Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Inductivist admits that culture matters

A pure naturist would claim that the culture of East Asians would not change after moving to America. Let's test this with one question from the General Social Survey that should differentiate Asians and whites: whether a not a child should learn to think for himself. Answers ranged from "most important for a child" (5) to least important (1).

Research has found that Westerners value independent-mindedness, while the East emphasizes fitting in. Here are the means for 1) American whites (n = 19,602), 2) Chinese (n = 102) and Japanese immigrants (n = 31), and 3) American-born Chinese ( n = 25) and Japanese (n = 26).

Mean score--valuing thinking for yourself

Native-born whites  4.00
American-born Japanese   4.00
American-born Chinese   3.72
Japanese immigrants   3.45
Chinese immigrants   3.18

Asians with individualist attitudes might choose to move to America, so the most relevant comparison is between immigrants and American-born Asians. The mean for Japanese immigrants is close to a half of a standard deviation less individualist than whites, but the American-borns do not differ from whites. 

Chinese immigrants are less individualist than Japanese immigrants, and while they do assimilate the same distance as the Japanese (roughly 1/2 sd), there remains a small difference between American-born Chinese and white Americans. 

So, the GSS data suggests that while genes might play a small role in the case of the Chinese, culture seems more important here. It might be the case that culture can influence attitudes quite a bit, but might have less impact on behavior (e.g., time studying) or abilities (e.g., IQ). 

UPDATE: I thought of a way that the Asian American embrace of independent-mindedness could be genetic: Asians might be predisposed to conform to whatever the mainstream culture is even if it's individualistic! 

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