US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — At least, such a conclusion suggests itself after reading the US-Chinese psychological study. It was organized by an international group of American (universities of Michigan and Virginia) and Chinese (universities of Beijing and Guangzhou) psychologists led by Thomas Talhelm. Interestingly, the same study shows a similar contrast – conformity and collectivism and individualistic values between countries within the east.
According to scientists, the dominant agricultural crop is responsible for the “westernization” or “easternity” of the countries of Southeast Asia, according to scientists. So, rice, researchers believe, has a collectivism and interdependence, but wheat – to individualism and rationality.
As a base for research, scientists chose China. This is due to the fact that it is in this country that both crops are traditionally grown (wheat – in the north and rice – in the south). In addition, China is much more ethnically and politically homogeneous than Europe or Africa. This reduces the risk of unaccounted for national differences. The role of climate, dialect, and other regional features was minimized by psychologists by choosing the population of large cities located along the “rice-wheat” border separating north from south as an experimental array.
In fact, the question why the mentality of East and West is so different, psychologists have been asking for a long time. The most common hypothesis explaining this phenomenon is modernization theory. According to this theory, as a society becomes richer and more educated, its culture shifts towards analytics and individualism. Alas, this theory does not explain how economic prosperity is combined with the traditional holistic and collectivist mentality of countries such as Japan, South Korea, and Hong Kong.
The theory of the prevailing pathogen explains the tendency towards collectivism of the countries of the East with the fear of introducing a particular infection into the region. The higher the infection rate of the population, the more dangerous is communication with foreigners. Therefore, culture tends to become self-contained, and this nourishes collectivism and reduces people’s openness to new experiences. But the authors of the US-China study reasonably suggest that a high risk of infection may be associated with a hot climate. Because of the same climate, rice is grown in the East, not wheat.
Although the theory of rice is a special case of the theory of the method of life support, which consists in the fact that some forms of economic activity simply by nature force people to interact, while others do not require it. Rice cultivation encourages people to interact.
The findings of the researchers showed that China has its own “West” and “East” (in the cultural sense of the word). Moreover, the difference in mentality is determined precisely by the nature of cultivated cereals. Wheat regions are predisposed to conventionally “western” values, and rice regions to “eastern” values.
What is the difference between rice cultivation and wheat cultivation? Mainly by irrigation and the nature of labor. Rice fields need stagnant water. Therefore, ingenious irrigation systems are needed, the creation of which is unthinkable without close interaction between farms. Yes, and maintaining irrigation networks in working condition year after year, cleaning and draining them is an incredibly laborious, impossible task for one person. This is the whole village’s business.
The rice plantation itself requires a lot of work. The amount of time that peasants spend in rice fields is twice the time spent by the same peasants, but in wheat fields. That is why medieval Chinese instruction to the farmer says: if there are not enough workers, grow wheat. If you rely only on your own strength, you risk starving to death. It is not surprising that in such “rice” regions as India, Malaysia and Japan, the population has traditionally created something like cooperatives of mutual labor assistance. Rice cultivation made cooperation between people economically viable; it motivated peasants to enter into close social relations and avoid conflicts.
Wheat cultivation is simpler and does not need a complex irrigation system. Sowing and harvesting is half as labor-intensive as growing rice, so the need for help from neighbors is also reduced.
If the “rice theory” of American and Chinese researchers is correct, then it can predict the future development path, for example, in a country like India, where both rice and wheat are grown. Probably, it will develop along the Chinese, mixed path. But Indonesia, whose inhabitants exclusively grow rice, is likely to see Japanese-Korean development.
The authors of the study emphasize that their “rice theory” explains the historically established mentality of the entire region, but it does not apply to the psychology of every individual who grows rice. After all, it is clear that the features of an individual person always differ from the features of the nation as a whole. Interestingly, none of the participants in the study personally engaged in the cultivation of crops. However, according to scientists, to belong to the “rice” or “wheat” culture, this is not necessary.
The authors do not intend to stop there. In the future, they want to study what place in the rice-wheat cultural balance is the population of dry rice fields that do not require such sophisticated irrigation.
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