Rugged American individualism could hinder our ability to understand other peoples' point of view, a new study suggests.
And in contrast, the researchers found that Chinese are more skilled at understanding other people's perspectives, possibly because they live in a more "collectivist" society.
"This cultural difference affects the way we communicate," said study co-author and cognitive psychologist Boaz Keysar of the University of Chicago.
Americans, the study reports, find it difficult to empathise with others. The Chinese, on the other hand, are much better at that. The report goes on:
Collectivist societies, such as the Chinese, place more value on the needs of the group and less on the autonomy of the individual. In these societies, understanding other peoples' experiences is a more critical social skill than it is among typically more individualist Americans.
I suppose this 'rugged individualism' characteristic of Americans explains why there are so many people who hold onto that right-of-center political philosophy: the boot-straps philosophy. That government has no responsibility to the society as a whole; that government ought to get out of our lives; that the only thing government should do is maintain the Armed Forces to defend the nation.
The so-called 'common good' factor is quite absent from their view of the role of government. They scoff at the current European model, the philosophy that it is the duty of the government to take care of all of its citizens, especially in the area of health care. They deride the Canadian health care system as well. President Bush is ready to veto a bill in Congress that would give health care insurance to millions of American children. 'Too costly,' he says.
Odd stuff. His party, the GOP, has voted for spending multiple billions of dollars over the past 6 years for all sorts of issues benefiting corporations and business as well as the military. Billions upon billions yet denied many social programs, educational programs, and health programs for the citizens.
These days when I hear a Republican tell me that they are for less government, I say to them, 'Oh really? Where have you been for the past 6 years?' That fairly well catches them off guard.