Rice or wheat? How grains define cultural identity

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by Ray, May 10, 2014.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Rice or wheat? How grains define cultural identity

    WASHINGTON: Ever wondered why cultures can be so different, with Westerners more focused on the individual than people in the East?

    Psychologists on Thursday said that the divide may come down to which crops are historically farmed in different regions.

    This "rice theory," described in the journal Science, holds that people who traditionally grow paddy rice become more collective and holistic over time because of the intense labour involved and the need for cooperation among neighbours.

    In contrast, those who live in regions that grow wheat think more independently and analytically, in large part because the crop requires half the labour and not nearly the same need for cooperation as rice,
    researchers argued.

    "We propose that the rice theory can partly explain East-West differences," said the study led by Thomas Talhelm, a University of Virginia doctoral student in cultural psychology.

    "You do not need to farm rice yourself to inherit rice culture," he added.

    Since a host of differences exist between cultures across the world and could be linked to religion, politics, climate or technology, researchers decided to narrow their focus to China, where the Yangtze River roughly divides the wheat-growing north from the rice-growing south.

    Researchers tested 1,162 Han Chinese -- China's majority -- students from six different locations using measures of cultural thought, implicit individualism and loyalty or nepotism.

    Some tasks involved picking two related objects from a basic diagram of a person's social circle; and dealing with friends versus strangers in a business transaction.

    They found that people in rice-growing regions tended to choose more abstract pairings, while people from wheat cultures tended to pick more analytical pairs.

    People from rice-growing regions tended to draw themselves smaller than wheat-region people when constructing diagrams of social networks, suggesting wheat people saw themselves as more important than others.

    Those from rice provinces were also more likely to reward their friends and less likely to punish them, showing how the ties within the group prevailed in social and business interactions.

    "It's easy to think of China as a single culture, but we found that China has very distinct northern and southern psychological cultures and that southern China's history of rice farming can explain why people in southern China are more interdependent than people in the wheat-growing north," said Talhelm.


    He said he first noticed differences in outlook and attitude while studying in China for several years from 2007.

    Co-authors on the study came from Beijing Normal University, South China Normal University, and the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

    The study also found evidence that more successful patents for inventions came from areas where less rice was grown, signalling a potential link between wheat growing and innovation.

    "This doesn't nail it, but is consistent with the broader idea and will no doubt drive much future inquiry," said an accompanying Perspective article in Science by Joseph Heinrich of the University of British Columbia.

    http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/lifestyle/rice-or-wheat-how-grains/1099970.html]Rice or wheat? How grains define cultural identity - Channel NewsAsia[/url]
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    In society forum since it concerns society.

    Interesting, but surely will raise debate.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2014
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    'Rice theory' explains north-south China cultural differences

    Source:
    University of Virginia

    Summary:
    A new cultural psychology study has found that psychological differences between the people of northern and southern China mirror the differences between community-oriented East Asia and the more individualistic Western world -- and the differences seem to have come about because southern China has grown rice for thousands of years, whereas the north has grown wheat.

    New cultural psychology study has found that psychological differences between the people of northern and southern China mirror the differences between community-oriented East Asia and the more individualistic Western world -- and the differences seem to have come about because southern China has grown rice for thousands of years, whereas the north has grown wheat.

    "It's easy to think of China as a single culture, but we found that China has very distinct northern and southern psychological cultures and that southern China's history of rice farming can explain why people in southern China are more interdependent than people in the wheat-growing north," said Thomas Talhelm, a University of Virginia Ph.D. student in cultural psychology and the study's lead author. He calls it the "rice theory." The findings appear in the May 9 issue of the journal Science.

    Talhelm and his co-authors at universities in China and Michigan propose that the methods of cooperative rice farming -- common to southern China for generations -- make the culture in that region interdependent, while people in the wheat-growing north are more individualistic, a reflection of the independent form of farming practiced there over hundreds of years.

    "The data suggests that legacies of farming are continuing to affect people in the modern world," Talhelm said. "It has resulted in two distinct cultural psychologies that mirror the differences between East Asia and the West."

