Individualist vs. collectivist cultures

From 7½ Lessons
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A note for Lesson no. 6, "Brains Make More Than One Kind of Mind," in Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain by Lisa Feldman Barrett.
Some context from page 102‌‌‌ is:

Some cultures prioritize individuals over the group, while others do the opposite. Each box represents a feature of the mind that seems universal, and scientists use the boxes to catalog human minds.

These particular little boxes are labeled “individualist” and “collectivist.”

Some scientists believe that the distinction between individualist and collectivist cultures has roots in agriculture, namely, whether a culture grows rice or wheat.[1] These two crops require very different physical conditions for farming, and in particular, growing rice requires more cooperation among neighboring farmers to manage their use of water. And indeed, there’s evidence that the minds in certain rice-growing cultures focus more on the needs of the many, while the minds in wheat-growing cultures focus more on the individual. (Think about that the next time you choose between rice noodles and spaghetti.)


  1. Talhelm, Thomas, Xiao Zhang, Shige Oishi, Chen Shimin, Dechao Duan, Xiaoli Lan, and Shinobu Kitayama. 2014. “Large-Scale Psychological Differences Within China Explained by Rice Versus Wheat Agriculture.” Science 344 (6184): 603–608.