Title

Cultural Variation and Similarities in Cognitive Thinking Styles Versus Judgment Biases: A Review of Environmental Factors and Evolutionary Forces

Publication Date

9-1-2020

Document Type

Article

Department

Psychology

Publication Title

Review of General Psychology

Volume

24

Issue

3

DOI

10.1177/1089268019901270

First Page

238

Last Page

253

Abstract

Cultural psychological research has compellingly demonstrated that reliable East-West differences exist in basic cognitive styles: in contrast to the analytic, focal, linear thinking prevalent in the West, East Asians prefer to engage in more holistic, contextual, and intuitive thinking. However, despite the consensus on these cultural differences in thinking style, the literature on cross-cultural variation in actual cognitive biases is far more equivocal. The Fundamental Attribution Error (and by extension the Ultimate Attribution Error) has received the most attention among cognitive biases in the cultural arena; multiple studies have shown both evidence for cultural differences and evidence for universality. Similarly equivocal findings have emerged for other cognitive biases like the hindsight bias, positive illusions, and social exchange. Error Management Theory offers to reconcile this paradox of why consistent variation in thinking style do not necessarily lead to similarly consistent differences in cognitive biases; different mechanisms drive preferences (i.e., for how to think) versus actual behaviors (i.e., involving judgments/decisions). While different features of the physical environment likely gave rise to differences in preferences, pressures from the social environment likely pushed cognitive processing in common judgment tasks (like inferring another person’s mind or one’s own) in similar directions.

Keywords

biases, cognition, cross-cultural differences, decision-making, East Asians, European Americans, judgment

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