    According to Talhelm, Chinese people have long been aware of cultural differences between the north region and the southern, which are divided by the Yangtze River -- the largest river in China, flowing west to east across the vast country. People in the north are thought to be more aggressive and independent, while people to the south are considered more cooperative and interdependent.

    "This has sometimes been attributed to different climates -- warmer in the south, colder in the north -- which certainly affects agriculture, but it appears to be more related to what Chinese people have been growing for thousands of years," Talhelm said.

    He notes that rice farming is extremely labor-intensive, requiring about twice the number of hours from planting to harvest as does wheat. And because most rice is grown on irrigated land, requiring the sharing of water and the building of dikes and canals that constantly require maintenance, rice farmers must work together to develop and maintain an infrastructure upon which all depend. This, Talhelm argues, has led to the interdependent culture in the southern region.

    Wheat, on the other hand, is grown on dry land, relying on rain for moisture. Farmers are able to depend more on themselves, leading to more of an independent mindset that permeates northern Chinese culture.

    Talhelm developed his rice theory after living in China for four years. He first went to the country in 2007 as a high school English teacher in Guangzhou, in the rice-growing south.

    A year later, he moved to Beijing, in the north. On his first trip there, he noticed that people were more outgoing and individualistic than in the south.

    "I noticed it first when a museum curator told me my Chinese was clearly better than my roommate's," Talhelm said. "The curator was being direct and a little less concerned about how her statement might make us feel."

    After three years in China, including time as a journalist, he later went back as a U.Va. doctoral student on a Fulbright scholarship.

    "I was pretty sure the differences I was seeing were real, but I had no idea why northern and southern China were so different -- where did these differences come from?" Talhelm asked.

    He soon found that the Yangtze was an important cultural divider in China. "I found out that the Yangtze River helped divide dialects in China, and I soon learned that the Yangtze also roughly divides rice farming and wheat farming," he said.

    He dug into anthropologists' accounts of pre-modern rice and wheat villages and realized that they might account for the different mindsets, carried forward from an agrarian past into modernity.

    "The idea is that rice provides economic incentives to cooperate, and over many generations, those cultures become more interdependent, whereas societies that do not have to depend on each other as much have the freedom of individualism," Talhelm said. He went about investigating this with his Chinese colleagues by conducting psychological studies of the thought styles of 1,162 Han Chinese college students in the north and south and in counties at the borders of the rice-wheat divide.

    They found through a series of tests that northern Chinese were indeed more individualistic and analytic-thinking -- more similar to Westerners -- while southerners were interdependent, holistic-thinking and fiercely loyal to friends, as psychological testing has shown is common in other rice-growing East Asian nations, such as Japan and Korea.

    The study was conducted in six Chinese cities: Beijing in the north; Fujian in the southeast; Guangdong in the south; Yunnan in the southwest; Sichuan in the west central; and Liaoning in the northeast.

    Talhelm said that one of the most striking findings was that counties on the north-south border -- just across the Yangtze River from each other -- exhibited the same north/south psychological characteristics as areas much more distantly separated north and south. "I think the rice theory provides some insight to why the rice-growing regions of East Asia are less individualistic than the Western world or northern China, even with their wealth and modernization," Talhelm said.

    He expects to complete his Ph.D. next year, and this year received an Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Research Fellowship from U.Va.'s Office of the Vice President for Research and the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences for an in-depth study of people from the rice-wheat border in China's Anhui province.

    'Rice theory' explains north-south China cultural differences -- ScienceDaily
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    I wish we could know from which area our Chinese posters come from and then analyse their posts to realise if this theory holds to some extent or not.

    Kickok must be from the South.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2014
    TrueSpirit1 likes this.
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Apply this to India and what is the opinion?
     
  5. Bhadra

    Bhadra Defence Professionals Defence Professionals Senior Member

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    so first define culture !! then we shall proceed. I think that is justified . In defining culture role of crop is necessary !! role of climate, social, water ,weather, elevation etc is necessary ? Means do these form ingredient of culture.

    One when one defines and establishes that then only can we proceed further or the first and basic postulation will be grounded.
     

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