RICE, WHEAT, AND CORNWALL
11 May 2014
Here are three items: bus, train, track. Your task is to pair up any two of them that you think go together.
Okay, have you done that? Now you can read on.
This was a triad test in a study that revealed differences between people from rice-farming south China and wheat-farming north China, roughly divided by the river Yangtze. Put briefly rice farming involves much cooperation between workers and over time that encourages collectivist attitudes; wheat farming conversely encourages individualist attitudes.
You can read a summary of the research in ‘Large-scale psychological differences within China explained by rice versus wheat agriculture’ in Science here but the full article requires a subscription. Googling the title of the article throws up several commentators on it.
What was your pairing? In very simple terms – too simple – if you paired train and bus you are an individualist, if you paired train and track a collectivist. The different modes of growing the crops involve cooperation for rice and more independence for wheat.
So, how did you do? Rice or wheat?
Read too this by Rachel Laudan for a questioning view. She reminds us that there is not a monolithic Chinese culture – I might add just as the places that nationalists call Cornwall and England are many Cornwalls and many Englands.
TALHELM Thomas et al ‘Large-scale psychological differences within China explained by rice versus wheat agriculture’ in Science 9 May 2014 (Volume 344, pages 603-608)