasoning for such explanations but adopt for analytical strategies the concept of complementarity as a generative principle. (Abstract excerpts)

Portugali, Juval. Toward a Cognitive Approach to Urban Dynamics. Environment and Planning B. 31/4, 2004. Explorations on bringing a mental component to geographical studies by which to understand cities more fully as collective, self-organized “external representations.” These are composed of the “internal representations” of similarly self-organized individual agents.

….the city is a dual self-organizing system: each agent operating in the city is a complex self-organizing system on a local scale, and the city as a whole is a complex self-organizing system on a global scale. (600)

Proust, Joelle and Martin Fortier, eds. Metacognitive Diversity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018. An Ecole Normale Superieure, Paris senior philosopher and a doctoral candidate collect a diverse volume of considerations that this title project to overview human cognitive endeavors, which are lately of a global scale, require that cultural different styles need be factored in. Six parts consider the concept itself, cross-cultural studies, communication, self-identities, religions, and epistemic norms. For example, the chapter Learning: A Cultural Construct by Ulrich Kuhnen and Marieke van Egmond is noted herein.

Metacognition refers to an awareness of our own mental processes, such as perceiving, remembering, learning, and problem solving. It is a fascinating area of research for psychologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, sociologists and philosophers. This book explores the variability of metacognitive skills across cultures, since a person's decision to allocate effort, motivation to learn, sense of being right or wrong in perceptions, memories, and other cognitive tasks depends on specific transmitted goals, norms, and values. Across nineteen chapters, a group of leading authors analyze the variable and universal features associated with these dimensions, drawing on cutting-edge evidence. (Publisher)

Ramirez, Manuel. Multicultural/Multiracial Psychology. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1998. In contrast to the Western, European, colonial paradigm which emphasizes individualism, analysis and racial superiority, the Mestizo worldview from the Latin Americas is holistic, inclusive and values cooperation and diversity. This significant work observes the archetypal complementarity of isolated object or subject communion on a South-North hemispherical basis.

Raval, Vaishali and Michael Kral. Core versus Periphery: Dynamics of Personhood over the Life-Course for a Gujarati Hindu Woman. Culture & Psychology. 10/2, 2004. A case study within a “hierarchical-collectivist” Indian culture where a woman’s life course is seen to move from familial conformity and connectivity to increasing self-realization and autonomy in later years. This progression is then seen to have an affinity with Hindu philosophy.

It is, therefore, essential that social scientists direct their attention to how individuality and connectivity unfold over the life span in both the East and the West. (183)

Reis, Harry, et al. The Relationship Context of Human Behavior and Development. Psychological Bulletin. 126/6, 2000. In the shift from a century of focus on individuals alone to the equal validity of interpersonal interactions, an important facet is to recognize that Asian societies have an intrinsic propensity for these collective values.

Rosen, Lawrence. What We Got Wrong: How Arabs Look at the Self, their Society, and their Political Institutions. American Scholar. Winter, 2005. In Arabic culture, one’s personal identity is based on and defined by an extended network of familial, tribal, and sectarian relationships. As opposed to free form, malleable Western selves, an Arab individual is sensitive to their shifting role in this social fabric. (Once again, the United States invades a country without bothering to learn about their specific cultural milieu. Vietnam in Southeast Asia is an inherently communal society.) Note that Islamic civilization is thus characterized by a self-community reciprocity, rather than holding to a pole of independence or interdependence. In this regard, the crescent of Muslim countries can potentially provide a vital, corpus callosum-like bridge between bicameral West and East.

Rozin, Paul, et al. Right:Left :: East:West. Evidence that Individuals from East Asian and South Asian Cultures Emphasize Right Hemisphere Functions in Comparison to Euro-American Cultures. Neuropsychologia. 90/3, 2016. Some 45 years after Robert Ornstein’s notice (search), and myriad studies since, psychologists Rozin, University of Pennsylvania, Morris Moscovitch, University of Toronto, and Sumio Imada, Hiroshima University, confirm the actual presence of a bicameral Earth. A Right: South and Left: North reciprocity is similarly evident as we note here, which altogether implies a worldwide cerebral radiation of our human complementary asymmetries. As racial, ethnic, religious factions, nuclear nations, historic civilizations ferment and boil, whence it seems the male left side only rules, we really need avail this epochal discovery in our midst. (And the arc of Islam in both cases is just where an interconnective corpus callosum would be.)

We present evidence that individuals (Japanese college students) from East or South Asian cultures tend to exhibit default thinking that corresponds to right hemisphere holistic functions, as compared to Caucasian individuals from a Western culture (the USA). In two lateralized tasks (locating the nose in a scrambled face, and global-local letter task), both Asian groups showed a greater right hemisphere bias than the Western group. On a classic, ambiguous face composed of vegetables, both Eastern groups displayed a greater right hemisphere (holistic face processing) bias than the Western group. These results support an “East - Right Hemisphere, West - Left Hemisphere” hypothesis, as originally proposed by Ornstein (1972). (Abstract)

Rudy, Duane, et al. Autonomy, Culture, and Well-Being. Journal of Research in Personality. 41/5, 2007. For some twenty years, cross-cultural psychology studies have sought to fairly assess and nuance much evidence of collective, interdependent and/or individual, independent cultures, generally as East/West and South/North complements. These basic categories do hold, but beg a better understanding how each mode can contain, as they surely do, yin within yang within yin. The admirable goal of becoming an autonomous person can then be situated as “individual” in kind in the test case of European Canadians or conversely, as more “inclusive” with regard to Chinese and Singaporeans.

Saraswathi, T. S., ed. Cross-Cultural Perspectives in Human Development. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2003. A comprehensive volume on the subject from an East Asian perspective, along with several papers by women psychologists and philosophers.

Schimmack, Ulrich, et al. Individualism: A Valid and Important Dimension of Cultural Differences between Nations. Personality and Social Psychology Review. 9/1, 2005. For some two decades, social psychologists have been researching the real distinctions between cultures worldwide. As a general rule, these align to an individual person or collective group emphasis. But a 2002 study by Oyserman, et al (this section) criticized the concept and methodology. This present article says the problem lies with how these qualities are measured, which need take into account national differences in response styles. By this clarification, the broad complements are supported, but they ought not to be polarities since each fluid mode often contains a modicum of the other.

Sheng, Long and Chunguang Li. English and Chinese Languages as Weighted Complex Networks. Physica A. 388/2561, 2009. Centre for Nonlinear and Complex Systems, University of Electronic Science and Technology of China, scientists compare relative texts and find still another case of West/East, yang/yin, complements. As the quote cites, English works emphasize word elements, while in Chinese scripts, weighted inter-relations prevail. (Also noted in Rosetta Cosmos)

The written human language is one of the most important examples of complex systems in nature. Words are the simple elements that combine to form complex structures of this system. If we consider each word as a vertex and their interactions as links between them, then the written human language can be modeled by complex networks. (2561) The above results together indicate that the hub-like words in the English text play a more important role of structural organization than in the Chinese text, while the connections between Chinese characters have larger intensity and density than between English works, which means phrases prevail more in Chinese language than in English. (2569)

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